Lily Gandhi began playing hockey when she was 7 years old. Throughout her career, she’s played for Southgate Hockey Club, Old Loughtonians, England’s Junior team, and the NC Raiders in Perth, Australia. When it came time for college, Gandhi was ready to go on one of her biggest adventures yet, receiving a scholarship to go play at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL. What was the key to her success? How did she end up playing in the US collegiate system and NCAA? The Uru team asked Gandhi to share her story and opinions on global sports to the hockey community. Here’s what she has to say…
A letter to the hockey community:
I was lucky to belong to a loving family who would support any decision I made. After graduating high school, I knew I wanted to play hockey but I did not know where or what I wanted to study. I had the option of staying in England, or playing sports in America and pursuing a degree. The idea of going abroad for college was not unfamiliar, my older sister had previously studied in America too. I wanted to forge my own path, however, and that begun with taking a gap year and taking some time to soul-search and self-reflect.
I delayed starting college for a year to give myself more time to make life decisions. I worked some jobs, saved some money, travelled to South-East Asia and lived in Australia for 6 months, playing the season there. Taking time off to travel was still, to this day, the most valuable decision I have ever made. The kind souls I met along the way had their own stories and advice about how life unfolds, and reminded me that life is about broadening your horizons, accepting different perspectives and coming back to the familiar with a new outlook. Nobody comes back from a journey the way they started it.
In Perth, Australia, I played for North Coast Raiders and competed in the Melville Toyota Premier League. I was grateful to be surrounded by very talented Olympic-level players. I was one of the young ones still learning and just had to throw myself into everything remembering that a bad day for the ego is a good day for the soul. Every player has their quirks and strengths – so find yours. I found the opportunity because of an old teammate, Caity Wales, connected me. Welcoming communities are all over the world and the Australian hockey community was certainly one of them. I was 19 years old, figuring it out as I went. Now I know that traveling and pursuing challenges outside of a comfort zone are keys to becoming independent and building confidence.
To tell you the truth, some people are scared of the unknown. They forget, however, that the known has the power to hurt us more. I believe that the leaps of faith made in life, lead to beautiful places. The unknown is place where you can create, discover and grow into the person you would like to be. Playing hockey in different places around the world was a great experience to grow as a person, an athlete and a student.
By the time I arrived at Northwestern, I was able to spend the next four seasons as the starting center midfielder.
I was really shocked at how condensed the field hockey season is over here which runs from August-November, rather than in Europe which runs from September – March. This means you have to be really on top of everything as the turnover between games can be pretty tight. The benefits to this type of system is that you have a long off-season to build, train and grow before you compete, which I like.
I discovered that the best leaders are selfless. Humbly serving your teammates is how to get to the common goal. Always remain hungry and remain humble. Attending Northwestern University provided a hub for endless opportunity as an athlete, as a student and preparing for a life after sports. Northwestern is a truly special place which I hold dear to my heart. For players wondering about taking your chances playing oversees, my advice would be to do your research and then to step out into the unknown, because every human heart and mind is much stronger than they give themselves credit for. I hope you meet your adventure with an open-mind, a passionate heart and go for it!
Gandhi was able to find field hockey success in the US. Will you be next? Register on the Uru Community to find NCAA collegiate field hockey opportunities today!
Photos courtesy of Lily Gandhi.