New country, new school, new sport


Roshan Fernandez

It’s not uncommon to hear about students taking a day off to walk in the shoes of another student as part of a temporary transfer program. IDC exchange exposes students to different learning environments, where students shadow others and learn what it is like to attend classes at another school in the FUHSD. But for sophomore Martina Genova, it isn’t just one day and it isn’t just another school. It’s a whole school year in an entirely different country, with a new family and unfamiliar experiences.

Senior Devin Pereira was immediately excited when she heard her friend senior Stephanie Mullen would be hosting an exchange student from Spain. The first thing Pereira did was suggest that Mullen’s shadow play field hockey as a way to meet people. Pereira recalled sending Genova an Instagram message, expressing her excitement to meet and introduce her to the people, places and sports at school.

“I was mentioning to [Mullen] how [Genova] should play field hockey,” Pereira said. “And sure enough, I get another Instagram direct message [from Genova] that says ‘Hey, what stuff do I need?’”

Genova, who is officially attending MVHS as a sophomore for the next 10 months, is also a member of the junior varsity field hockey team. She explains that field hockey is basically non-existent in the small town just outside of Barcelona where she’s from. But after talking to Mullen and Pereira, she decided that, despite having no experience with the sport, field hockey was still something she wanted to try.

“The biggest thing was that I know that the team and the coaches make a big effort for [the players] to do things together,” Mullen said. “And the [team] has a lot of people that haven’t played before so it would be easier than volleyball or soccer.”

Genova, who was only familiar with individual sports such as horse riding, says her sister went through the same exchange program and she played field hockey while staying with a host family in Kansas. Genova’s sister encouraged her to join the field hockey team because it would give her a feel for a team-like environment and help her make more friends. So, despite feeling  nervous, Genova found herself out on the field for tryouts with Pereira.

“At first, I was like, ‘I don’t know how to play field hockey’ so I felt kind of [useless],” Genova said. “But I’m slowly learning and I [am] slowly playing a little bit more.”

Genova explains that she felt very lost at the beginning, but other members of the team were eager to help teach her the basics and make her feel comfortable on the field.

“The first day, [senior] Sara Nordby explained to me how to hold the stick,” Genova said. “And they don’t explain [it] to you like you’re an unusual person, or that you shouldn’t be on the team, but rather like you have a chance of becoming a good player.”

For Genova, field hockey is a sport she is very inclined to play because of the support and advice her teammates provide. Her interest for the activity and passion for running allow Genova to pick up the necessary skills easily. Pereira, who also participates in both soccer and track and field, claims field hockey is like one big family, a special element that isn’t as prominent on some other MVHS sports teams, which is the primary reason she encouraged Genova to join the team.

“It’s a really special interaction between JV and varsity,” Pereira said. “We’re separate squads, [but] we’re all one team.”

Because the JV and varsity teams almost always practice together, both sets of players can improve. For the JV players, learning from varsity players raises their level of performance. And for the varsity players, teaching concepts and skills to those who are less experienced gives them a higher understanding of the game.

“I kind of admire [the varsity players]. I think all of JV admires [them] because they play so well,” Genova said. “The other day we were watching their game and we were just like ‘Wow.’”

When Genova came to MVHS, she didn’t know anyone but Mullen. For her, field hockey has provided that first bridge that will lead to more close relationships during the season and through the rest of the year.

“[Field hockey] is really great for new players, freshmen coming in, or people like Martina, a sophomore who’s looking to make more friends,” Pereira said. “Walking between classes you’ll wave to people, all your friends and field hockey people.”

In addition, Genova explains that after only a few weeks of going to field hockey practice, she has learned everything from positions, technique and physical skills required to the importance of team coordination and physical endurance.

“When I came here, I had never [run] so much,” Genova said. “[It was] maybe five minutes and after I [was] lying on the floor.”

In terms of field hockey, Genova is continuing to learn about the game each day. And regarding her future as an MVHS student, Genova is excited and looking forward to trying out other sports, such as basketball and track and field. But for now, she says that she has a whole team full of friends she wants to get to know better. In many ways, the MVHS field hockey team has become her new family.