Rachel Steinman’s father, Dean, played a big role in the redshirt-sophomore midfielder/defender’s field hockey career.
“Ever since I was little, when I started field hockey in the second grade, and ever since then he always took me to all my practices and tournaments,” Steinman said. “He went to every single game, and he just always pushed me through the hard times with field hockey, and he just kept me in the sport. I definitely have to thank him for where I am today.”
Steinman’s father passed away in June 2011 from melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer, while Steinman was preparing to make the transition from high school into college.
“It came on very quickly,” Steinman said. “I don’t know how I coped with it, but I thought it was going to be such a hard transition coming from home and leaving and going into Temple. I definitely have to thank my teammates. They have supported me through all of this so much, and they are always here to talk, and they understand a lot of things I’m going through.”
Steinman’s family was also there for her, as she was for them.
“We were all on the same boat,” Steiman said “We were all feeling the same thing, so we stuck together, and we knew that we would get through the hard times, but my family supports me all the time. We are all supportive of each other.”
The majority of the team attended the funeral service, even though Steinman had not practiced with it yet.
“We were there to support her,” coach Amanda Janney said. “We try to be welcoming and knew how much she was hurting. We made sure that she knew we were there to support her.”
The support continued throughout the summer and into August when preseason practice began.
“It was really cool to see that before I even really knew my teammates, that they were already there for me,” Steinman said. “Then in August, when we did start practicing, they were just always so uplifting and really helped me push through it all.”
Steinman took a redshirt in her first year with the team and then worked her way into a starting role the next season, starting all 21 of the Owls’ games in 2012.
This season has been much of the same, as Steinman has started in all 15 games this season and even tallied her first goal during a game against Villanova. She has also collected two assists this season, one of which was during a game against a nationally ranked Penn State squad.
As all of this is happening, the loss of Steinman’s father is still fresh in her mind.
“She just handled it amazingly,” Janney said. “It would be easy for a player to not want to go to college or continue playing after such a traumatic, life-changing event. Rachel found it as a way to motivate herself, and she honors her dad every time she plays. It’s been great to see her mature and grow and turn it into a motivating factor for her. We know she is still hurting a lot about it.”
Steinman honors her father through other means, too. She has a tattoo on her shoulder blade of a black ribbon with his initials, DDS, inside. She wears a wristband with his initials on it.
At the funeral, Steinman and her three childhood best friends, Cassidy Arner, Leigh High and Brooke Oliver, performed Jimmy Eat World’s “Hear You Me,” with Steinman on guitar and her friends providing vocals.
“It was an amazing feeling that they were literally with me to the end,” Steinman said. “Just having so much support from my three friends was amazing to have.”
“I’m still amazed by Rachel’s strength,” High said. “It was a very sudden thing for her and senior year was a tough year for all of this to happen and then going right into college, she’s amazing. It doesn’t seem like it slowed her down at all if anything I think it made her stronger and stronger on the field.”
The Owls have been enjoying one of their best seasons in program history, going 11-4 with four games remaining, as they are currently ranked No. 16 in the nation.
“He’s definitely very proud of me,” Steinman said. “I’m sure he is bummed that he can’t be here, but he would be proud and definitely excited to see that I can compete at the Division I level. That’s what he wanted out of me ever since I started playing field hockey — to play at a very high level.”
Nick Tricome can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.