Warming up before every home game at Papé Field, lacrosse player Sami Kiser hits the turf ready to play.
Kiser, along with the rest of her teammates, prepares for the upcoming battle by going through various drills about an hour before the start. Right after the clock hits zero, the announcer states the starting lineup, and Kiser’s name is called first. She runs through the tunnel of her teammates, high-fiving each of them, then cheering on the rest of her fellow Ducks as the announcer concludes the lineup for Oregon.
But there is one more pregame ritual that Kiser must do. She walks to the center of Papé Field, grabs the microphone, faces the waving American flag and belts out the national anthem.
The tradition first started when Kiser was a freshman in high school and wanted to surprise her sister at senior night by singing. That first performance then led to Kiser performing at every home game for each sport she played in high school.
“I was so scared the first time … I was shaking,” Kiser said. “My voice cracked a couple times, and I thought I forgot a verse. Now having the experience I know that I need to drink water when warming up to prepare for singing.”
At Oregon, Kiser has become more accustomed to singing before games. While in high school, she used to think about her performance during warmups but says that due to her experience, it is no longer a distraction before games.
“It’s more of a natural thing now,” she says. “I’m thinking about the game, because the game is first and foremost.”
Kiser credits her talents to her mother and brother, who are both gifted musically.
“My mom has always sang and sang to us,” Kiser said. “I just grew up hearing it.”
However, it was Kiser’s brother who really believed in her talents and pushed her to continue singing throughout her childhood. Kiser grew a love for performing and participated in choirs.
“I wasn’t as serious about (singing) as I was sports,” she says. “But it was a hobby that I enjoyed doing, so it was fun.”
During her recruitment process, Oregon’s head coach, Jen Larsen Beck, found out that Kiser had abilities other than lacrosse, and Beck wanted to see Kiser’s talents in action.
“Freshman year on a bus for one of our away games, our head coach Jen was like, ‘Alright Sami, this is your tryout,’” Kiser said. “It was pretty intimidating. All these upperclassmen had their eyes on me. Everyone stood in front of the bus, put their hands over their hearts, and I had to sing the national anthem.”
Kiser’s tryout was a success, and the coaches encouraged her to then sing at every home game.
“I did (sing) in high school, so I was honored to be able to do it again,” Kiser said.
Kiser has also sung at an Oregon women’s basketball game, baseball game, track event and in a talent show for O-Heroes. Her dream is to sing in Autzen Stadium, and she laughs about whether it is really a possibility. But there are open auditions for anyone who wants to sing the national anthem at an Oregon sports event, and Kiser said her coaches are always sending her emails to remind her.
“Any sports game I have been to here, I would love to sing the national anthem,” she says.
Kiser, a junior from Maryland, plays attack and midfield for the Ducks. In Oregon’s first three games this season, Kiser has tallied three goals. Last season, she played in all 19 games and had a career-high of 14 goals for the season. Kiser was also named to the All-MPSF All-Academic team.
This season, she hopes to be a role model to the younger players on the team and help the Ducks to a winning record going into their conference tournament.
“As a personal player, I want to help my teammates look better and build a personal connection with them,” Kiser said. “As a team, our ultimate goal is to take it one game at a time. We have the MPSF tournament here and of course we want to win it … but for now, each game at a time, we need to focus.”
She is majoring in communication disorders and sciences and hopes to coach lacrosse in high school or college one day. Kiser says many people try to push her into auditioning for American Idol or The Voice; however, she says in the far future she may consider trying out with her brother.
Along with starting for the Ducks, Kiser provides her team with extra enthusiasm before each home game through her singing.
“My teammates, both from high school and here, have told me that hearing one of their own teammates sing pumps them up more than just hearing the instrumental version,” she says.
After Kiser finishes singing, her teammates and fans in the stands are always cheering for her. It’s evident that Kiser’s teammates enjoy her performance, and many have told her that they get the chills when she hits certain notes.
“It really makes me feel honored by my teammates,” she says. “It makes me more confident and calm and makes me feel a lot better knowing they are so supportive of it.”