Sept. 25, 2009

By Amy Farnum

Sometimes, taking a step backwards is a move in a positive direction.

For Tufts University junior field hockey Tamara Brown, it was a major knee injury that pushed her into developing into one of the best Division III players in the nation.  

Brown was the first freshman off the bench for the Jumbos in 2007, but as they neared the postseason, the native of Annadale, Va., suffered an ACL tear while chasing down a ball during practice.  

A fairly common injury, Brown believed she would be on crutches a week or two after surgery before beginning her rehabilitation, but when the doctor found a chipped bone during the procedure, her comeback was postponed a bit.

But rather than sit back and sulk, Brown watched and learned while her teammates finished up the fall and then went through the spring season.

“You always hear people say that you can learn a lot from watching, and you never really believe it until you’re in that position,” said Brown.  “I think coming back it’s really true, and I don’t think I realized it until I started playing again.”

Brown spent a few months on the crutches, and finally was cleared to play the summer before her sophomore year.   She spent the whole summer getting back into shape and ready for the season, but mostly she prepared herself mentally.

“It was definitely hard and I think a lot of it was mental,” said Brown.  “All throughout the rehab process I was doing what I could to stay in shape – I was swimming before I could run, and biking before I could get on the elliptical.  I think that it was really important that I had that summer to work out kinks and get ready on my own at home.  I think a lot of it was a mental barrier and not being scared that I would get hurt again and I would go back out there and be okay.”

Brown’s sophomore season went better than okay.  Knowing the Jumbos had lost their center forward to graduation, Brown had to step up.

“It was in the back of my head that we would need someone to step up and fill that role and take that position,” said Brown.  “I wanted to do whatever I could to help the team.”

And, she did.  Brown broke the school’s season scoring record as she contributed 61 points on 28 goals and five assists while leading Tufts to the Division III championship game.  Six of her goals were scored in the NCAA Tournament, and Brown garnered NFHCA Division III All-American second team honors for her outstanding play.

Head coach Tina McDavitt believes Brown’s injury was a blessing in disguise.

“It was so devastating at the time, but it turned out to be a great thing because it fueled her passion for the game and made her work that much harder,” said McDavitt.  “She appreciated being really healthy her sophomore year and gave 100 percent every single day.”

Brown agrees that the injury forced her to improve her game.

“I think that because I didn’t want to get hurt again I came back a calmer player in terms of having more composure and not running people over if I could help it,” said Brown.  “It started because I got hurt, but in the end it’s probably made me a better player.”

Her hard work did not go unnoticed by the rest of the Tuft University Athletics Department.  She will be honored at the department’s annual awards night on Oct. 9 with the Murray Kenney Award for perseverance and positive attitude.

The third-ranked Jumbos are off to a 4-0 start as Brown once again leads the team in scoring with four goals and one assist.  Tufts travels to Wesleyan for a New England Small College Athletic Conference match-up on Sept. 26.