For five years (2014-18), Carrera Lucas was a member of the UVA field hockey team, including her redshirt senior season of 2018 when the goalkeeper led the ACC in both save percentage and saves per game. Her first year, she was a two-sport athlete as she also filled in as an emergency goalie for the 2015 lacrosse team. She received her bachelor’s degree in media studies in 2018 and her masters in higher education from the Curry School in 2019. Being a double Hoo and a two-sport athlete was not the only double life she was living. We’ll let Lucas, who is now an assistant coach at Villanova, tell you more in this Q&A.
Q: So, I hear there is a secret you finally want to share with everyone?
Lucas: Yes indeed, I do have a secret that I can now share. While I was at UVA, I had the privilege and honor of playing the role of Cavman, our beloved mascot.
Q: Walk us through the process of becoming Cavman. When did you decide you wanted to do this? How did you do it?
Lucas: I served as the mascot for my high school during my senior year, and had a lot of fun with it so when I got to college, I always joked about becoming Cavman, but partly assumed I wouldn’t be able to juggle the commitment of being a mascot for a Division I university with the commitment of being a Division I student-athlete.
The mysteries surrounding Cavman also made it difficult to understand what the commitment would be and how you even inquire about a tryout for the role. So being Cavman remained just a dream, out of grasp until the spring of my fourth year when I found out that the Charlottesville Tom Sox baseball club (a collegiate summer league baseball team in Charlottesville) needed interns willing to perform as their mascot for home games over the summer of 2018. I also found out that that position was supervised by a former professional mascot, who had also served as the Cavman coach for a few years. I had a meeting with him about the Tom Sox position, and explaining my interest in becoming Cavman. I’m not sure how but he pulled some strings, but within a few days I had a very mysterious email in my inbox with a list of instructions for what I had to do if I wanted a tryout to become Cavman.
I followed the instructions and the whole thing felt very much like how I would imagine a secret society functioning, which made me feel very cool. Eventually I got word that I had earned a tryout, which was a blind audition where all of those who were being considered were given a chance to get in the suit and perform in front of a panel of judges who had no idea who was in the suit. That panel then evaluated the performance of all of the candidate, and a little while after the tryout, I was officially extended an offer to represent the university as Cavman, which was crazy exciting.
Q: How long were you Cavman? What were some of the games/events you were at?
Lucas: We had to come up with a plan for how I was going to balance my final season of field hockey with the commitment of being Cavman. The role that is shared among several members of a team of mascots each year, so it was decided that the rest of the team would be able to handle all mascot duties until the end of field hockey season. So, from the start of the 2018 academic year until November, I served as a handler for Cavman, which means I would accompany him to various games and events and serve as a liaison between Cavman, and the fans. As soon as field hockey ended, I was then able to actually get in the suit and perform. I did so at various events from November 2018 until I graduated in May 2019.
My first event as Cavman was the filming of the annual holiday video in 2018, which was really cool because it reached so many people and it wasn’t just a one-time event. The day that it was released, one of my professors pulled it up on the projector in the minutes before her class started. So, there I am in a room full of 20, maybe even 30 people, watching myself as Cavman on the screen, knowing that no one else in the room knew it was me in that suit. And Cavman had a pretty major role in the plot of the holiday video that year. Knowing that I was trusted with that role, really was a great way to start off my time representing the university as Cavman.
I also got to throw out the first pitch on opening day of the first season of UVA baseball at the newly-dedicated Disharoon Park. I performed at the Step Up to the Plate fundraiser event for the baseball team. I must say, the handful of women’s basketball games for which I performed were a lot of fun.
Getting to perform center court under the spotlight at JPJ with all the lights down is truly a rush. One women’s basketball game in particular was funny because a lot of my teammates from the field hockey team and even one of our coaches were there for National Girls and Women in Sports Day, so I got to interact with them as Cavman, and even take a picture with our assistant coach while she had no idea that it was me.
Q: Without naming names, do you know of other student-athletes who have also been in the suit, either before, after or at the same time as you?
Lucas: I do indeed know of other student athletes who have also been in the suit, and I’ll leave it at that.
Q: What was it about you that made for a good Cavman? What are some of the talents it takes to be him?
Lucas: I would say the top three skills that a good mascot needs to have are being creative, being perceptive and being expressive. So, being creative, in the context of mascot, it means being able to make the most out of every interaction you have with fan. Some of those interactions are pretty common. For example, you might be presented with the typical photo op moment or young fan who wants a high five, over and over again during the course of just an hour.
It takes creativity to navigate these interactions in new and entertaining ways rather than just cycling through the same routines over and over again because you might interact with the same fan multiple times, and it’s not entertaining if you do the same thing every time. And it gets old if your interactions become predictable. Then there’s also situations that you definitely don’t get presented with regularly and a great mascot can find those moments and those situations and think of a way to entertain the fans involved on the fly and hold their attention because they don’t know what Cavman is going to do next and every time they’ve seen him he’s come up with some new and creative way to interact with them and keep them entertained.
We’ve also got to be perceptive in that. If you can tailor your interaction to the particular people that you’re interacting with, it’s going to make for a lot more quality interaction. One example of this is just being able to read the cues that someone doesn’t want you around them. And that might be someone who’s busy with working the event or a child who’s scared of you, or even a dog that’s just going to get spooked by this larger than life unfamiliar figure being around them and interacting with them. At the same time, sometimes interacting with event staff or young fans or animals can make for some of the most meaningful interactions and the most entertaining content for everyone watching. So you don’t always want to pass up on those opportunities but just being able to read the cues of whether or not someone is open to interacting with you or not, or more broadly just being perceptive of how people are receiving you and adapting on the fly to make sure that everyone is comfortable and really maximize the entertainment value out of your performance is a really important part of the job. And lastly, learning to be expressive. In, sometimes a typical ways is an important part of being a good mascot.
One of the biggest rules of mascot is that you cannot speak so you have to learn to express through body language, and through gestures, you can bring props into your performance to get a particular point across, but the wider variety of ways in which you can be expressive will allow you to keep people’s attention and keep them entertained in new and creative ways. I think that these three traits being creative, being perceptive and being expressive are traits that I possessed before I embarked on this mascot journey but I know for sure there are skills that I was able to develop in the process, and develop into a halfway decent Cavman.
Q: You are now an assistant coach working primarily with the goalkeepers at Villanova. How have your mascot skills translated into coaching?
Lucas: It might sound ridiculous to say that my time as a mascot has actually helped prepare me for my career as a coach, but I totally believe that it’s true. I think most obviously that skill of being perceptive applies directly to coaching in those moments when you need to read somebody’s cues to understand whether you can continue to push them and challenge them, and when you might need to give them some support. An example of offering support that I’ve come to really enjoy is finding moments when a little bit of comedic relief might be really productive and offering that to the student athletes that I coach. Division I athletics is very intense and sometimes getting someone to laugh or getting them to take themselves a little less seriously can be a really productive fit, but only if you choose the right moment. This is something that I didn’t necessarily realize I was doing until the student-athletes that I coach started pointing it out. None of them knew about my history as a mascot until about halfway through the 2019 season. When I told them this, I was immediately met with responses like ‘that makes so much sense.’ They pointed out that when our head coach addresses the team. I will sometimes compliment her words with gestures and facial expressions that get the team laughing remind us to always balance our hard work with fun. On the other hand, you’ve also got to be perceptive of when to keep things serious, and when to challenge the student-athletes more than they want to be challenged in that moment.
Q: Similarly, how did your goalkeeping skills translate into being a mascot?
Lucas: The biggest way that my goalkeeping training has translated into mascotting is a lot more literal than how my mascotting skills have translated to coaching. Knowing how to operate in a heavy hot cumbersome suit of field hockey goalkeeping gear makes it a lot easier to operate in a mascot suit, especially on days when you’re working an outdoor event in 85 degree weather or days when the boots of that Cavman just will not cooperate. Having spent so much time as a goalkeeper makes it a lot easier to look past all of that and really just enjoy all the best parts of getting to be a mascot, even in less than ideal conditions.
Q: On a more field hockey note, you are on your third stint with the US Women’s Development Team. Talk about your experience with USA hockey and explain what this team is.
Lucas: I was first named to this squad in the summer of 2017. This team acts as the reserve team for the US National Field Hockey Team, the group of athletes who would represent our country at the Olympics at the World Cup, Pan American Games, etc. Playing for the national team is the highest level of field hockey that you can play within the United States and I’m very proud to be just one step away from that goal. Our team is comprised of athletes from all over the country and we train by meeting for training camps, every three to four weeks typically from December until June. We have the chance to be selected for an international tour each year to get us acclimated to the demands of playing field hockey far from home, as well as competing against athletes at the highest possible level as one would be expected to do as a member of the USWNT.
This year has obviously been a little bit different because of the current global pandemic. We were able to train in January and in February, but our training camp for the month of March was canceled and we’re not sure when we will be able to resume. Additionally, our international tour, which was scheduled to take us to Scotland this month, has been canceled, which is a huge bummer because these tours and these training camps are something I really look forward to as a way to advance my game, but also to make me a better coach. And just to have a lot of fun. The group of people that have been a part of this team over my three years of involvement. I have made the experience something that I’m very proud to be a part of and very much look forward to continuing to be a part of, with the goal of one day representing our country, as a member of the USWNT.
Q: Finally, how are you spending your time during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Lucas: I am currently riding out the pandemic in Maryland with my parents. They own and operate a horse farm in Baltimore County, so being here allows me to catch up on spending time with them that I typically don’t get to do so often, living in Philadelphia. It also just provides me with more space and resources to continue to train and to find creative ways to develop as a coach and serve the team at Villanova. Lately I’ve been able to combine some of my training with that coaching development I mentioned by getting a little bit experimental with my own training. I’ve found that with all that goes into the typical schedule of a coach, and with all the resources that are typically available to me that I don’t make as much time to try and trailblaze and develop new ways to improve as a player myself and to then pass on to my goalkeepers that I coach, as new ways to develop that we might not have thought of otherwise, whether this comes in the form of repurposing household items or equipment meant for other sports into training tools for field hockey goalkeeping or in the form of really just having time to play around with training techniques that might turn out to be a total flop.
For example, my parents have gotten very into the sport of pickleball recently. So I’ve been taking some of their pickleball supplies, and applying them to field hockey goalkeeper training. And I’ve actually found some really cool results. Just yesterday, I let my mom, use a ball feeder designed for pickle balls to shoot pickle balls at me, which I then tried to save as though they were hockey balls. And there are definitely some differences in the way that the pickle balls and the ball machine behaved compared to how hockey balls or a hockey ball feeder might behave, but there was also a lot of overlap and it allowed me to identify some skill work that I would really benefit from, I’ve also taken the chance to really dive into some social media work by creating an Instagram account fully dedicated to field hockey content, which has included game film clips from my time playing at UVA and with the development team, as well as training footage that I’ve been able to record, and various sources of training inspiration that I’ve found from others. (Editor’s note: see this video at the bottom of this story)
That project is serving a lot of purposes for me right now. It’s giving me practice with recording and editing video which is very applicable to the role of a coach, we use video to assess and prepare for opponents as well as analyze the training and performance of our team. It has encouraged me to do more training, and to vary the training that I do in order to put out consistent and diverse content. It’s allowed me to network with coaches and athletes from all over the country and internationally, and to share ideas with these people. Our coaching staff at Villanova has also been getting creative about what types of projects we can be working on right now while we are remote. There is still a lot to be done on that front.
Having that work as a large part of my daily schedule does help me maintain some normalcy so that even though I’m not on the field coaching our team, every day I still have retained the hours of work that I would have been doing in the office at Villanova. Now I’m just doing that work from my childhood bedroom, which I cleared out week one of working remotely and furnished with an old desk. But the walls are still painted with butterflies, which tend to be a hit on zoom meetings. Anyway, there isn’t much mascot and going on in my life these days, which is a bit of a bummer.
I’m very thankful for having had the experience of representing UVA as Cavman. It gave me a lot of fun opportunities. It definitely translated into my professional career as a field hockey coach, and it helped me get closer to being the person that I aspired to be. I know that it brought me closer to UVA athletics as a whole and I hope that my performances as Cavman did the same for the many fans that I interacted with while behind the mask. I’ve gained so much from the Virginia athletics program, so I’d love to give back and strengthen that program in any way I can, including many hours spent dancing around in a goofy suit with fake muscles.
EDITOR’S NOTE: During this time of non-competition, UVA athletics will be posting frequently on VirginiaSports.com to keep you up to date with the happenings, experiences and thoughts of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and alumni. We encourage Wahoo fans to share these links on your social media accounts for others to enjoy. We also suggest you follow the University’s website – news.virginia.edu – for more stories and information. #GoHoos
PICKLEBALL x FIELD HOCKEY 😱 coaching points for high saves… THE BASICS: 1) direct clears down and wide, like any other save 2) use your lower body; step to every save and attack on a forward angle (notice my feet always end up in front of the white line where I start) 3) bring your trail foot and reset on the angle of your clear ***check in tomorrow for further break down and more advanced coaching points on this video! #fieldhockey #goalkeeping #pickleball
A post shared by Carrera Lucas Goalkeeping (@carreralucasgk) on Apr 12, 2020 at 2:28pm PDT