For most college students, areas of study change like New England weather, on an average three or four times over the course of a college stay.
But Erin McNamara, a senior on the women’s basketball team at the University of Southern Maine, knew from a very young age that nursing was her calling.
“Pretty much all my aunts and some cousins on my mother’s side are nurses,” she explained. “So I’ve seen the rewards from a young age.”
The standard of women’s basketball at Southern Maine is very high, as is the nursing program. USM coach Gary Fifield, in his 26th season, doesn’t recall too many players who took on both.
“We’ve had a couple,” he said. “I think there are two others on the team now. Anyone who tells a kid that it’s easy to be a nursing major and play college basketball isn’t being completely candid. We’ve had some luck in that the ones we’ve had have been very, very good students.”
The Huskies have won the Little East Conference tournament championship 20 of the league’s 27 years, 11 straight times from 1997-2007, and again last season. They were tabbed to repeat this season in the preseason coaches poll.
They’ve been to the NCAA tournament in 26 of the last 28 years, including the championship game in 1998, 2000 and 2006. Their uniform numbers may as well be bulls’ eyes, similar to when McNamara played at Pentucket for her father, John.
“Every game was a battle, and I liked that,” she said.
Senior year is the most challenging for nursing majors at Southern Maine – without the rigors of Division 3 athletics. It is a make-or-break year. A captain and point guard, McNamara had to forego practice once a week last semester to complete part of her clinical study at Maine Medical Center (she did individual workouts with an assistant coach afterward).