If you intend to score a goal against Indiana University in field hockey, you’d better be ready to face Mutsa Mutembwa.
Mutsa is a defender on the university’s varsity women’s team. She’s also a Rhodes Scholar, a rare achievement she earned at IU. Next year, she’ll be enrolled in graduate school at Oxford University, thanks in part to her athletic and academic skills. But back to that goal-scoring attempt.
“If you come into my area, if you are going to score against our goalkeeper, it’s not going to be easy,” says the Zimbabwean-born senior. “We put our bodies on the line. If you are not going to put your body on the line, you’re not going to score. It’s that simple.”
Onward to Oxford
For those unfamiliar with the Rhodes Scholarship, it is the oldest and, arguably, the most prestigious international fellowship program in the world. It brings elite students from across the globe to Oxford to continue their educations. On the surface, the program evaluates students for academic and athletic excellence. But character, values, and camaraderie with other students: All are taken into account in a rigorous interview and application process.
For those unfamiliar with field hockey, Mutsa is happy to explain. “It’s very dynamic,” she beams. “It’s a high-intensity game that never lets down. You have to be able to adjust at any given time. You have to be able to think on your feet.” For Mutsa, it is a passion, and it was this opportunity that brought her to Bloomington.
Mutsa was recruited by the Hoosiers in 2005. However, she also came to learn. Her majors are economics and mathematics. Her goal: to return to Zimbabwe to help her native country re-achieve the budding economy she recalls from her childhood. Today, she says, the economy has suffered from what many believe were bad political decisions. “Zimbabwe went from being the breadbasket of Africa to becoming a beggar,” she says. “People became more desperate. I’ve always known Zimbabweans to be friendly people. But the light in their eyes just went away as the economy tumbled.”
Mutsa’s return to Zimbabwe will come via Oxford. And she’s grateful to IU for helping her achieve her next step in life. “I’ve always felt this is a road that I never walked alone,” she says. “I received so much support from my advisor, my coaches, and my teammates.”
The Life of the Mind and Body
So, how do you balance the demands of an IU athlete and scholar? “They complement each other,” insists Mutsa. “Both make me so happy and balanced. They keep my body and my mind in sync.” For instance, while waiting for word from Oxford, Mutsa’s team was in the midst of the NCAA championships. She helped lead IU into the tournament and to the Big Ten Tournament championship game.
Today, she shares the record for career defensive saves with seven in 53 games, matching IU All-American and Olympian Kayla Bashore (2001-05). She also ranks second in the single-season record book with four defensive saves in one season.
Mutsa is wrapping up her final semester and will graduate in May. Then, she’ll go to Oxford. And she may try out for the Olympics. How will she manage? “The games are in London, love,” she replies with a smile and an English colloquialism. “It’s only 40 minutes away from Oxford.”