By Maggie McConnell ‘09
When deciding between the University of Indiana, Michigan State, and James Madison University, Tara King decided that “JMU’s athletics and academics fit me best. I just loved it here.” As a twenty year-old junior, Tara feels that she has adjusted well to college life here at JMU. Originally from Emmaus, Pennsylvania, she believes that joining the field hockey team her freshman year significantly helped her adjust quickly and easily.
When Tara was in third grade she began playing field hockey as a result of her older sister and cousin’s influence. Falling in love with the sport quickly, she then went on to play for Saucon Valley Middle School, Emmaus High School, Fire Sticks Club Team, and Futures Club Team. As a center back and a strong defender, Tara feels that she contributes “a hard work ethic, consistency, and leadership” to the team. After three years on the team, Tara has found that the best way to prepare for a game is to blast her iPod and wear some item of pink clothing, which she has done since high school.
Tara has found that the biggest differences between high school and college field hockey are the intensity, the skill level, and the pace of the game. She felt prepared to play at the college level because her high school team was two-time state champions. Her high school coach demanded a high level of commitment and skill from the girls. As a result, all of the graduating seniors on Tara’s team went off to play at the collegiate level.
Practicing and playing with such a competitive group of girls in high school helped Tara to obtain a coveted starting position as a freshman at James Madison University. Head Coach Antoinette Lucas said, “Tara is unique because she loves to play defense, specifically at left-back. She reads attackers very well and thrives on intercepting the ball or putting a body on someone. Tara will win the battle ninety percent of the time.” When asked which team is the most intimidating to her, Tara replied, “the University of Virginia, because it’s always a blood battle...they have real scrappy players like us.”
After three years on the team, Tara has made unique and lasting relationships with all of her teammates. Out of her twenty-one teammates Tara looks up to Melissa Walls the most because “she always makes me laugh. I admire her skill and her positive attitude.” It is that positive attitude that Tara hopes to emulate and bring onto the field every time she plays. Fortunately for Tara, her parents try their best to come to the majority of her games. She said, “My dad is my biggest supporter. I always play better when they are here because I want to make them proud.”
When asked about her major goals, Tara said that before she graduates she would “like for the team to win another CAA Championship” and to earn all-conference recognition. Academically, Tara hopes to graduate from James Madison in 2010 and then go on to work in sales or marketing in Washington D.C or Philadelphia.
In 2006, when Tara started as a freshman at James Madison University, she felt intimidated by the older girls on the team. Now, after her third season as a Duke, Tara feels settled and confident both on her team and with her school work. Tara said that one of the best pieces of advice she ever received was “keep your head up and always work hard.” Through applying this mindset to both school and athletics, Tara’s experience at James Madison University should be one to remember.
Note: Maggie McConnell is a senior practicum student in the JMU Sports Media Relations Office. She is an English major with a minor in sports communications.