Gold Rush Feature: A Better View
New perspectives have helped Cristen Atchison grow
Originally Posted Aug. 28 | by Jay Reddick
Reposted from Gold Rush/Wake Forest Athletics
Sometimes, to learn, you have to leave your comfort zone.
Cristen Atchison did that this summer, and Wake Forest field hockey will see the benefits during her junior year this fall.
Atchison competed in the Junior Women's National Championships in June in Norfolk, Va., near her home in Virginia Beach.
The midfield/back was already a fixture for the Deacons, starting every game during the 2009 campaign, but after this summer, she might be a star in the making.
The secret? Getting teaching from different coaches. Learning different schemes. Improving her own skills, but in a different environment.
"It's always good, I think, to get other people's perspectives," said Atchison, who played for the Mid-Atlantic Thundersticks through six weeks of practices and a final tournament. "We had coaches from all over — Team USA, UVa, Old Dominion — and all of them bring different things to the table. It was a challenge because I'm used to the way Jen (Averill) coaches, but it definitely helped me improve my game."
Atchison had some specific goals for the summer, among them improving her hand speed and her sweeps, but according to Averill, WFU's 19th-year head coach, her best improvements were mental and psychological.
"A player's first reaction to change is resistance," Averill said. "'Atch' worked through that and started to understand the reasons for the new things she was learning. It's made her more open-minded, made her more versatile, and gives us the chance to maybe change things up in the lineup this year."
Atchison has played center midfield and fullback during her time in Winston-Salem. She was a center back this summer, but her new skill set will let her move between those two positions more freely.
"Hand speed was always the biggest thing for me," Atchison said. "I think sometimes I try to make up for my hand speed with my foot speed, but in the midfield, sometimes there's not a lot of room to run around, and you have to get out of tight situations with stick skills."
Atchison's foot speed and athleticism can make up for a lot — Averill said "any sport on this campus would love to have her." She built her body by playing soccer throughout her childhood, and she only took up field hockey in eighth grade.
By the time colleges came calling, she was good enough to be recruited in both sports but realized the pool of elite hockey players was smaller and she'd have a better chance to be noticed in that sport. Besides, she wasn't making her college choice based only on sports.
"I kept a lot of options open," Atchison said. "I came down here on a whim, really connected with Jen (Averill). I wanted a small school, and Wake had the major I really wanted. I ended up playing hockey because of the school I found. The sport was just a bonus."
Atchison's course work at Calloway Business School is a heavy load. Even naming her concentrations is a mouthful: she's majoring in Business and Enterprise Management, with a double minor in English and Global Trade and Commerce Studies.
She isn't sure what kind of business she will enter after graduation, but that brings up another thing she learned this summer — not on the field but on vacation.
"After the summer league was over, I went to Europe for 18 days with my family," Achison said. "We went on a cruise, then spent most of the time in Italy. I've decided as soon as I graduate, I'm going to find a job that will take me places to travel, and I'm going to live in Rome. I have my heart set on it."