Toronto, ON- When Christine Hachokake is in a game, she tells herself two words in French: “Tu l’a”. You have it.
It’s what her mom always tells her when she’s playing volleyball. The McMaster Marauders first-year middle tells herself that as well. It helps gives her confidence. When she tells herself You have it, it brings her to a Zen.
“It makes me think that I’m unstoppable,” Hachokake said. “It makes you think that I can do the things that I can do. I can do the things that people doubt that I can’t do.”
The Ottawa native’s shown her abilities and what she can do over the course of her rookie season. She recorded six kills against Western and seven against Brock. She played in 14 regular season games.
She’s made an impact with her serving, her blocking and more. She did as much as she’s ever had in their regular season finale against the Toronto Varsity Blues on Feb. 19, recording a career-high 13 kills, eight kills, four blocks and two aces.
To reach that moment, Hachokake had to find her Zen, her confidence. She came into McMaster with notable accolades from her time with the Ottawa Mavericks and Team Ontario.
But she didn’t come into McMaster with much confidence. She felt she wasn’t there yet, seeing herself as a big setback.
Then she started to talk with head coach Tim Louks and assistant coach Nathan Janzen. Then she started to open up to them about how she felt.
You can do it if you put your mind to it, Louks told Hachokake in response. And so she started to do so.
Her confidence grew as the year went along. As did her desire to learn, her curiosity about the game taking over. She found herself watching more film, reviewing more players in general.
She found herself learning from her teammates as well. She learned from fellow middles Ana Strbac, Ellie Hatashita and Paige Vrolyk. She learned from libero Hayley Brookes’ defence. Her toolbox continued to expand, with all her teammates contributing.
Hachokake gained confidence from talking with them as well. All the teammates that would pull her aside after a bad day of practice and ask her: “Are you okay.” All the teammates that would share their own stories of how they found and built their own confidence.
One teammate who helped her the most was second-year outside hitter Maddy Lutes. Earlier in the season, Hachokake broke down in tears, feeling not confident at all. Lutes approached her, bringing her back up. Perhaps it helped that Lutes was in a similar spot to Hachokake last season, backing up former Marauder Jessie Nairn.
“Being here means something,” Lutes told her. That lifted her confidence, at moment when it was at its lowest. Lutes was there for her.
Talking with Louks helped as well. Hachokake describes the long-time coach as a very poetic person. “He brings me to my safe spot in my body that I can do this,” she said. “I don’t have to overthink about stuff like that.”
As Hachokake’s confidence grew, it could be seen on the court. Her blocking for example. It was an adjustment coming into university – “not the same speed at all,” she said with a laugh.
At first, she was afraid that she would be slow at it, that she couldn’t press if she wanted to. Then came the mindset shift. Out went the thought that she couldn’t do it and in came the thought she could.
Out went her fear as well – of blocking, of showing what she could do. As she did that, she became faster and better at blocking.
Louks sees how Hachokake’s reaction to being blocked has evolved as well. Instead of waiting around after being blocked, she’s readying herself for the next part of the play. He sees how there’s even more potential there than she even showed against the Varsity Blues.
As Hachokake went through the game against Toronto, she felt many feelings. Honoured to play – as she always felt, even if it’s for a single play – as she knows Louks trusts her.
Proud of herself for how much she’s grown and how much she’s learned from her teammates. How she’s not the same person she was at the start of the season.
When she’s in the game though? She feels the Zen. At moments when she does get mad, she goes back to telling herself, you have this.
A quietness comes. Her brain is emptied of thoughts. A white wall effect – she calls it. Even with nothing inside, she knows something though.
“I know that I have to help my team,” she said. “Whatever I do, I have to help my teammates.”
Game day was approaching that Sunday afternoon in Toronto. Hachokake came into it with an ominous feeling. She studied her homework, watched the film. She didn’t overthink, didn’t overstress.
Instead, she felt loose. Those times when she would get mad during a game? There was a neutral feeling in its place.
As the game went along, she made different plays – serving, passing, attacking, blocking and more. Even though the Marauders lost in three sets to the Varsity Blues, she made her mark. She did so because she found her mindset before the game – which sets up what she does during the game.
Hachokake felt calm – in every point, every set – throughout it all. She felt herself reaching her Zen point. Tu l’a. She felt she had it.
Featured Image: Kevin Lassel/McMaster Athletics