The Carolina Way
by Danielle Forword ’09
The Carolina way was my ticket to board the journey which was to entail: two national championships, expanding my family of sisters, making lasting friendships, falling in love with the beauty of Chapel Hill, meeting supportive fans from Fever, the ‘pit’, seeing James Taylor perform “Carolina In My Mind” live, seeing three Duke vs. Carolina basketball games, personal growth and learning what it means to be a Tar Heel.
Field hockey Coach Karen Shelton assigned us freshmen some pre-season homework, The Carolina Way by Dean Smith. Being foreign and not really understanding the enormity of my opportunity that I was being given, reading the book helped me understand the philosophy of this university. I read what it should mean for an athlete to be a Tar Heel, that we should play hard smart and together. Oh and I learned that the basketball program at this university is, well a pretty big deal. An important lesson I learned, only two days after arriving in America, we don’t like Dook (as I was also taught to spell it) or any shade of blue that remotely resembles that university. Lesson learned and remembered.
Over my four years at UNC I realized I had entered a world that was so much bigger than just Chapel Hill but expanded to all corners of the world. The common remarks whilst traveling were, “Oh that’s where Michael Jordan went isn’t it?” “Wow UNC is my dream school, you are so lucky to be going there” and “I hate Dook too.” Me wearing Carolina apparel was a staple whilst traveling as it ensured I would have someone to talk to and meet someone who had a story that connected them to the university. The iconic symbol acted as a universal bond between every member of the Carolina family, which I am proud to say I am a part of.
This season we turned to The Carolina Way for inspiration. Each Wednesday, in our classroom, two players would present a chapter to the team. Each week the relevance to our team was apparent in coaching advice, team successes or struggles of the basketball team and coach Dean Smith. It was a reminder of the greatness that came before us and the greatness that will come after us, and no matter what, we are all Tar Heels, together.
I was to present the first chapter of the book to the team. Whilst reading it I sat at the Bell Tower. It was a perfect Carolina day, sun shining, blue skies, students on the go, trees and flowers abloom. As coach would call it, heaven.
I sat on the Bell Tower steps and took it all in. I read the first and second chapter and for the first time I felt what it meant to be a Tar Heel and what playing hard, smart and together entailed.
I learned the hard way through homesickness, injury and an emotional low in 2008. I learned that to be granted the honor of representing Carolina, nothing was going to be easy. Training was hard but it was done together. One could find solace in looking over at the next person and knowing that she is feeling the same way. The harder we pushed the more we could achieve.
I learned that to be at this university you have to be smart. It was an honor to be surrounded with intellectuals who stimulated you in the classroom. The academic support system one receives at such a fine institution can only help to make you smarter. In our locker room we had our own classroom where we worked to become smarter hockey players, through planned practice plans, visual slides and sometimes, even pop quizzes. The time in the classroom proved beneficial as we outsmarted our opponents in the final eight minutes of the National Championship game.
I learned that being together was the best part about being on our team. We did it all together, both on and off the field. We worked together to create a dynamic within the team that would ensure we went all the way. An understanding that we were doing it for each other, the names on our jerseys and the university we attend. No matter where we played we were supported by fans and family which made the unity amongst this team our rock.
We wanted to add “er” to everything we did. We wanted to work harder and smarter than anyone, The Carolina way. We trained and played by this mantra this season. We played like true Tar Heels who never gave up, but worked harder and smarter and together. We wrote our own chapter and defined the Carolina philosophy.
It seems fitting that my time at UNC both begun and ended with the same philosophy, the Carolina way. Everything in between can be appreciated even more because of this. My blood is blue, not that funny tint, but beautiful Carolina blue.
Dani Forword ’09, from East London, South Africa, currently works in advertising and marketing in New Jersey. Her degree is in Journalism and Mass Communication, and she played on the UNC field team.