Barbara Strasburg Tucker ’84 P’08, P’11 Member of the women’s lacrosse and field hockey teams
Jacklyn Fein ’21
Member of Women’s lacrosse team, Student-Athlete Advisory Committee president
BT: What attracted you to Lafayette?
JF: Actually funny enough, I grew up on the Hill. I went to Easton High School. My father was a football coach here for 10 years. I had always grown up walking around College Hill looking at Lafayette and picturing myself being here. I didn’t know how I was going to be here or what path was going to bring me here. But I knew that I wanted to be here from a very young age. Then in high school, I ended up playing lacrosse, and I got pretty good. That was able to be my avenue to get to Lafayette, and I’m so grateful for it. I just love the small community, and I love Easton. I love the people here. And I think that that’s what’s made my experience really great. And what really solidified my decision to come here was the team that I met. It was so inviting and great. The girls were just amazing women, and I could see myself being a part of that.
Same to you: What attracted you? I’m so curious.
BT: Well, it was after my senior year of field hockey season, my mom looks at me and says you need to find a place to go. I’d already done all the college tours with my older brothers and the whole nine yards. And so she said I could miss a day of school and pick a place to visit. I was so excited because I never could miss school. I never got sick. So I was like, Yeah! So I chose Lafayette only because it was about an hour from my house, you could do it in a day, and I got an interview. So we came up and I have to say, the cliche of all cliches, I walked on campus, and I just fell in love with it from the get go. I just loved the way I felt when I got here. And it proved to be true how it was a great fit for me. So I had my interview that day and I applied for an early decision. I got waitlisted, and I had like 10 letters of recommendation sent, and I got in.
JF: And then from there, what attracted you to field hockey and lacrosse? Were you an athlete in high school?
BT: Oh, yeah, I played hockey and lacrosse in high school. And I was only going to go to places where I could play. So I called up the coach, which was Sharon Mitchell at the time, who did a tremendous job of building up the program from the beginning. And she said, I’m leaving for California, I’m like, alright, so I just waited for them to hire the next coach. And I said, once practice starts, I’m coming. Again, it’s a very different time back then. Some girls were recruited. But a lot of us, we just said once practice starts, we’ll be there.
And then I played lacrosse, and actually a lot of our lacrosse team had never played before. They were just great athletes. So it just worked out with lacrosse. Wherever I was going to school, it had to have hockey and that was it.
BT: So in this time of COVID, I can’t even fathom what you’re going through. I’m at a lucky stage of my life. I didn’t have to deal with all these decisions. You have to deal with the anxiety of what’s going to be canceled. Can you take me to that time? Last season 2020 on that day that you found out that your season was canceled?
JF: Yes. We had just come off a game at Rutgers. And we had heard rumors about this COVID-19 virus, and we all kind of really didn’t really know what it was and thought of it as this like, far fetched thing that was only in other countries. So we’re like, it’s gonna be okay. Oh, my gosh, we felt so bad for those abroad, people are going to have to come back to the United States, but everything’s going to be fine here. You know, nothing’s going to transfer here. So we’re getting prepared for our next game. And our coaches called an emergency meeting, and said, Hey, guys, you know, this COVID-19 virus, it’s getting pretty serious. We’re going to have to cancel. Senior day, the next game was senior day. So all of us were so disappointed. We were upset, we felt terrible for the seniors. Everybody thought that this was going to be a two- week spring break, which I had never gotten before. So I was like, we are going to go home for two weeks, come back, it’ll be great. So we ended up canceling our senior day. We had this awesome dinner for the seniors and tried to make it as special as we could for them, because we felt terrible that they weren’t going to be able to, you know, have a normal season, or have a normal senior day. I just remember going through and feeling terrible for them. Because I knew mine was going to be normal. I knew I was going to come back. You know, I didn’t even know wearing a mask was a thing. Nothing was in my mind that we were going to have what we did. So we ended up going home for two weeks. And I remember getting a phone call from my coach and her saying, Hey, you know, we think it’s going to be a lot longer than two weeks. I wouldn’t be prepared to come back. We think that the 2020 season is over. We did not play any Patriot League games, we were so excited to be in this new era, she was a brand new coach, we all loved her, we thought she was great. We all really arrived as a team, we all thought we were going to be pretty good and contend really well in the Patriot League. So it was really disappointing. And I feel like a lot of times, it’s cliche, but you don’t miss something until it’s gone. And it was so disappointing that we worked so hard for so long as student athletes, and that was taken away from us. So I would just say it was disappointing, it was sad. But again, I didn’t really realize that my spring or my fall of 2020 was going to be the same. So when you know, school was remote, and the fall season canceled as well, because we just have that prepping season. It was immediate, all that more special to be able to come back for the spring of 2021 season.
BT: So how was it that first time you were back on the field together?
JF: I mean, literally, it’s just such an indescribable feeling. They’re my best friends, my family. So for me to sit back on the field with them and be able to play in any way that we could, we were going to do it. And I think that that’s something that we have talked about as a team, with my coaches, and my teammates, with our, with our athletic trainers, or with our strength and conditioning coaches, you know, we’re going to do everything possible, you know, give up whatever, we have to make sacrifices, because we want to play the game. We want to be with each other. And we just, like I said, we’re family, we all love each other. And it was just such an indescribable feeling of being able to play with them and play a game we love all together.
So for you, you were so thrown into it. For me, from my experience, I knew these girls from high school because of recruiting. So for you, stepping on the field, how did you form that bond with them?
BT: I remember it so well, that first day we were all here. We came two weeks before school started. And we were in Kirby Field House in one of the rooms, and we all had to just introduce ourselves. And the way my one friend introduced herself, I still tell her til this day I remember what she said because … she’s still my best friend, and I see her now a lot of times. She lives really close to me when she comes up for the summer. I just miss being a part of a team. Like that’s the best part is when you’re just thrown together from different experiences and different walks of life, but it doesn’t matter because you work together. And so it only takes a little bit, it takes a small amount of time, I think, to just really get to know each other. We were all by ourselves for the first two weeks. So we had nothing else to do but practice and go back to our room. It was easy. It’s the game you love with your best friends. I was thinking when Lafayette announced that they were playing fall sports and spring sports in the same season, a friend of mine says, ‘Which sport would you have chosen to play because of playing both sides?’ And I was like, ‘I’m gonna play both sports.’ Well, we’d have to decide as a team, because back then 75% of the women playing field hockey also played lacrosse. So we could have only fielded one team. We had the same goalie for both. And we had the same coach. We just played two sports. I think most of us played three sports in high school. It was just encouraged. It was a different time.
JF: So as you’re saying, that’s so different from what I’ve experienced. I feel like going through the recruiting process and having to figure out college before you’re even done with high school was so different. And, I also couldn’t fathom playing two sports now. That would be so much on our body and so much academically. How did you balance that?
BT: Because you just did what you did in season and we didn’t train like you guys train. Maybe you were just told to run and you know, come in a little bit in shape, but mainly they got us in shape when we got here. So it was really just from three to six every afternoon. You know, we didn’t have anything in the morning, we didn’t lift weights, like you do. I don’t even know where the weight room was or even if it had weights back then. So it just didn’t take up too much time. It was really just to practice from four to six. You left around three, because you know, we’d go all the way out to Metzar, take a bus. Until my junior year, my mom gave me her station wagon, and it was the big longboat station wagon with the wood panels. And I would drive up and pick everybody up and fill it up with 12 women. But not as much was demanded of us as is demanded of you. So it was just our afternoons and Saturdays when we had games. So that was easy.
What do you find is your biggest challenge as a student athlete?
JF: I do think about the topic of balance. I think that is probably the biggest part. There are so many demands from an academic standpoint, but also an athletic standpoint. And then there is your mental health, your social life, and being able take care of yourself as well. So I think especially now, with COVID all of those things have really come to light. Being able to balance school, athletics, social, or extracurriculars, I think has definitely been the biggest challenge for me. But what I love so much about Lafayette is they really navigate those things for you. We have a peer mentor program for student athletes. So those that have experienced the same things that we are now are able to walk us through those steps from freshman year to senior year. And also something I love about the athletic department is the communication that we have. I feel like there is an open line of communication between coaches and administrators. That makes the experience so easy. Currently, I’m the president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and we basically hear all of the things that student athletes are struggling with. That might be the dining halls closing too early, and people get out of practice at 10 pm and need food or it might be a professor has a field trip and someone has a game, so how can we navigate those things to make the experience a little bit easier? I really love being a part of that committee being able to be the leader. It’s important to have a voice for student athletes, because our job is tough sometimes. And I think it’s about getting people to understand how demanding being a student athlete is. So trying to navigate those things is definitely what has been the most challenging thing.
How about for you? Because I feel like back then maybe with co-education being new, women weren’t as prioritized at the time. So how were you able to go through those challenges and balance everything as a student-athlete?
BT: Well, it has been 50 years since women have been here at Lafayette. I’m on the 40 year mark, product of the 80s. But I never felt underserved as a woman. I should say, like I was telling you before, our field conditions were not good. I showed you a picture of Metzger Field. You know, it was a beautiful, bumpy, half dirty hockey field. But the soccer field was right next to it and their field looked just like ours. So it was just that the effort wasn’t put into facilities like it is now. Your facilities are gorgeous. We didn’t even have a place for our parents to sit, They all stood. Those fold up chairs were made back then. I went through all my pictures and people’s boyfriends and roommates are on the sideline with us during the game. If you weren’t in the game, you could talk to somebody. It was just a different thing. But I never felt underserved here. I give credit to both Sharon Mitchell and Barb Young for really developing a program for the years before I came here. Kelly was nice enough to give me some of the stuff that was written back then about us. So with that, when I was here for the courses, it was the fifth and sixth seasons of lacrosse. We practiced next to the men’s lacrosse team. They got us what we needed and what we wanted. So I never, I don’t think we lacked for anything. I think we had everything that every other college had at the time. Now compared to you guys, we lacked a lot. But you know, when you don’t know it, you’re like ‘Oh, this is great.’ I was just so happy to play. I was so happy to be with my friends. I just knew every day at three o’clock, I was going to see my friends. So it could make school that much better. Because I had a hard time my first two years here; I was in the wrong major. Once I got to the right major, I really loved school. I always knew that each day I was going to see my friends. So it was great.
JF: We talked about that a lot with my teammates. We say this is the two hour scheduled period that we get to hang out together. And we normally do it outside of campus or outside of the field. Why not just come together and have even more fun and really create a bond which I think is so cool. It’s a delegated time that you have to be with your family, your best friends, which is such a great thing about sports and bringing a great group of women together.
JF: So what was your fondest memory at Lafayette?
BT: Well, I have to tell you this. I loved it here. I’d love to say a championship but we never won a championship. So I’m going to go … only because it’s still relevant. The night I met my husband. Oh gosh!
JF: Tell me about it!
BT: So he’s a senior and I’m a freshman. And it’s the night before second semester classes start. It’s a Sunday. It happens to be Super Bowl Sunday. My beloved Eagles are in the Super Bowl. And they lose. They get embarrassed by the Oakland Raiders. So fast forward to that night. So we go to DU. And there’s this obnoxious man going on about how much the Eagles stink. ‘I hate the Eagles’—because he’s a Giants fan. And I go right up to him. And I don’t remember what I said. But I know I said something. And he looks at me. He goes, ‘What do you know about football? You’re a chick!’ And I looked at him and I said, ‘I can name every starting football quarterback of the NFL.’ He said, ‘go ahead.’ So I did. Now remember this is before ESPN? You only saw two games a week. Yes. I mean, every starting quarterback, and half of the backups, he looks at me goes, ‘I’m going to marry you’. And I said, ‘There’s no way in the world you are ever marrying me.’ And I just stormed out. And here we are. We were married three weeks after graduation. My gosh. Most of my team was at our wedding. Wow. I never saw them until 10 years later when we moved back to New Jersey.
JF: That’s such a great story.
BT: Yeah, it’s fun, it’s a good story. And it’s still relevant today. Yes, 37 years married.
Well, what memory will you take when you leave?
JF: I just love all the relationships I’ve built here and the people I’ve met, in any space, academics, athletics, clubs. I’m part of activities that I’ve been to where I feel like I know so much about other students, or can see them on campus and say, ‘Hello.’ I’m definitely going to take that away with me and into the real world. Being able to make great relationships and keep them for a long time. And I think that’s something that Lafayette has really shown me with the small community and tight-knit community. It’s just, it’s been such a blessing. I’m so grateful for it. To leave here with so many so many names, so many people, so many experiences that I’ll cherish for such a long time. So it’s really great.
BT: So you said today was your last practice and tomorrow’s your last game? It is what emotions are running for you right now?
JF: I hate to use the word sad. But it’s sad. And I think for me, I’m someone that it takes a second to process that it’s over. So right now, since I’ve been on the Hill for such a long time, since I was 10 years old, me not being here is going to be very, very weird and different. I’ve gained so much from sports, from the school, from everything that Lafayette has had to offer. So to me without that, it’s going to be very different. But I’m just so grateful for the experiences I’ve had, the people that I’ve met. And I think that like I said before, the people make the place. And the people I met at Lafayette have just really enhanced and created an amazing experience for me. But to not wear the badge of a student athlete anymore is definitely going to be really difficult for an athlete in general, you know.
BT: What are you going to do in the afternoons?
JF: I really don’t know. Me and my teammates, we have a senior group chat. And we were chatting, we’re like, guys, how are we gonna work out? What are we gonna do? Are we going to go sprint? Are we going to play lacrosse? Or are we going to walk? We don’t know what to do. So we don’t know life without it. And I just appreciate the game so much. And I loved it so much. And it’s brought me so many things. So I’m just so grateful. But I’m definitely sad to move on. I’ll look back on this time as some of the best times in my life. And right now, I don’t know if I’m ready to let go of that now. But yes it’s definitely bittersweet. I’m so overwhelmingly grateful for the experience of a lot of years.
BT: How will you find competition once you graduate?
JF: That’s a great question. I don’t know because I love it. You’re not a student athlete, or you’re not an athlete in general if you don’t love to compete. So I mean, I think that in the working world, you’ll have some sort of competition, but I’ll find like workout classes or something of that nature. A lot of cities have random women’s leagues for college athletes. I could get to play baseball, or basketball, or whatever. But a lot of women college graduates have started leagues in cities just because of the amount of people that are there. So there’s like a New York City league. So maybe I’ll join one of those and mess around and play some lacrosse you know, not give up the stick because I just love the game. And it’s so much fun.
How have you found competition after after?
JF: Oh, that’s fun!
BT: I was pretty damn good too.
JF: That’s fun! Did you play in a tournament?
BT: Just a league, a women’s league.. And then I played in a coed league, and we won one year.
But you know, you do have to find ways to compete. I used to race my neighbor in our minivan back from football games. We would take two different routes. You know, I go, ‘Come on, I’m going to do this.’ He just knows me, like you always need to compete. I missed being on a team.
JF: Speaking of that, as I enter the next chapter of my life, what do you wish you knew when you were graduating? Like what advice would you have for your old self?
BT: I should have been born in the 50s. Like, I got married three weeks out of school, I moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, I had a child at 23 you know, which is great. Because by the time I was 48, all my kids were out of the house. So you know what I wish I had done. My father owned newspapers in the Philadelphia area, the weekly local papers, yes. And I wish I had taken it over. I wish I had worked there. That’s my wish now, but then I wouldn’t have wanted to do that at all. But now, looking back, I wish I could have taken it over and changed the newspaper from, you know, going from print and taking it digital, and making it still relevant because people still need their news. I wish I had done that. But you know, I can’t complain. It’s worked out really well.
So what are your plans as you leave school?
JF: Oh, that’s a good question. Hopefully get a job. I really want to be in the Boston area. So fingers crossed. I’m interviewing at places right now. But fingers crossed that I end up in the Boston area. And yes, corporate life, which is really crazy. And, you know, obviously join a women’s lacrosse league and mess around and play some lacrosse.
BT: Absolutely get in a league or something.
JF: Because the game never leaves us.
BT: So how do you see women’s athletics going in college?
JF: That’s a really great question. I think, especially from the events of the NCAA women’s basketball finals, are really exposing some of the disparities between women’s and men’s sports. I do think that women are going to start to have a voice, which is extremely exciting. I think that throughout my athletic career, I have tried to be in leadership roles. Because I wanted my voice heard. And I wanted to be someone that people or that other women on other sports teams could look to or to speak to and say, ‘Hey, I have a concern,’ or, ‘Hey, I want this to be better for us because, you know, maybe the men have it, and we don’t.’ So I think that in the future women are going to have, like I said, a bigger voice, and rightfully so we can make just as much maybe even more change as men.
BT: That was so well said. I had all those big points. You said it so much better. Very, very well said. And I’d like to shout out to Natalie Kucowski, our first Lafayette player to go to the WNBA in Seattle.
JF: I’m so, so happy for her. It’s amazing.
BT: I’ve watched her, and then because of all you know, because of COVID, we can’t go to the basketball games. But we’ve watched the women on TV. Yeah. And I was like, oh, she’s good!
JF: But it’s so it’s so exciting to see where it’s gonna go.
BT: They can’t stop us. It’s only going to be better.
JF: I love that. They can’t stop us.
Well, thanks so much for having this conversation with me. It was wonderful.
BT: It was delightful and fun. Thank you for inviting me. I wish you so much. And you know, just enjoy these weeks of just being a Pard.
JF: I have to figure out something to do with my time.
BT: You’ll find something. I’ll be great. And you know, just enjoy it and treasure your friends. They are the best.
JF: Yes. So thank you.
BT: Thank you.