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Linnea Gonzales: Living Her Best Hockey Life

Picture your biggest sports idol. Do you have their name and face in your mind?

Now, picture having them as your coach, becoming friends, and eventually taking on their number for the national team.

That’s exactly what happened to University of Maryland field hockey star Linnea Gonzales. She’s truly living her best hockey life.

Gonzales’ journey has been full of self-awareness, self-reflection, self-care, and sincere gratitude for the opportunity to play the sport she loves every day. We sat down with the newest member of Team STX to learn a little more about her story:

How did you get your start in field hockey?

I started playing in third grade. I was originally playing soccer, but then my sister decided to try out field hockey, so I tried it out as well. Ever since then I’ve been hooked!

Looking back on your college career, what did you love most about the University of Maryland’s program and being a Terp?

What I love most about Maryland is the family atmosphere and passion that surrounds the school and program. Everyone wants to see you succeed and grow as a student, player, and person. You learn more than just in the classroom or on the field. You learn through genuine relationships and experiences. I’ve learned a lot these past four years — as an athlete, the most important thing is to stay present, bring my own spark to the field, and never forget to have fun, because at the end of the day I get to do what I love: compete, learn, and play field hockey.

How do you balance school work with practice, games, having a social life, and taking time for yourself? Any strategies/tips for young players?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The field hockey forward hits the pitch with her weapon of choice — the STX Stallion 800.

Balance is key. My coach at Maryland, Missy Meharg, would call this the “triangle.” It’s important to keep school, athletics, and social life all in check in order to keep a healthy lifestyle physically, mentally, and emotionally. I kept a planner with everything I needed to do each week — when school work was due, when our games and practices were, and when I had down time to recover or hang with friends. Once you get that prioritizing down you’ll have fun with whatever you’re doing because you’re doing what you love and working towards your goals. It fuels you to keep going and stay on track!

What's the best advice anyone's ever given you?

“Stay where your feet are.” Enjoy where you are right here, right now, even when it’s challenging.

Who's a coach that's had a major impact on you?

Gonzales pictured above with Coach Missy Meharg (left), Marvin Bam (second to left), and Katie O'Donnell Bam (second to right).

All my coaches have helped me get to where I am today and I’m grateful for all of them. Missy Meharg, Katie O’Donnell Bam, and Marvin Bam have all been huge influences in my life. I can go to them for guidance about anything, and at the same time they challenge me on the field and push me to be a better version of myself. They’re amazing — there’s so much heart and passion that fuels them. They love the game, love what they do, and it shows. Katie has always been one of my biggest inspirations, so having that friendship with her means a lot to me because she’s so knowledgeable and such a great person. Happy to represent #16 in her honor for Team USA.

How did you cope with the pressure of being at a top hockey school and the expectation of a high performance every time you stepped out on the pitch?

It’s all about having the will to compete and challenging yourself every day. I think what helps most is pure love for the game. I try not to overthink things, and just enjoy whatever I’m doing. I can feel that passion drive me to keep pushing myself even in a challenging training or match.

More athletes are speaking out about mental health — what's your take on the connection between mental and physical health, and how do you practice living a healthy lifestyle?

Self-care all day, every day! You must put energy into taking care of yourself before you can put energy into anything else. Being in tune with your mind helps you be in tune with your body too. Mentally, it’s important for me to remind myself that I’m not in control of everything in life, but I am in control of my own thoughts. I’m in control of how I see things, what I react to, what I put energy into, and how I value those things. I try to practice a healthy lifestyle by fueling my body properly, working out, recovering to the best of my ability, and also taking time for myself to relax and decompress.

What's your gear set-up and how did you find what was right for you?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Gonzales in action for Team USA using the Stallion 800. 

I play with the Stallion 800— it was my favorite stick that I used at the University of Maryland. I like how the grip of the stick is rounded because it helps with quick skill execution. I also like the rounded toe for added ball control, combined with the weight of the head for powerful striking.

What are your go-to exercises at the gym?

I love doing cardio! My favorite is long distance running, but I also like high interval sprints. As for weight training, my favorites are negative pull-ups, barbell squats, dumbbell arm curls, and hang cleans.

What's one skill you've been working to improve?

I’ve been working on post-up leads. A good drill for this is starting the ball in the backfield of an outlet and having your defenders transfer the ball one or two times, then using that post-up lead once you make eye contact with your teammate to receive the ball in the pocket.

Do you remember getting the call that you'd been selected for Team USA?

I got a text from Missy Meharg that she wanted to have a meeting. I didn’t really think anything of it because we were in season and heading into NCAA’s. When I got to her office, she and Katie O’Donnell Bam were sitting at the desk and Missy says, “We have a call we need you to take.” She put it on speakerphone between the three of us and it was Coach Janneke on the phone and she asked me to join the team full-time. Tears and grins flew across all of our faces and of course I said yes. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little girl, so I was in shock at first. I called my family to tell them, and my ear drums probably blew out because they were screaming of happiness.

What’s the best part about playing for the national team?

Gonzales and USA teammate Laura Hurff smile after a successful day on the pitch.

What excites me the most about being a part of this squad is the opportunity to compete at the highest level alongside an empowering group of girls and coaches. I knew there were going to be new challenges, growth, learning, and relationships to come, but I’m so excited for all of it because I want to compete with the best.

Suit up like the UMD Terp with the Stallion 800 stick and Stallion glove.

Team STX is raising awareness around #MentalHealth in hockey — check out these Olympic Gold medalists getting real about their struggles.