Although the Penn field hockey season is fully virtual this year, junior forward Madison Jiranek has been making the most of her experience and has been taking the time to grow closer with her teammates.
Jiranek is from Richmond, Va., where she excelled in both lacrosse and field hockey in high school. The summer before her junior year of high school, Jiranek was recruited for both sports. Now, she is a member of both Penn field hockey and women's lacrosse.
“It was a pretty tough transition my freshman year of college to be playing both seasons," Jiranek said. "[It's] really fun and it’s interesting to work with two different teams. The field hockey team is much smaller and tight-knit, while the lacrosse team is much bigger and has more personalities that make it a fun environment.”
For Jiranek, balancing the two sports is not as hard as would be expected because she only focuses on one at a time. When she figured out how to manage not having an offseason, it became easier.
Studying finance and behavioral economics in Wharton, Jiranek found a way to balance her academic life with her sports life. During a normal field hockey season, she spends around 30 hours per week with the team. Using a planner has kept Jiranek on top of her schedule and allowed her to balance her school and sports commitments.
This fall, however, it is harder for her to keep up.
"Having such a strict schedule made it easier for me to know how much time to devote to my academics and social life and also made me use my time wisely," Jiranek said.
This fall, Jiranek is living off campus in Philadelphia in a house with 10 other juniors on the field hockey team. Next door to them are the seniors, and the sophomores live close by as well.
"It’s really nice having everyone close by because we have the opportunity to hang out in person in small groups in addition to just on Zoom," Jiranek said.
Zoom meetings make up most of the scheduled field hockey practice times since there are no in-person practices or scrimmages. The team works out virtually on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they have guest speakers, movie sessions, and sometimes even book clubs.
Jiranek has noticed that her skills have improved this year despite the challenges the virtual semester has presented. She has a better understanding of the college game, which is more technical and flows at a faster rate than in high school. Not only have Jiranek's playing skills grown, but so has her ability as a leader.
“[As a freshman], I was very timid and afraid to speak up, but now, I am a starter and always help teach and guide the team," she said.
Her skills were on display last year against Boston University when, in a close game, Jiranek scored the game-winning goal.
As a result of playing two sports at Penn, Jiranek has had a unique experience. Sharing her experiences and knowledge from one team to another has positively benefited both parties. She has also been able to bring some of the lacrosse culture of doing extra work outside of practice onto the field hockey team.
Jiranek is eager for the start of next year’s field hockey season, but she is also enjoying all the virtual experiences off the field as she grows closer with her teammates.
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