Watching the Goal

April 7, 2015

Whether it’s excelling as a field hockey goalkeeper (she’s the second one in St. Mike’s history to be named to an All-American team), pursuing journalism or managing diabetes, Jackie Chisholm ’15 never loses focus.

It’s field hockey Chisholm is most passionate about, and this season was an especially memorable one for her Purple Knights team.

Saint Michael’s beat nationally ranked Saint Anselm College and Merrimack College, finishing with a 9-9 season record, and multiple members, including Chisholm, were honored for their performances on the field.

Chisholm, in fact, was named to the National Field Hockey Coaches Association All-America second team, one of just 32 players in the nation chosen for the first and second teams. She’s only the second Saint Michael’s goalkeeper to ever be named to the roster, joining Megan Scalley ’02. Chisholm also was named the NE-10 Goalkeeper of the Year.

One of three team captains during this past season, Chisholm boasted a .863 save percentage along with a 1.16 goals against average (GAA) for the 2014 season. That made her first in NCAA Division II in save percentage and sixth in GAA. Across all three NCAA divisions, she was second in save percentage. These are personal bests for Chisholm, who started in nine games this season.

Her success, however, doesn’t come without its challenges. During her freshman year of high school, Chisholm was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Initially, she misread the early signs of diabetes as side effects of her intense workout schedule. She got lucky, though, and she and her doctors reached a diagnosis before she experienced any severe effects.

People with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin, the hormone the body uses to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy, the same way a person without diabetes can. As a result, diabetics have to structure meals carefully, noting how many carbohydrates they eat, and which of those will remain in their system. It’s a serious condition that can lead to life threatening complications, including high blood pressure, which can lead to increased risk for stroke, heart disease and eye problems. Diabetes and related complications are responsible for more deaths each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined.

The hardest part of adjusting to living with diabetes was having to meticulously plan her meals, Chisholm says. Before every meal and before bed, she also had to give herself a shot of insulin. She now has an insulin pump, however, “so every three days I give myself a shot rather than four times a day,” Chisholm explains. She doesn’t wear the pump while she plays because she doesn’t want it to be damaged.

“How I look at it is, it’s a disease, but you can live with it, and as long as you manage it well, you can do anything anyone else can do,” she says. “It could affect the way I play, but I don’t really let it.”

Diabetes isn’t a negative force in her life, she says. It’s just another thing she plans her life around.

There is a lot to plan around. Saint Michael’s course structure, where students take four classes of four credits each semester, keeps her busy, but Chisholm downplays the stressful side of academia, focusing instead on how participating in field hockey helps her structure her time better. She believes she’s more productive in-season than in the off-season. “Because you have less time, you’re better with your time,” she says.

In her four years at Saint Michael’s, she’s also been a resident assistant, coordinator for Pre-Orientation Weekend and an editor for the 2013-14 edition of the yearbook. She’s also the online and visual editor for The Defender, the campus newspaper.

The paper takes a lot of time. She spends every other Sunday with the staff, formatting and designing the paper. She’s also taking a class dedicated to the production of the paper. The work is both rewarding and frustrating, Chisholm says.

“It brings a huge amount of stress, with a good amount of success and achievement when you’ve finished it.”

She’s grateful for the experience. “It feels real-life applicable, so I find myself devoting more time and thought to that class.” And she says it’s helped her hone her writing and editing skills.

Keeping up with her schedule is demanding. “It’s a lot, and a lot of people tell me I’m crazy, but I get it all done. These are all things I love to do, so it’s not so much a hassle as it is doing the things I love.”

After graduation, Chisholm isn’t sure where life will take her. She’s considering graduate school but will take a year off to examine her options. She is a communications major, but she’s not sure that’s the path she’ll take. For the longest time, she wanted to study animation.

“Ever since I was little I’ve wanted to work for Disney or Pixar,” she says. Despite that interest, she chose a liberal arts education at Saint Michael’s, rather than art school.

“I applied almost entirely to art schools,” Chisholm says. She visited Saint Michael’s campus on a dreary March day, and despite the slush and cold weather, says she “still fell in love with it.” She says she’s happy for the opportunity Saint Michael’s has afforded her to become a more well-rounded person and she’s grateful for the lessons she’s learned, not only from her professors but “even more so from my peers, and for professors to build an environment where that is possible is pretty amazing.”

One thing that is certain, however, is that Chisholm won’t be forgetting her field hockey days any time soon. She says she can definitely see herself coaching youth field hockey in the future; in fact, she already misses the sport and her teammates.

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