CHATHAM, NJ - Naturally, Chatham families experienced stress during the worst of the pandemic last spring when people were isolating themselves to flatten the curve.
Chatham senior field hockey forward Avery Buckman noticed that there was an added layer to what upset her parents, John and Karyn, this fall, aside from the obvious health concerns.
"My parents never played field hockey but they love watching it," Buckman said. "This year with (older sisters) Emily not playing and Charlotte not playing and me maybe not having a season, they were stressing out. This is the first time in nine years that it's only one field hockey season they're watching. Now it's only one kid."
Avery Buckman and her parents were relieved to hear that CHS would, indeed, be playing field hockey in 2020 and the four-year varsity player has taken nothing for granted.
"It's pretty exciting," she said. "I think it's the fact that we didn't know if we were going to have a season at all and this is my last season. I'm just putting everything I've got into every game and it's paying off."
Her parents have been treated to some eye-pleasing play by their daughter. She scored the first Chatham goal of the season and then set up the second in a 2-1 win at Parsippany Hills on Oct. 6. Since then, the forward has put together a scoring streak of a goal in each game to give her five goals in Chatham's 5-0 start.
Avery Buckman is the Chatham Wealth Management Athlete of the Week.
"I put her up NJAC Player of the Week because she scored in every game, even the games that are 2-1, or 1-0," Chatham head coach Kaitlin Leyden said. "She's always where she needs to be and she never gives up. When she thinks she has an off game, she's always on. When she's on, she's absolutely on fire and no one can get her. Her speed is just unmatchable."
In addition to her goal that lifted Chatham over Morristown, 1-0, on Oct. 12, Buckman added some deja vu to her season two days later when she scored the winning goal in a 2-1 win vs. West Morris. Chatham hadn't beaten West Morris since 2018 when Buckman scored the winning goal as a sophomore in a 2-1 win.
"It was just so exciting because they're one of our biggest rivals and we hadn't won in so long," Buckman said. "Being able to contribute to the win meant a lot. I think this team really bonded and I just love being on the field with all of them and it shows in how we connect on the field. Now that I've scored in every game, I want to keep it going for myself, but I also want to score for my team. That's what motivates me."
Buckman is known for her strength and stamina on the field and she gets part of that from her gymnastics training. In a normal year, Buckman would go from school to field hockey to gymnastics at the Madison YMCA and then home around 9 p.m. to do homework.
"What stands out is her mental toughness," Leyden said. "She has just been an incredible player. She's fast, she dodges, she works hard, she never gives up and you know she's always going to get the job done. She's a selfless player, too."
When she is feeling the exhaustion of a hard-fought game in the fourth quarter, Buckman defaults to advice from assistant coach Kristen Fallon and coach Leyden.
"In practices, coach Fallon's quote is 'You can do anything for 15 minutes', and I've had that drilled into my head," Buckman said. "During timeouts, coach Leyden will say 'you guys are looking tired but you're almost done, keep pushing it's all mental.' I think of that. I might be tired, but I still have to play for my team and keep pushing for my team and myself. No matter how tired I am, I keep pushing because I really want that win and to get those goals."
Buckman, who has 16 career goals, has garnered most of her tallies by heading to the post and finding a way to get her stick on the ball.
"Our midfielders are so good at bringing the ball up that sometimes when we get into the circle, in practice it will go past the post and no one will be there," she said. "So I'm always telling myself 'Go to post, go to post'. Being on post is kind of like the safety, if no one touches it, you're there."
Buckman is still deciding on a college, where she hopes to become the third sibling to play field hockey. Emily played goalie for four years at Colby, and midfielder Charlotte played two seasons at Gettysburg.
Editor's note: The Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Chatham Wealth Management in recognition of the commitment a Chatham athlete has made to their sport, their school and their community. For over twenty years, Chatham Wealth Management has been committed to putting our clients first by crafting customized investment solutions. Call us at 973-635-4275 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss how we can help meet your financial goals. To learn more about our products and team, visit us at www.chathamwealth.com.