For athletes entering their final year, the offseason
preparation frequently is different than in past years. Realizing
it is her final chance for athletic glory in college, the athlete
prepares for that final push with more intense training.

Senior Jessica Blake of the Michigan field hockey team had one
of those offseasons. Instead of the usual training — which
she did alone — Blake participated in the Athletes in Action
ministry program.

“I stayed at the Olympic training center along with 23
other Division-I athletes,” Blake said. “It was really
interesting since they were from all over the country and played
different sports.”

In past offseasons, it would have been easier to do less, since
she was training mostly on her own. But the Australian native was
pushed to the limit by those 23 other athletes.

The program was not just about athletics; the primary objective
was mission work.

“They really pushed me at this amazing facility, but I was
also able to do ministry work, something that I am very interested
in doing,” Blake said.

Blake attributes her current physical fitness to this past
offseason. She feels that she is in the best shape of her college
career and is happy that she was able to experience a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Athletes in Action has these principles that help you
apply your faith to your sport,” the current co-Big Ten
Player of the Week said. “Those also helped me in bringing
together the two most important areas of my life: faith in God and

Blake feels that those principles have helped in her motivation
to play field hockey. Ultimately, the principles have allowed her
to mesh sport and spirituality.

This extra motivation has led her into this coming season, in
which she is the only senior forward on the team.

“(Michigan coach) Marcia (Pankratz) explained that I would
be the only senior, but that she wanted all the forwards to work
together,” Blake said.

In order for the forwards to step up as a group, Blake and the
rest of the forwards met to see what they needed to work on. One of
their main objectives was replacing outgoing April Fronzoni, the
leading scorer on the team the past three seasons. But Blake does
not feel she was the only one who had to replace Fronzoni. She said
every other forward is helping in the role of stepping up.

Without having the pressure of being the only forward replacing
a great player, she has flourished. Blake has already set a career
high in goals with 11 and has an eight-game scoring streak.

But Blake feels that — other than her teammates —
her summer is the biggest reason she has played well so far this

“After this summer I really feel a freedom out there on
the field because of the ability God has given me,” Blake
said. “The ability is from God, not from me, and it’s
an honor to be able to play.”

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