Jumping off a cliff has a way of changing a person. Temple field hockey junior goalkeeper Chloe Johnson
did just that this past summer, both literally and figuratively. Johnson has stepped outside her comfort zone in many ways in her time at Temple, and it's paying dividends in her life both on and off the field.
For 10 days of her summer vacation, Johnson traveled out west with her girlfriend, Kristie, and Kristie's cousins. Their experiences included whitewater rafting on the Colorado River, visiting Arches National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park, and doing plenty of camping and backpacking everywhere they went.
"My family is more of a beach family," laughs Johnson. "I love being outside but I had never been camping for more than a night and I had never been out west. I had never done anything like the things we did on this trip but I just took risks and went for it."
One of those risks did include jumping off a cliff at Phelps Lake in the Grand Tetons. Another day, they hiked nearly 20 miles on the extremely challenging Cascade Canyon Trail. "It was basically straight up a mountain for three miles," she said. "You're dealing with the altitude and pushing yourself, and then you're up there and there's no one around and it's this crazy canyon, and a glacier river and it's amazing."
While the trip was life-changing, one of the inspirations behind it was a sad one. Kristie's brother Philip passed away last year, and he had gone to school in Wyoming. Philip was an adventure seeker, and the group honored his memory by experiencing some of what he had loved doing. Kristie, a recent graduate of Temple and member of the ROTC, also wanted to take a big trip before beginning her service in the Army.
"It was just really nice to get away," said Johnson. "We barely had cell phone coverage a lot of the time. I'm used to being in the city and out there I was surrounded by woods and it was so different than North Philly. I even had to carry bear spray," she laughs.
Prior to this season, Johnson had spent two years relegated to backup goalkeeper for Temple, seeing limited minutes in a handful of games. This year, Johnson has worked her way up to a starting spot and has a record of 3-2 for the Owls as of early October. She earned her first career start in the Owls' Sept. 17 win at Holy Cross, and was back in the cage again for the entire 70 minutes against #1 UConn on Sept. 22.
In sports, many aspects of a game are out of an athlete's control. Johnson credits her summer adventure for helping her to roll with those things a lot better.
"I think it's a combination of a lot of different things that have influenced my change in athletic ability this season," she says. "Last season, I always felt like there was a specific way I had to do all these things and I'd get caught up in over-thinking it and make more mistakes because of my over-analyzing. I've kind of tapped more into my creative side this year and I tell myself to 'just play hockey. Get set and you'll figure out how to get the ball.' The trip was a big part of that – learning to try new things and knowing that I can handle any obstacle if I'm just confident."
Johnson made eight saves in that first start against Holy Cross, but had perhaps an even more impressive performance against UConn, despite the final score of 4-1. The Owls kept the top-ranked Huskies scoreless for over 50 minutes of the 70-minute game and were never truly out of it. Recent Temple results against UConn have been far more one-sided with losses of 8-1 and 6-0 just last season. Johnson ultimately made seven saves in this year's meeting, and three more in the second half against Sacred Heart two days later without allowing a single goal.
"It has meant a lot to me to be able to play more," said Johnson. "Before, I'd get to go into games that were pretty much already decided. No nail-biters. The UConn game – I was a little nervous because that was my second career start and I had never played against a top 10 team from the beginning. I just had to be confident and trust that I had the necessary skills."
Johnson's skills extend well beyond field hockey, as she uses her creative and problem-solving abilities in her academic work as an advertising major with a focus in art direction. More recently, she has changed her focus from art to graphic design and hopes to make that her career after graduation.
"Graphic design has legs," she says. "You can do a variety of things. I like the flexibility and the grit of it. You get to create things instead of just painting something. I think the advertising side of it would be a great combination of a lot of my skill sets. If you're working as part of a team, you do ad campaigns from scratch, and I think working in a creative team is something I'd be really good at."
Johnson works with two other "teams" at Temple already, outside of field hockey. She is one of field hockey's representatives on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and is also the President of the Student-Athlete Safe Space (SASS), a group dedicated to addressing, voicing and solving issues that involve the LGBTQA community and athletics.
"I really like helping others and working in a team to help others," said Johnson. "In SAAC, I really enjoy it because you're being a leader and also meeting people who aren't on your team. With SASS, I'm just looking to make Temple an even better place than it was when I got here. We want to make sure the LGBT community is seen and heard and that people have a place to go."
Johnson, who is an out member of the gay community, says she has received nothing but support and positivity from Temple Athletics. An added bonus for Johnson is having an ally in head coach Marybeth Freeman
, who serves as the advisor for SASS.
"Just the fact that we have SASS here is huge," she said, "and shows that Temple celebrates diversity and inclusion. Athletics does such a good job of making us feel supported. It's cool having Marybeth as our advisor and being able to check in with her about how it's going."
As far as her future at Temple, Johnson wants to win a BIG EAST title and is optimistic even for the current season despite the team's early struggles. She has had plenty of experience in overcoming adversity, and is thrilled to see her teammates being able to do so as well.
"This is one of the most resilient teams that we've had in my time here," she says. "Even in games where the score is lopsided, if you were watching us play you wouldn't know it. If you look at our defense and our forwards, people are still diving for the ball. That's the thing I'm most proud of right now, is that every single member of the team is giving it everything they have."