For some, the USA Field Hockey Junior Women’s National Championships — which take place June 18-25 — are all about showcasing one’s skills in order to get selected to participate at the Junior National Camp next month.
For Michigan field hockey’s Michelle Roberts, these championships offer something different: an opportunity for her to improve.
“You just know you have to work really hard and that it’s a big tryout experience,” Roberts said. “But it will be really fun because it’s just a good opportunity to compete and work on my skills.”
Competing for the South team, one of six teams in the Junior National Championship, Roberts will be one of 108 athletes in Virginia Beach, Va. vying for a selection to the Junior National Camp at Old Dominion — which serves as a tryout for the USA Women’s Under-21 National team.
Over the past few months, Roberts has worked extraordinarily hard to put herself in this situation.
After a season in which she struggled a bit, tallying just a goal and two assists, the freshman forward has been focused on developing her talents for the upcoming season at Michigan. She participated in intense tryouts in early spring for a chance to represent her region in the Junior Women’s National Championship.
Unfazed by the intensity of the workouts or by the tremendous talent displayed by the other players, the freshman earned a spot on the training squad.
“I’m used to having intense practices with my coaches at Michigan,” Roberts said. “So it was pretty similar to that. Also, the talent level down here is at the same level as our Michigan players. I feel really lucky to be surrounded by such great players (in Ann Arbor).”
Roberts began practicing with the South team after being selected to join the roster for the training squad and immediately started taking advantage of the talented coaching staff that surrounded her.
“It was a really good experience because I worked with really good coaches and I learned a lot,” Roberts said. “I just sharpened up my skills and tried to improve for the (upcoming) season at Michigan.”
Roberts also acknowledged that she’s really enjoying the opportunity to train and play with a different group of players and coaches.
Even though she admits to being a little nervous because of never competing in this tournament before and also because of competing against the top 108 field hockey players under the age of 21, the Pocomoke, Md. native insisted that she is entering the week-long competition with the same mindset she’s had for the past few months.
“I’m just trying to go out and play the best I can, help my team win, and work on my skills for the fall,” Roberts said.
While she did concede that she has thought about the implications of the tournament, Roberts maintained that it is the least of her worries.
“It’s in the back of my mind,” Roberts said. “I’m just going out there trying to have a good time, have fun, and play the sport that I love.”