Zimbabwe Natives Ready to Make Their Mark in Limestone Field Hockey

By Scott Powell (Gaffney Ledger )

Bernice Jere (left), Lindsay Jackson (Head Coach for Saints women's Field Hockey), and Tanya Jensen.

Tanya Jansen and Bernice Jere were playing in a national hockey festival in southern California last year when their college destiny took a major turn.

The Zimbabwe national team members met their new field hockey coach during a social event at the "Festival of Tours," the world's largest amateur hockey event. The California sporting event featured 225 teams from 24 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and Zimbabwe. Field hockey is a fast-paced sport similar to soccer played with a plastic ball and flat sticks shaped like a candy cane. A conversation with Limestone College field hockey coach Lindsay Jackson convinced Jansen and Jere to travel halfway across the world to join the second-year women's field hockey program.

Jere and Jansen will spend the next four years attending Limestone College.

"I have always wanted to come to the United States. It has been a dream of mine," said Jansen, who plans to major in psychology at Limestone College. "I had never heard of Limestone until I met coach (Lindsay Jackson) on Senior Night at the tournament in California. She was so cool and excited that it made me want to come be a part of the field hockey program's growth here. One of the things I liked about Limestone College is it's a very small town close to what I am used to (when I was) growing up."

Zimbabwe has 12 million people and is located in the southern part of Africa between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. One of its national sports is field hockey. Zimbabwe won the gold medal in the 1980 Olympics.

Jansen played the midfield and attack positions in field hockey while growing up in a village called Masvingo. Jere, who plays the attack position, comes from Zimbabwe's capital, Harare.

The freshmen arrived on the Limestone College campus last week. It took them three days to get here.

Jere has relatives in the Washington, D.C., area and listened to a lot of college offers from coaches before deciding to come to Limestone. Her skill at scoring goals led to a spot on one of Zimbabwe's national high school field hockey teams where she became friends with Jansen.

Jere is excited about continuing her education and athletic career at Limestone College.

"I think it's important to learn about different cultures," Jere said. "This is a really good experience and a chance to further my education. I would like to become a diplomat and reach out to help people."

Economic uncertainty and spiraling prices have led to hyper-inflation in Zimbabwe with prices doubling every 1.3 days in the fall of 2008. Last April, the Zimbabwe government decided to suspend the use of their domestic currency in favor of the U.S. dollar and some other currencies.

"The economic crisis has caused so many people to leave the country," Jere said. Jere and Jansen both dealt with limited computer and Internet access while finishing their private school Cambridge education in Zimbabwe. Technology issues and international paperwork requirements made for a long admission process into Limestone College.

Initially recruited last summer, Jere wasn't admitted to Limestone until the middle of April. Jansen completed her admissions process in May.

"The financial aid package offered by Limestone College was a major factor in being able to come here," Jansen said. "It would have been difficult for our families to afford college without it."

The students are looking forward to starting classes Aug. 25 and getting ready for their first home field hockey games Sept. 4 & 6 against Mercy College and Bellarmine College, respectively.

The Limestone College field hockey team will host its first Rock On Triathlon on Saturday, Oct. 23. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the ALS Association which leads the fight to cure and treat Lou Gehrig's Disease.

The field hockey team will hold an Oct. 24 exhibition against club teams from Clemson and the University of South Carolina.

"It's amazing the amount of support schools put into field hockey here," Jansen said. "It's really nice to be a part of the new field hockey program at Limestone College. Hopefully, we can help them win some games."