An athletic career does not begin when an athlete first comes to college. A collegiate competitor will rarely be found learning the basics their freshman year. For most, an athletic career begins at an early age. From gym classes as a child, the basic athletic ideas are instilled into the youth. The movement to competition comes in the following years. College athletes tend to find and excel in their sport at an early age, and Penn's Kristen Gray is no exception.
"I played field hockey for the first time when I was in fifth grade, and it was co-ed,” she said. “We only played about five games that year, so I am kind of surprised that I was so interested in the sport."
And so Gray's field hockey career began. As an elementary school fifth grader, a budding career was born.
"I eventually went to an all girls school where I swam in the winter and played lacrosse in the spring,” she said. “Of all the sports I played, field hockey was always my favorite.”
In today's athletic world, to be a true competitor at the top levels requires an extra amount of time and effort. A high school athlete that simply trains with the high school team finds it hard even to earn a starting position on the team. Those who excel at the highest levels learn that success in high school is hard to attain without help from the outside.
Gray understood this and took advantage of local club programs. She began competing with a club team outside of her high school program. Gray's dedication and effort outside of the scholastic schedule helped her garner a number of accolades on the high school field in her area. She earned the award as MVP of her high school as well as first-team all-conference her junior and senior years.
Her success in high school, along with her extensive club play, helped Gray set her sights on collegiate competition.
"I guess I knew that I wanted to play collegiate field hockey around my sophomore year of high school,” she said. “My coach gave me a lot of positive reinforcement. A couple of girls that I had played with at Kent had gone on to play in college. Bernice Raviche, who graduated last year, was the one who really turned me on to Penn. We went to high school and played together."
So Gray came to be a part of the Quaker program, where her success has continued. She, along with old-time club teammate and fellow senior Lea Salese, are leading a tough Red and Blue team this season.
Gray's competitive field hockey career may be ending in November, but field hockey will most likely be a major part of her life. After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school for psychology but still plans to be active in the field hockey community.
"I am looking for a graduate assistant coaching position, but if I can’t find one I'd like to hopefully find a paid coaching position at a high school,” she said. “If I find a graduate school in New York or New Jersey I would like to help coach at my old high school."
Competition in the Red and Blue uniform may be ending but this Quaker's field hockey career isn't over and is anything but Gray.
Written by Matt Valenti, C’07