News>Feature - Reservist gives new meaning to term 'hockey mom'
Kate Blanchfield drives a ball toward the goal during her team's July 22, 2012, win in a Dover, Del., adult field hockey league. The 512th Airlift Wing technical sergeant has played the sport for 15 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chief Master Sgt. Matt Proietti)
Tech. Sgt. Kate Blanchfield, 512th Airlift Wing commander support staff, poses with her field hockey stick on Dover Air Force Base, Del. July 15, 2012. Blanchfield, a reservist for nearly 10 years, has played competitive field hockey since age 12. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andria J. Allmond)
by Staff Sgt. Andria J. Allmond
512th Airlift Wing
8/1/2012 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Wisps of blonde hair are swept aside to reveal a small, white scar positioned above her left eye - an indication of toughness gracing the freckled face of the blue-eyed technical sergeant.
"I got hit hard--it bled a lot and hurt pretty badly," said Tech Sgt. Kate Blanchfield, smiling broadly as she looks up from the stacks of paperwork spread out before her.
Despite her harmless appearance, the 512th Airlift Wing commander support staff member boasts a 14-year field hockey habit complete with injuries to the face and knees - both given and received. The rough and tumble nature of the sport, with shots on goal that can exceed 100 miles per hour, contradicts her petite frame.
"I was always into sports," she said. "And where I went to junior high school, there were two main sports for girls: softball and field hockey. I liked softball, so I figured that I'd try hockey, too."
A lifelong competitor with a family lineage of competitive sports - her parents and siblings being avid athletes - the reservist of 10 years ignited her passion for the game at 12 years old. First whacking the ball at Delmar Junior/Senior High School, Delmar, Del., she honed her skills to participate on a more competitive level at Caesar Rodney High School, Camden, Del. According to Blanchfield, high school-level field hockey in the Dover, Del., area commonly awards its players a spot on the collegiate circuit.
"A lot of the girls I played alongside in high school ended up playing for Division I programs," she said, reminding her of her foremost regret. "I really wish I would've gone right to college and played field hockey."
Instead, her path in life took her on a road of military service.
"I decided that after high school I would go into the military," she said. "I grew up watching Army commercials with people jumping out of planes and scaling walls. I wanted the physicality that the military looked like it would provide. Joining the Air Force Reserve really wasn't a bad decision, as it turns out."
In fact, although she didn't play hockey, it was the Air Force Reserve that made it possible for her to attend college and subsequently earn her licensed practical nursing degree.
"I used the Air Force's education benefits," she said, adding that a career in nursing could afford her the flexibility to continue participating in her favorite sport.
The mid-fielder, who is currently studying to become a registered nurse, competes for the City of Dover Parks and Recreation adult field hockey league.
"When I first started out, I liked playing because I was pretty good at it," she said. "Now, I play because it's my outlet; it's something I just need to do."
A summer league goes from June until the first week of August, while and an indoor, winter league extends from early January until March.
"So, I can play a lot throughout the year," she said.
She had an assist in her team's 2-1 win Wednesday night, setting up a championship match for Sunday. She'll head to the field after completing her monthly military drill weekend. Blanchfield is looking forward to it since she prefers playing to pampering.
"Honestly, I would rather play (field hockey) than get a pedicure," she said.
While Blanchfield plans on continuing to play until she is no longer physically competitive, the hockey tradition won't stop with her when that day finally comes. Jayda, her 7-year old daughter, has caught the hockey bug and is also an enthusiastic participant in the game.
"I like taking the ball to the goal and playing with my friends," said Jayda. "It's fun."
Blanchfield's daughter, who aspires to become an Air Force pilot, often attends her mother's games.
"I like to watch my mommy play and it makes me want to learn more about field hockey," she said. "I want to play for a long time like her."
Blanchfield hopes that her daughter gains as such enjoyment from the sport as she has over the years.
"Yes, I would love if Jayda decided that she wanted to play in college," she said. "But more than anything, I just want her to have fun. Because really that's what it's all about, bruises and all."