BY JEFF FALK
Regrets are a great way to take stock of the level of success in a career. When your biggest regret is wishing you had had a better showing at the Olympics, well it’s a good indication you had a pretty good career.
Amy Tran-Swensen recently called it a career, one with very few regrets.
Last week, Tran-Swensen, a native of Grantville and a 1998 graduate of Northern Lebanon High School, hung up her pads on a field hockey playing career that included 163 international competitions, not the least of which were the last two summer Olympics.
At one point in her decade-long career, Tran-Swensen was recognized as the best goalkeeper in the world. She retired as the best goalie that the United States has ever produced.
“It was a lot of hard work,” said Tran-Swensen from her home in Norfolk, Virginia. “A lot of luck. And some good timing. I think going to (the University of) North Carolnia was a really good thing for me. They were recruiting for a goalkeeper that year. That was the first step of my selection to the national team and playing in the Olympics. It went from there.
“I had great support from my high school coach (Bonnie Bicksler) and my college coach,” Tran-Swensen added. “I went through three coaches on the national team and I learned so much from each one. It’s crazy to think about it. It’s been an amazing run.”
Tran-Swensen notified the United States Field Hockey association of her decision to retire in mid-December and the sport’s governing body in this country announced it publicly just after the start of the new year. Tran-Swensen back-stopped the United States to a 12th-place finish at the most recent Olympic Games, this summer in London, while four years prior she paced the Red, White and Blue to an eighth-place showing at Beijing.
“Yeah it was definitely a difficult decision,” said Tran-Swensen. “My husband was very supportive and U.S. Field Hockey has been such a part of my life for so long. It’s something I know is the right decision. Being on the national team, you’re constantly up for selection. At any time, your coach can cut you. I think it’s (her retirement) the best thing for keeping up the competitive level.
“Once you get to a certain age, you think about when your career is going to be over and how you’re going to go out,” Tran-Swensen continued. “It was only after the Olympics that I could put my time into it. The timing of the Olympics just means there’s going to be turnover. There’s a lot of different points in a field hockey career to move on. It depends on the person.”
Tran-Swensen’s decision to retire was more about timing and spending time with her husband Mark, than it was about reduction of desire and physical skills. By the time the next Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro rolls around, Tran-Swensen will be 35 years of age.
“So much of goalkeeping is about experience and anticipation,” said Tran-Swensen. “That’s one of my biggest strengths, that and communication. A quality goalkeeper has quick reflexes and is very powerful. We lift a lot, and do a lot of power stuff. Those are skills I always tried to keep at a high level.
“I was pretty happy with my performance at the Olympics, for the most part,” continued Tran-Swensen. “I’m confident in the skills I have. It’s (her decision) more about the direction of my life, the travel and being away from my husband. And I’m happy with my career. Goalkeepers could even peak in their 30s. I just think it’s time for me to go.”
Tran-Swensen was selected to the U.S. National team in 2001, even prior to her graduation from North Carolina. Tran-Swensen was named the Goalkeper of the Tournament at the FIH Champions Challenge in 2005 and the FIH World Cup in 2006.
“The 2006 World Cup was one of my best performances,” said Tran-Swensen. “I’ve been on the national team for so long. I’ll be thinking of the great friendships I made. We spent so much time together, which makes it really special to be a part of the national team.
“The last Olympics was a little disappointing for our team,” added Tran-Swensen. “We finished last, which is well below our potential. We were in the tournament up until the South Africa game. But I have so many other memories from the Olympic Games. The opening ceremonies were amazing. This Olympics, as hard as the finish was, we had a really good time. I still took away a lot of good memories.
“After you finish an Olympic Games, you kind of go through a little like a depression. You’ve worked so hard to get there, and then it’s over. There’s definitely a sadness to be moving on.”
Tran-Swensen isn’t exactly sure what the rest of life holds for her. What she’s sure of is that it will include a lot of husband Mark and field hockey.
Tran-Swensen is hoping a volunteer coaching position at nearby Old Dominion University turns into a permanent one.
“I’m still forming what my next phase of life is going to be,” said Tran-Swensen. “I know I want to be involved in field hockey. I love field hockey so much that I want to share it with so many people. I want to stay involved.”