Playing well with pain

Q&A Amber Nichols, WESTMINSTER, FIELD HOCKEY

October 07, 2007|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Special to the Sun

Despite chronic back problems over the last year, Westminster junior Amber Nichols has been a key player for the field hockey team.

Playing alongside younger sister Lindsay, the midfielder fights through the pain to consistently win balls, then advance them upfield. Her efforts helped the Owls outscore their opponents, 19-0, through the first six games of the season.

Off the field, she is an honor roll student who's interests include the arts and nature.

You've suffered through some injury problems over the last couple seasons. Can you tell me about them?

It's some kind of low back fracture. It's a very minor fracture, but it causes a good bit of pain.

Does it cause more discomfort when you're playing or just sitting in class?

Usually when I'm on the field, I forget about everything. So it's usually any time after a game or after a lot of activity. Then sometimes it gets so bad that just all week it will hurt. When I'm sleeping, some times I wake up from it hurting.

How long has this been going on?

It started at the end of last field hockey season when my spine locked up, and we didn't know what it was. We tried [a chiropractor], then we did physical therapy. Then, just a couple months ago, we found out that it was a small fracture.

So is it the kind of injury you really can't do much to fix?

Yes. I go to physical therapy, but we're just strengthening things. But there's not much you can do besides try to treat the pain.

Has the pain ever kept you out of a game?

No, not out of a game totally. When my spine locked up, I had to sit out more than I usually would. I hate coming out of a game - I usually won't come out of a game - but sometimes in practice, when you're not thinking about winning as much, it kind of affects you more.

I would imagine the fact that your team is off to such a great start this season probably helps ease the pain a little bit. What's been the key to Westminster's early success?

We have a lot of natural athletes, so everyone already has that athletic ability to run quick. Also, everyone thinks a lot on the field, and you can't really teach that. Right now, our coach is doing a really good job with taking everything we already have and giving us a few little extra things, such as passing to the stick and just being a little smarter when we play.

Is this the first time you've had the opportunity to play on the same team as your sister, Lindsay?

We always played together on the Deer Park team before high school, and then in high school last year she played JV and I played varsity.

Do you prefer playing together?

I love playing with her. I'm able to communicate with her better than maybe some other people, just because she's my sister. We realize that we're not yelling at each other - we're directing each other. She's an amazing player, and it helps when she's playing beside me.

Are you and your sister able to learn from each other on the field?

Yes. She's probably better with her stick skills, since she's played on more club teams. So her basic skills, like knowing when to commit to a girl and knowing when to back off, are a little better than mine. But I think I'm a little more crazy on the field. I'll go after anything and everything. I get very frustrated when I get beat.

Would you call yourself more of an offensive or defensive midfielder?

I'd say offense, but I'm not as good at scoring. I'm more about pushing the ball forward. I'm not as much about going back for the ball.

Do the midfielders take a lot of pride in the fact that your team has been so dominant defensively? Through your first six games, you hadn't allowed a goal.

Yeah, but it really is our defense. The defense is amazing. Sometimes we get a little lazy and don't always run back quick enough, but I think that's because we have a lot of confidence in our defense. They're really the ones that need to get all the credit.

You also play lacrosse for Westminster in the spring. Do you prefer one sport over the other, and is there one you plan to pursue at the college level?

Right now I'm starting to pursue college lacrosse, but just this past year I started thinking field hockey would be an option as well. But right now, we're thinking lacrosse.

Do you have an idea of the kind of school you'd like to attend?

I'd like it to be really strong in athletics. Messiah has always been one of my favorite colleges.

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