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From The Lincoln Magazine: Redirecting Rejection–From Sidelines to State Champ

“Let me start with this: I am a reject,” said Rachel Westgate ’94 with a laugh. As a member of the 1993 Lincoln School State Championship Field Hockey Team, it’s hardly an accurate assessment, though her path to the podium was anything but predictable. “I am not your prototypical Hall of Fame athlete—I was never supposed to be a field hockey champion. I didn’t even make the team at first! But I will never forget what an incredible experience it was to be a part of a group of girls that accomplished what we did.”

Westgate, who attended Lincoln School from Grade 9–12 and is now a Middle School teacher in Foxboro, recently stood up in front of former classmates and fellow athletes at the Athletic Hall of Fame event, which honored Lynx who left a lasting impact on the school's athletic program. As the chosen representative for the 1993 State Championship Field Hockey Team, which was itself inducted for winning the school's first state championship in the sport, Westgate spoke about the steps she took, and those she missed, in order to be a part of the top team to play on the turf that year.

“When I came to Lincoln as a soccer player, my sister (Julia Westgate Lown ’91) bamboozled me into trying out for field hockey, which I had never played, so I didn’t even come close to making the team my first year,” said Westgate. “Luckily Coach Elcock found me the next day and said she had a proposition for me. She said, ‘You have no idea what you’re doing on the field… yet.’ And that ‘yet’ made all the difference.”

What Coach Ellen Elcock proposed was to join the team as a manager, and in return for keeping score during competitions, Westgate would get to learn the game by practicing with the JV team. As a seasoned soccer player before Lincoln, it was difficult to consider a proposition that simultaneously felt like a slight.

“I had never been rejected before. Things had always come very easily to me, and this sport, as it turns out, was pretty hard,” said Westgate. “But that ended up being the best thing. At Lincoln, it wasn’t ‘You’re not good enough!’ and that’s the end. It was ‘We have high standards, and you haven’t quite met them, but here’s a path for you.’ What a cool opportunity, and what a valuable lesson.”

After a year of practicing and learning the rules of the game from the sidelines, Westgate made the JV team as a sophomore, and eventually varsity in her junior and senior years. It was her senior year, 1993, when the Lynx secured the championship title.

“We were a great team, and not just because of talent, though we had some outstanding players. Coach Elcock had a way of finding what people were good at and everyone had a role to play and everyone did their job,” said Westgate. “That was the magic. We just kept winning. We had a lot of fun, and we had each other.”

Though bolstered by the sisterhood of sport, the final bit of magic, as it turns out, came directly from the hands of a hard-working, heartfelt, once-upon-a-time team reject.

“Yes, it’s true—I was a reject—but in the end, I worked harder than I ever had, and I surrounded myself with incredibly supportive people, and I ended up being the reject who made the championship-winning goal,” said Westgate, who won the storied game by scoring a goal in a penalty shootout.

And though she’s modest about her contributions to the team, she clearly recognizes the impact that being a Lynx continues to have on her life. 

“Being an athlete at Lincoln was formative for me. It taught me the value of camaraderie and perseverance and leadership and never, ever giving up,” said Westgate, who passes the value of sportswomanship on to her students. “I am a teacher now and I tell my students all the time: you will get rejected, but that doesn’t often say much about you, because people get rejected all the time. What does say a lot about who you are, is what you do in the face of that rejection. Own it. Embrace it. Redirect it. That’s what I learned on the Lincoln fields, and it hasn’t left me. It made me the person I am today.”

This piece was originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of The Lincoln Magazine

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