It is no coincidence that Women’s Hockey had its best season in school history under the leadership of senior captain Tara French. Her skills on the ice, however, are dwarfed by her accomplishments off of it; French truly exemplifies the true meaning of a student-athlete.
A Truro, Nova Scotia native, French has anchored the Colgate defense over the past four seasons. But her skills were not limited to the defensive end; she is the eighth highest scorer in Colgate history with 72 points in 136 games. In addition to building a foundation for women’s hockey excellence at Colgate, French played on Canada’s U-22 team that won the European Air Canada Cup in 2005.
This season, her skill and leadership helped Colgate reach new heights on the ice. The squad has now defeated every team in the ECAC, including perennial powers Harvard and Dartmouth. Following a great regular season, the Raiders traveled to Princeton for a best-of-three playoff series, but only two games were needed for the women in maroon to pull off the upset for the first playoff victory in program history.
“It is easily one of my all-time proudest hockey memories,” French said.
In terms of her awards and honors, the list is comically long for French. Despite her incredible hockey success, French’s accolades for her work in the classroom are even greater: Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence: 2003-2007, ECACHL All Academic Team, 2004-2007, American Women’s Hockey Coaches Association (AWHCA) Division I National Scholar-Athlete Team 2004-2006, IKON Hockey Nova Scotia Female Athlete of the Year 2005-2006 and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Leadership Conference Selection 2006 just to name a few.
As a molecular biology major with a 3.53 G.P.A., French is undoubtedly a worthy recipient of such lofty honors. Balancing hockey and Colgate’s rigorous academic schedule, however, proved to be challenging.
“Being a molecular biology major and fulfilling not only the class requirements but also at times the endless lab components was one of my biggest challenges,” French said. “I had an unbelievable web of support from professors like Ken Belanger, to classmates, administrators like Beverly Low, teammates and coaching staff, family, and friends. Without them my experience would have been remarkably different, and their unique contributions gave me the encouragement to accomplish all that I have.”
But don’t be fooled into thinking hockey and schoolwork were all that French did during her time at Colgate. She also tutored chemistry and worked with the Hamilton Central School Partnership and the Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC). However, it was hockey that proved to be the dominant activity during her tenure at Colgate.
“My lifestyle has revolved around hockey, but it provided a solid framework to build the rest of my activities around,” French said. “With the defined schedule, I knew I had to keep myself organized, but keeping that in perspective, I tried to be as efficient as possible in maximizing participation in other things that I found interesting. Playing a sport also afforded the opportunity to meet many other amazing athletes, both on my team and those on other sports.”
Playing hockey has undoubtedly had a profound and pervasive impact on French’s life. When asked how her athletic career influenced other realms of her life, she didn’t hesitate to mention its numerous benefits.
“Playing sports has helped me to develop a core of life skills like teamwork, leadership, and goal setting that can be extended and applied to many other endeavors and activities,” French remarked. “I’ve had the opportunity to travel not only across Canada, but here to the USA and to Germany playing for various teams throughout my hockey career. The best part of playing hockey has been the network of friends from the youngest of playing days to the present, and with all the wins, losses, highs and lows of being part of a team you learn a lot about each other and yourself.”
Fortunately, despite the fact that her days as a Colgate player are over, her days as a hockey player are not. French will be playing for the Mississauga Aeros in the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) next year. After her hockey career comes to an end, she plans to put her molecular biology major to work and attend medical school.
Tara French is one of the greatest student-athletes to step foot in Hamilton. More importantly, she is one of the greatest people to attend Colgate University. She will be sincerely missed.