For the love of the game
Olive B’s server Melissa Emery to compete in Masters World Cup in Spain
When Melissa Emery relocated from Maine to Big Sky 11 years ago, she didn’t leave her field hockey gear behind. Despite a general lack of field hockey enthusiasts in the area, her passion for the sport remained.
“Everything is travel,” Emery said about the challenge of staying competitive in the sport. “But I can do individual stick work. And getting in shape here is the easy thing, because then I go to sea level and feel like my lungs are so happy.”
Tryouts for the Women’s Masters Field Hockey team took place in Oakland in June, 2017. After making the initial squad, Emery continued the required training and competitions by traveling to Philadelphia, Boston, Las Vegas, Florida and Phoenix. All that hard work and travel paid off—Emery found out last week she was accepted as one of the 18 women on the 0-45 team, and will travel to Spain to compete this July.
Emery will be the only competitor hailing from Montana on any of the five women’s squads, which is often the case at the many tournaments she’s participated in. While playing during a masters event at Harvard University last year, Emery overheard a spectator in the stands say, “‘Oh! Someone came here from Montana!’”
“It was like I really did something, and it was kind of funny. I thought, they’re talking about me,” Emery recalled.
All that travel from Montana is expensive and out-of-pocket, so Emery’s friend started a Go Fund Me site for supporters to help Emery get to tryouts and competitions—searchable on the site as Melissa’s World Cup Fund. It came in handy when she competed in the World Cup in Australia two years ago, and she’s just now beginning her travel plans for the competition in Terrassa, Spain.
Local support has been key to her success. One of Emery’s regular diners at Olive B’s Big Sky Bistro donated her frequent flyer miles so Emery could make it to a practice in Philadelphia, and she helped with the flight home from Australia two years ago.
“A lot of the community has been super supportive. It’s a really tight community,” Emery said.
Emery was introduced to the sport while attending high school in Maine. Outside of the east coast, field hockey is largely unknown, but back there it’s a big deal. She soon realized the sport was for her and continued competing during college at the University of Southern Maine.
Clearly, the end of school did not mean the end of her field hockey career. Following university, she attended her first field hockey camp and coached the sport at her high school as well as several colleges on the east coast.
Emery specializes as a defensive sweeper or center back, running up and down the field. She compares the sport to soccer, except with sticks.
“It’s awesome, it’s so much fun,” Emery said.
“I just love playing,” she continued when asked why she stays involved in a sport so obscure to Big Sky and Montana. “It’s definitely my favorite thing to do, even though I am here. It’s just really nice having this opportunity to train and travel. And it’s the people I’ve met. The field hockey community is pretty amazing. And, it’s been great going to other countries.”
She even went to Cape Town, South Africa, for 12 days last spring to play: “I never would have gone there. It wouldn’t have been a trip that I would have planned.”
During the winter and summer seasons between trips and matches, work at Olive B’s keeps her busy while allowing time for the sport. Her work routine also allows Emery to share her love for field hockey with customers.
“Most people, when I talk about it, always come back with, ‘So how’s lacrosse?’” chuckled Emery. “So, they remember I do something—they just can’t picture field hockey as a sport out here.”
The upcoming trip to Spain is on Emery’s mind, but she’s also thinking locally. She recently noticed Jackson Hole has a field hockey team.
“And then we started talking around here. I was like, ‘Wait a minute, if Jackson Hole gets enough people to play, between Bozeman and Big Sky, there has to be field hockey players out here.”
This spring Emery hopes to reach out to the community to gauge interest in fielding a team and also to possibly bring the sport to the Big Sky School District.