By Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
On Jan. 28, Dexter sophomore Abby Tamer became the first Michigander to be named to the U17 US Women’s National Field Hockey Team after a three-day selection camp in Lancaster, Pa. from Jan. 23-25.
After the selection camp Tamer said she felt “average” about her performance at the camp. She told The Sun Times she had a great last 15 minutes during the scrimmages on the last day but realized she played well looking back.
“I started thinking ‘I really didn’t do horrible, I did good,’” said Tamer on almost falling into the trap of second guessing herself. “I was playing well for myself and I was playing to develop and not to get selected. So, I was trying to be not stressed about it. I think I did an okay job of that during the camp. But then after, when we were waiting for the selections, my God.”
Jan. 28 was a snow day for Dexter schools, Tamer said she should have been studying for finals but couldn’t while waiting to find out if she had made the team or not. Instead she played cards and ping pong with her mom, Keely, and foreign exchange student, Anniken.
After going back for one more game of ping pong, Tamer saw a post notification two points into the game.
“I saw just the little preview that said, ‘Following the camp from the 23rd to the 25th, the camp, blah, blah, blah and now the selections are out,’” said Tamer. “So, I ran to my mom with my phone in my hand and I threw my ping pong paddle on the ground. And I looked at it and I opened it and I saw my name and I screamed.”
“I was just really happy for her, I knew she was anxious about it, it’s hard to sit and wait on (an announcement like) that,” said Keely, who is also an assistant coach for the Dexter high school field hockey program.
Tamer was a soccer player growing up, she still is, but in the fall of seventh grade, she made the switch to focus on field hockey. She had played before, but only briefly second grade.
In seventh grade Tamer played ice hockey briefly but didn’t enjoy it. Her parents are both former athletes themselves, Keely played field hockey at Michigan in the early 1990s and her father, Chris, played ice hockey collegiately at Michigan before an NHL career, they told her she should either play two sports or play one sport and do cross fit as something else to even things out.
Tamer’s first tournament with the club team she still plays for, Pinnacle, came as a result of her having to choose between going with her mom, Keely, and older sister, Emma, to a tournament or going with her dad and older brother, Christopher, to an ice hockey tournament.
“I wasn’t going to play,” said Tamer. “But my mom was like, ‘do you want to see if you can play?’ And I was like, ‘why not?’”
She thought she wouldn’t enjoy it again but two months later she was perfectly okay with dropping ice hockey and focusing on field hockey. One of the main reasons she chose to make the switch was relationships she made on the field, it helped she was good, too.
“It felt good to be good at something,” said Tamer. “To be better. I kept pursuing that, working on my own and with my friends and I just ended up loving field hockey so much.”
The spring of seventh grade she had already started the Futures Program, established in 1990 as part of the Olympic development pipeline for the junior national teams.
Since then, she’s progressed quickly culminating in her selection to the U17 team.
“I made it that first year. It’s an individual selection thing,” said Tamer. “You make it, and then you keep making things if you’re good enough. I made the first one, called National Futures Championship (NFC). Then the next year was the same. It was still middle school and then back to Futures. So, I went there and then I made Futures, and then after that I made Junior Olympics.”
“I think that speaks to the benefit of playing multiple sports,” added Keely on Tamer’s easy transition into field hockey. “I see this as someone involved in rec. and ed. Coming from a soccer club that taught strong tactical games and she played some ice hockey as well. I do think you can see that rise in athletes when they’re multi-disciplined.”
Tamer made the selection of athletes for the three-day selection camp by making the 2018 Junior National Camp which followed the 2018 City National Futures Championship, which she was also a part of.
Growing up Tamer had a chance to learn from Emma, who was also a standout field hockey player at Dexter before committing to Michigan.
“My sister and I, we kind of lived the same life during that time,” said Tamer of her and Emma growing up. “We both had the same accomplishments with field hockey. We both made the NFC, which is the first step in the Olympics development pipeline. We both made that the same year, then we both made the same thing after that at the same time.”
Emma, who just wrapped up her redshirt freshman year at Michigan, had already committed to Michigan before Tamer had even started playing.
“That was always kind of the dream, I guess,” added Tamer who committed to Michigan last year as a freshman. “As she kept going forward, I kept playing with her. I’m definitely as good as I am 100 percent because of her because I would have to play with her. She’s my role model for field hockey.”
Another reason for the easy transition was soccer, Tamer told the Sun Times that special awareness is key in both sports. With her playing two different positions, defense in field hockey and forward in soccer, she recognized the similarities between offensive runs.
With Tamer playing field hockey at higher levels since a younger age, the transition to middle school and high school field hockey wasn’t an issue. In fact, it helped her realize things about her own game.
“I found that I dribbled way too much and that was the biggest thing,” said Tamer. “I have to figure out how to bring the level from those higher things back down to high school. I’m still working on that but the biggest thing I try to work on is my passing game. It really developed at the higher levels but then I come back down to high school and I found out that I just go right back to dribbling. I found out that even as it got harder, it’s still fun.”
Tamer was one of two freshmen on Varsity her freshman year and played an active role. This past year, the team was still young, and her role evolved.
“I definitely think I had a bigger role on this team because we were a younger team,” said Tamer. “We graduated a lot of seniors, so we had a lot of freshmen. I feel like I became more of a leader on that team because we didn’t have as many seniors. We had seniors that did lead, but we just didn’t have that many seniors in general.”
Tamer will head to three additional training camps over the next few weeks to prepare for a Germany tour in April to take on the German and Belgium U-16 teams. Until then, Tamer will be working out on her own and practicing with her club team as well as practicing on some turf in a pole barn at home.
With Tamer being the first Michigander named to the U17 team, she’s set her goals higher.
“A while ago I think I asked my mom if there were any Michigan girls that ever made a national team and she said ‘no,'” said Tamer. “Ever since then, my goal has always been to make the national team.”