Loren Shealy says she lives by these words in everything she does: “Set your goals high, and don’t stop until you get there.”
While that quote is attributed to former NFL and Major League Baseball player Bo Jackson, Shealy has turned it into a reality in her own life on and off the playing field.
Shealy, 22, first made a name for herself as an all-state field hockey player at Charlotte Country Day.
For the past four years, Shealy has excelled at the University of North Carolina, where she played in two final fours and two national championship games, finishing her Tar Heel career as an all-ACC player.
It is only fitting, therefore, that Shealy is back at Country Day, working out with coaches and the current Bucs team as she prepares for the biggest opportunity in her field hockey career.
In July, Shealy was one of 21 players in the country named to the U.S. National Field Hockey team.
She reports to Team USA’s training facility at Spooky Nook Sports’ Complex in Manheim, Pa., near Lancaster, Aug. 24.
“It’s an incredible honor to be able to play for Team USA and represent your country on the national team,” said Shealy, no stranger to national honors after being named the 2012-13 Sports Illustrated female College Athlete of the Year.
“It’s something I never really expected to happen. Once I finished at North Carolina, I just kind of assumed that I’d get a job after college.”
Shealy will have no trouble landing a job when the time comes, as the Robertson Scholar also finished her North Carolina career with a 3.97 GPA in business administration.
But in January, she made the decision to try out for the U.S. National team after being encouraged by North Carolina field hockey coach Karen Shelton.
Shealy also drew confidence from having worked her way up the USA Field Hockey Futures’ pipeline, playing in the Junior Women’s National Championships in 2011 and 2012, as well as the Women’s National Championships in 2013.
But Shealy, who plays both the forward and midfield positions, knew trying out for the national team would be an entirely different challenge.
Shealy made the first cut in January and the second in March, then got a call from U.S. National field hockey team head coach Craig Parnham in July telling her she had made the team.
“That’s definitely one of the best phone calls I have ever gotten in my life,” said Shealy. “I was just hanging around my apartment in Chapel Hill when I saw his number come up, and I was like, ‘Oh boy, here we go.’”
Shealy won’t be going into completely unfamiliar territory, as six former Tar Heels also are on the U.S. national team, including four former teammates: Katelyn Falgowski, Kelsey Kolojejchick, Caitlin Van Sickle and Emily Wold. Former North Carolina standouts Jackie Briggs and Rachel Dawson also are on the squad.
Team USA will be preparing for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, having qualified during the Pan-Am Games in Canada.
While Shealy says it is unlikely she will be one of the 16 players going to the Olympics, she wants to do everything she can to help the team prepare.
“Playing in the Olympics would be a dream come true,” Shealy said, “but for the next couple months, my focus is just on improving and working as hard as I can to make sure whoever goes to the Olympics will be ready to play at their highest level.”
For most of the last month, Shealy has been training at Charlotte Country Day with former coach Lisa Thompson and many of the current Bucs’ players.
Just having Shealy around has been a huge boost for the team, as she has served as a mentor or assistant coach, said Thompson.
“It’s been incredible to have Loren back and to watch her train at such a high level is motivating to all of us,” said Thompson, whose field hockey team has won the last two NCISAA state championships.
“We are all so proud of what she has accomplished throughout her field hockey career. Now, to make the U.S. National team is another amazing achievement,” Thompson said.
“Just for our younger players to look at her and see what’s possible changes the whole energy around this team.”
While being back at Charlotte Country Day was a bit surreal at first, Shealy said, returning to the place where her field hockey career started also has motivated her.
“Working with the Charlotte Country Day girls most of the summer has been a lot of fun, and I’ve really enjoyed being able to give back,” Shealy said. “Being able to watch the girls and see things from the (coaches’ side) also gives you a different perspective of the game. I think that will also help me improve as a player.”
Thompson says Shealy’s desire to improve, no matter what she accomplishes, is what has made her the player she is today.
“Loren is always working to get better; that is just the spirit of who she is, and it’s a great help to players at any level,” Thompson said. “For her, you never arrive, you always keep working, keep striving. That work ethic is exactly what has led her to being a part of the Team USA with the best of the best (players) in our country.”