Sept. 24, 2013
By Carie Cunningham, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
Watching from afar at Ralph Young Field, anyone can see a big beaming smile coming from Michigan State University student athlete, Kristen Henn. The fifth-year Spartan, now in graduate school, is always smiling and giggling, earning her the nickname, `Grandma Gigs'.
Henn attributes her happiness to her love of field hockey and competition. "I love field hockey because it is a team sport. I think it is really different and challenging which is what I like," said Henn. However, for Henn things took a very serious turn when she had a health scare her junior year.
"I was diagnosed with a seizure disorder when I came into my junior season, I was having all of these problems where I would lose consciousness at random times. It took a long time to figure out what was going on, but now we have it under control with medication and a sleeping routine," said Henn.
Head Coach Helen Knull explained it was frightening for the whole team. "At the time, we just knew that she was not 100 percent and did not really know what was wrong. It took us awhile to get her fit and healthy, and I think for me it was hard realizing she was going to be out for a season. We said `Okay, we have big shoes to fill.' But now looking back, and knowing that she is here for a fifth year is kind of a blessing in disguise," said Knull.
After her redshirt junior year, the blessing in disguise also now comes with a strict routine.
"It requires major time management. I have to be really disciplined and come home after class and start my homework right away. Also, getting to bed around 10 p.m. because we have early spring practice where I wake up around 6 a.m." said Henn.
"If she has had a bad night sleep some days, then we limit her time," said Knull. Despite the limited time, Henn has accomplished many things in her years at MSU, including being named a three-time team captain and two-time All-Big Ten selection. She has also changed to many roles on the field, including playing midfielder, forward and defense.
"These last few years I have just been trying to learn a lot about defense. I have been working on learning that role and how to lead the team from the back field. It has been a big learning curve for me," said Henn.
Henn says it does not bother her to have this struggle, in fact, she looks to assistant coach Molly Maloney for advice. "To take a word out of her dictionary and say it is your respond-ability," Henn said. This means that it is not what happens to a person that makes them a great Spartan, but how the person reacts to what they were dealt--a word that resonates with many aspects of Henn's career at Michigan State.
As for this season, the team's goal is to win it all.
"Our goal every year is to win the Big Ten. We have had a little bit of a rough start, but our goals are still ahead of us and we could still win the Big Ten. We could still make the NCAA tournament. Our goals are still in play we just have to make little changes to get there," said Henn.
Along with working hard for a great season, Henn is also working on her masters at Michigan State in biosystems engineering.
"At the end of the day, engineering is just like field hockey, it is a team oriented profession, so that is what I like about it," Henn said. She hopes to use her degree to become an engineer in the renewable energy field.
Knull explains that Henn will be a successful Spartan because of her choices in life. "She always puts the team first. She always puts her family first and she is very humble. I like talking about her because she hates talking about herself, but she is a remarkable woman with a really bright future ahead of her. She has definitely paved the path for Michigan State and where we are in the field hockey program," said Knull.