(Photo by Abby Roll)
Just as the world begins to wake up, physical education teacher Lauren Baugher returns from a morning workout, having been awake long before. She has been going to the gym at 4:30 a.m., to train for something much larger in the future: a field hockey World Cup tournament.
Towards the end of February, Baugher was chosen to play on a Women’s Masters Field Hockey team for this year’s International Hockey Federation (FIH) Masters World Cup tournament.
The FIH Masters World Cup is a ten-day tournament held from July 27 to Aug. 5 in Terrassa, Spain, where teams from over 60 countries with players ages 35 and up compete, according to USA Field Hockey’s official website. Each country brings five age-based teams to the tournament.
Early last spring, USA Field Hockey invited Baugher to try out for the Women’s Masters Field Hockey teams in the 40-45 age group as a midfielder.
“When I first received the email, I was a little weirded out by the news since I had never heard about this and I had been out of field hockey for a while,” said Baugher. “But it’s been awesome to get back into it and see people who I’ve played with in college.”
The first set of tryouts began last June at 15 sites around the U.S., where hundreds of women participated in intensive four-hour-long practices consisting of drills, conditioning, and scrimmages. In August, Baugher was invited back to try out again, in one of the five training squads of 30 women each, followed by official tryouts which began in the fall and continued through winter.
“This whole experience has been awesome and has also been humbling,” said Baugher. “The whole caliber of players who are playing is unreal.” The participants of this year’s teams include members of previous Masters World Cup teams and even former Olympians, she said.
Physical education teacher Courtney Albert, Baugher’s wife, said that Baugher had always wanted to compete at an international level. “Ever since the beginning, she’s always talked about being an Olympian, and I used to always smile at her ambitious aspirations. When I heard about this opportunity for her, I was incredibly happy, knowing that she was going to fulfill one of her biggest dreams.”
Competing against such strong athletes requires both experience and athletic ability, both of which Baugher has gained throughout her life. She began playing field hockey in sixth grade and continued during middle school and high school.
“I’m from Pennsylvania, and field hockey is really big there. It’s like the hotbed of field hockey, so, naturally, I was inclined to start playing.” said Baugher.
She continued playing field hockey as well as softball at the University of Delaware, a Division I college in field hockey. After graduating, Baugher continued to play but focused more on coaching field hockey and softball at Boston College.
After two years of coaching at Boston College, Baugher began teaching and coaching at North and has coached the girls’ varsity softball team since. Baugher also coached varsity field hockey from 1998 to 2002, and again from 2012 to 2014.
Now with the FIH Masters World Cup inching closer, Baugher has begun committing more time and effort to field hockey than ever before.
“I’ve been playing with the Minutemen, a field hockey team here in Boston, but otherwise I hadn’t been very involved with field hockey until now, when I’m playing nearly every week,” said Baugher. She also practices ball handling, attends yoga sessions for flexibility, and plays weekly games with other field hockey players to prepare for the tournament.
Her busy schedule and the challenges of organizing practices make this preparation even more difficult, Baugher noted. Because field hockey is a “self-funded sport,” she explained, players must rent a field with their own money. “It’s just such a huge commitment of both time and money,” she said.
Despite these demands, however, Baugher’s love and dedication for field hockey has driven her to continue competing alongside her teammates. According to Baugher, field hockey is her favorite sport due to its physically demanding, challenging, and fast-paced nature. “The reason why we still play despite the self-funding and commitment is all for the love of the sport,” she explained.
With years of training and a passion for field hockey, Baugher has been able to both revive her connection with the sport and accomplish a life-long goal.
“When I was a kid, I remember seeing older women who were still playing field hockey, and I remembered thinking, ‘I want to be like them one day,’” Baugher explained. “Now I am that old woman who’s still playing, which is really amazing, thinking about this whole experience and how it comes full circle.”