A conversation with Honda Athletes of the Year, Erin Nicholas and Jazmin Petrantonio

Jun 21, 2022 | 2021-2022, Division II, Division III, Featured Stories, News

Photo credit: Frank Poulin/Middlebury College and Shippensburg University

The Collegiate Women Sports Awards presented by Honda (CWSA) announced last week that two field hockey athletes, Erin Nicholas of Middlebury College and Jazmin Petrantonio of Shippensburg University, were named the Division III and Division II Athletes of the Year.

The CWSA awards Division II and Division III Athlete of the Year to the nation’s top collegiate female athletes in their respective NCAA divisions, chosen from 11 different sports.

Erin is just the second Division III field hockey athlete to receive the award and Jazmin is the third Division II field hockey athlete to earn the honor. This is the first time in the history of the award that two field hockey athletes received the award simultaneously.

It was an honor to sit down with Erin and Jazmin to talk about the award, their collegiate careers, and the significance of this recognition in the 50th year of Title IX.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

 

What does this recognition mean to you?

Erin: I am honored to be recognized and to be grouped amongst such talented and inspiring young female athletes. I hold so much pride in being a female athlete and in being a member of two of the three women’s teams at Middlebury who compiled a record of 71-1 during Title IX’s 50th anniversary. I am grateful for every teammate, coach, trainer, friend, and family member who has helped me get to this point and know that this recognition reflects the love, support, and hard work of each of them.

Receiving this award inspires me to continue using my athletic knowledge and abilities to encourage younger females to discover their own potentials and strengths as student-athletes and as individual human beings. I am so thankful to the Middlebury, Honda, and CWSA communities for their help in acknowledging and celebrating the continued perseverance and success of female athletes across the nation and look forward to watching women’s sports continue to grow and gain the attention they deserve in our society.

Jazmin: This recognition feels unreal. I never thought my nomination was going to play out this way. It was such an honor to even be named one of the 11 finalists, and to now actually be selected over the other amazing and respected athletes — it’s surreal.

 

What does it say about our sport that both the Division II and Division III Athletes of the Year are field hockey players?

Jazmin: It’s not news that field hockey is still one of those sports that is growing within the United States, whereas internationally it’s a huge sport. I think it sends a message that the Division III and Division II winners belong to field hockey — both divisions are filled with so many competitive programs with different experiences than Division I, but which provide special, equally fulfilling opportunities.

Erin: I chose to play field hockey (over soccer) the day before tryouts my freshman year of high school simply because my sister played and because it was more challenging than other sports. I am forever grateful I made that decision because field hockey has challenged me to become a better individual both on and off the field. Field hockey is unlike any other sport. It requires a unique set of skill and athleticism and is a team sport that allows a lot of room for individual creativity. Having both the Division II and Division III Athletes of the Year be field hockey players shows the growth and upward trajectory of the sport in the United States. I am grateful for communities like the NFHCA and the CWSA who continue to bring attention to our sport, and I look forward to using my experiences to help further its growth.

Photo credit: Will Costello/Middlebury College

As we reflect on 50 years of Title IX, how has the opportunity to participate in intercollegiate athletics impacted your college experience and your future?

Erin: I am grateful for every woman that came before me and for all that they did to create opportunities for individuals like myself. Having the opportunity to play both field hockey and lacrosse in college has molded me into the individual I am. Athletics has introduced me to my best friends who challenged me to become a stronger and more independent young woman. My experiences as an athlete have taught me how to carry myself and how to celebrate the little victories that lead to greater accomplishments. I’ve learned how to ‘control the controllables’ and how to live in the current moment to be 110 percent present where my feet are. I learned how to lead but also how and when to follow and allow room for others to step up. I learned how to own up to and respond to mistakes and how to hold others accountable in a respectful manner. Athletics showed me the importance of building individualized relationships with every teammate to bring out the best in each of them and ensure they are aware of their unique and valuable contribution to the team. My coaches used the sports of field hockey and lacrosse to show me and my teammates how to be strong and well-rounded women who can positively contribute to everyone and everything around us, and that is why I am proud to call myself a female student-athlete.

Jazmin: Title IX took us to where we are today. None of what we see today would have been possible without the courageous and powerful women who stood up for themselves and sacrificed a lot to honor those who came before them, for us, and for those to come after their time. It’s so cool belonging to a legacy of empowerment and change through sports. It’s even cooler seeing how it keeps evolving to empower young girls and women who want to compete in college.

Photo credit: Shippensburg University

Both of your careers have been so exciting to watch, and we’re well versed in all your accomplishments…National Champions, National Players of the Year, statistics leaders — what’s one thing you’ll remember about your collegiate career that fans on the sideline might not have seen?

Jazmin: Looking back, it gets a little emotional. In the beginning, I was so devoted to our goals and to the team that sacrifices seemed like a responsibility, and they were. But over time, I realized that we athletes need to give ourselves some credit for what we do and what we have sacrificed for our team. I personally, sacrificed summers without my family in Argentina to get physically ready for the season, or to take classes, or to work because I simply didn’t have time to do that during the fall. None of that would have been possible without my family and Shippensburg University supporting me with whatever I needed to be successful.

Erin: What’s special about being a part of any team is that only the individuals directly involved truly understand the full scope of the experience. The two things I have gained most from my experiences as a collegiate student-athlete are the friendships I have built and the lessons I have learned. My favorite memories from these past years as a member of the Middlebury field hockey and lacrosse teams come from the little moments I have shared with my coaches and teammates. My teammates inspire me to be a better friend and person, and they are the core reason for why I have enjoyed my experiences as much as I have these past five years.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Erin: I want to extend a huge congratulations to all other finalists in each sport and division. It is inspiring to read about everyone’s team and individual accomplishments, and it is incredible to have groups like the CWSA who promote women’s athletics and help encourage younger athletes to follow their aspirations. I am so grateful to the Middlebury College Athletics Department for creating such a welcoming and inclusive community that I am proud to call a second home, and I look forward to representing Middlebury as an alumna and to applying all that I have learned through athletics to my future endeavors.

Jazmin: I would like to shed light on a very concerning topic that sadly surrounds student-athletes across the country. Athlete’s mental health is in jeopardy and it’s time to stop looking away. I’m so fortunate to have had the support that I needed from coaches and staff, especially when I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and early OCD. But unfortunately, this is not the case for other student-athletes. College athletics cannot afford to lose another athlete and it’s time to break the stigma and be proactive about this issue.

 

Thank you, Erin and Jaz!

Erin and Jazmin will be presented with their individual honors on the campus of the University of Southern California in downtown Los Angeles — the ceremony will telecast live on CBS Sports Network at 9:00 p.m. ET on June 27, 2022.

The National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) is a nonprofit organization serving field hockey coaches and supporters of the game from across the United States. The mission of the organization is to stimulate the professional development of coaching leadership within the sport of field hockey. The NFHCA strives to cultivate and recognize the professional contributions of its membership and to foster and promote the growth of the sport. The NFHCA is responsible for providing a recognizable presence and voice in regard to legislation affecting the sport as well as interscholastic and intercollegiate programs.