Imagine your toughest day in college.
Or just your toughest day you’ve had recently.
It was probably hectic, stressful, demoralizing and demanding?
Now, take all of that pressure you felt, and imagine also being
a two-sport athlete at the University of Maryland.
Oh, and getting married in January.
For Terps’ field hockey student-athlete Welma Luus, pressure is what drives her.
“Personally for me, I’ve always played multiple sports and been as busy as I could possibly be,” said Luus. “I love being a part of two teams. ... I’m very happy that I did play two sports, but for field hockey it has made a difference just being able to focus on one sport.”
Luus joined Maryland in 2011 pursuing her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology. By the time she reached her junior year she competed in both tennis and field hockey for the Terps. She originally joined the Terrapins as a tennis player, but whilst looking at Maryland her head coach mentioned the Maryland field hockey program. By her junior year she was signed up and competing for the field hockey team.
Luus is modest and mature, and a fitting co-captain for the field hockey team alongside redshirt junior Brooke Adler and junior Lein Holsboer. One of the quieter players in the locker room, Luus doesn’t need much apart from her own thoughts to get her motivated.
“I do like keeping to myself a little bit, a lot of the other girls like being more high energy. I don’t have any superstitions really, which is weird because most tennis players have superstitions. If things weren’t going well for me I would take something off. I always wear something around my arm and if I get frustrated I take something off and that’s my way of letting go.”
While most juniors fret about how college is starting to get so much tougher than on their first day of classes, Luus thought about training for two sports, completing her studies, and remembering to make time to say “Hi” to her parents in South Africa. Now she’s juggling finishing her master’s degree, getting married and playing field hockey.
“Field Hockey is the most demanding part of my life. I give most attention to that. Wedding planning comes in between whilst still trying to give field hockey my full attention. My family has been a great support in helping with all the planning.”
Luus started her hockey career in her home country, South Africa, in a sporty family. Both of Luus’s parents are tennis coaches and Luus competed on the same field hockey team as her sister, Anel, in South Africa.
Luus has always been one to multi-task, she started off in high school as a three-sport athlete playing tennis, field hockey and running the 400 and 800m hurdles. In college she was just going to concentrate on tennis, but then, in her junior year at Maryland, she added field hockey onto her sports resume as well.
Being far away from her friends was difficult but Luus said couldn’t do it without them. She is still close with her best friends from high school who have all been very supportive of her athletic career in the USA.
“Emotionally, she is very demanding on herself, so demanding on others, in a good way,” said head field hockey coach Missy Meharg, who has eight NCAA titles during her tenure as a Terrapin. “Technically, her game has grown amazingly since changing to hockey being her number one sport. And in one-on-one situations she is clever. She is a professional athlete in the way she takes on the hockey… She is so dynamic with her shooting skills, because she has an understanding of different grips on her stick. It’s uncanny how comfortable she is.”
So, how did a South African talent much like Luus end up at the University of Maryland?
“Playing tennis growing up we are very far away from major competitions in South Africa, there are one or two big ones a year and that is it. Either I do this or there’s not much more in sports for me that I could have done. I wanted to keep playing and compete at a high level.”
As both field hockey and tennis take up so much of her life as an athlete, taking her foot off the gas and just focusing on hockey is the new challenge for Luus. The 2015 season was her first season competing as a single sport athlete for Maryland, and her stats show that, she handled that pretty well.
Luus was not only a NFHCA Mid-Atlantic first team selection, but also an All-Big Ten second team member, a second team All-American and earned a spot on the All-Big Ten academic team for 2015. Clearly, Luus has the skill of multi-tasking well and truly mastered. She was named the MVP of the 2015 Big Ten Tournament and was selected as the Big Ten player of the week twice during the season.
Luus definitely has recognizable tennis attributes to her field hockey game. When you see her in action she is very comfortable when the ball is off the ground and she has fantastic one-handed stick skills.
She is especially good with any balls traveling above shoulder height, which not many other field hockey players are comfortable with. This helped the Terps last year to secure the Big Ten Tournament title in Indiana, with Luus showing off some of her tennis skills on the hockey pitch.
Instead of using the longer, field hockey chamois (soft, thin and towel like) grips on her stick, Luus uses the shorter chamois tennis grips, which do the same job – only, hers are bright pink, making Luus easier to spot on the field.
“Welma is one of the most genuine, authentic, compassionate and confident women that I have ever been around,” said Meharg. “Great friend, loyal partner and hardworking.”
Luus could have just given up at the end of last season, but realized that she had one possible year of eligibility available to her, so she put in a waiver to the NCAA through the Maryland compliance office. Luus knew it was a long shot, but one worth taking.
“I was in my car driving home from work, and I saw a number that I didn’t recognize on my car phone screen,” remembers Luus. “I thought it was just telemarketers so I wasn’t going to pick up. But then I saw it was a Maryland number so I did, and it was compliance. My heart stopped for a second when they started talking so I said, ‘Oh, hi’, and they told me my waiver had been accepted and I would be able to play for another season. I was in shock.”
What can Terp fans expect to see from Luus during her final season in College Park?
“We will continue to her work on attacking in the final third, setting other people up and finishing,” said Meharg. “She is a great leader, voted as captain by her teammates, and she will continue to put points on board.”
With everything she’s already gone through, that sounds like anything but a stressful day for Welma Luus.
Ready For The Next Level is a special presentation of umterps.com.
Faye Curran is a graduate student at the University of Maryland and is a contributing writer to umterps.com.
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