Pathfinder maintains balance in life through athletics

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Eugene Oliver
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs

“I think balance is the key to overall well-being,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Eileen Ebenger, 501st Combat Support Wing Medical Operations Flight commander. “Life can’t be all about work or any one thing for that matter; that’s just not healthy. Positive outlets are integral to achieving balance.”

“Sports and activities that involve fun exercise while forming friendships and camaraderie have been the best outlets for me because it’s multifaceted.”

Ebenger has enjoyed ice hockey and tennis as some of the positive outlets in her life.

“I am the youngest of four kids and grew up in a hockey family, each one of us played, it seemed that as soon as we could walk my mom was lacing us into skates.” said Ebenger. “Through most of my youth I played in city recreation and school sports. In high school I got serious into tennis and that became my passion.” 

“I played in local, regional United States Tennis Association junior tennis tournaments, and my high school tennis team finished as Ohio state runners-up my senior year,” said Ebenger.  “That carried into college where I created a new student organization, the Duquesne Tennis Club.”   

Once Ebenger commissioned into the Air Force she rediscovered hockey at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

“At 25 I was a young, single 1st Lt. that was working long hours in the Primary Care Clinic at WPAFB.  Other than work I didn’t have much of a social life, so I decided I was going to play hockey again,” said Ebenger. “I did some searching on the internet and found a women’s team called the Dayton Fangs. They welcomed me into their hockey family with open arms.”

Although she hadn’t played hockey in years, Ebenger looked forward to the challenge and was excited to be playing sports again.

“I loved the challenges that relearning and mastering new skills brought and the Fangs were happy to help me develop and grow as a player.” said Ebenger.  I got hooked, I joined more leagues and was playing hockey 2 to 3 nights a week and most weekends.”

Even after leaving Ohio, she has continued to find hockey teams at every base she’s been stationed, including her current assignment at RAF Croughton, England.

“I think I enjoy the speed and teamwork of hockey the most,” said Ebenger. “You can push hard and skate fast knowing that when you’re gassed, your teammate is ready to take your place on the ice with a fresh set of legs.”

 Last year she joined the Milton Keynes Falcons women’s team for the 2019-2020 season playing on both their developmental and premier team.

Although her season was cut short due to COVID-19, Ebenger talked about what she’s missed most about the team since her season was discontinued.

“I miss the camaraderie of the Falcons both on and off the ice,” said Ebenger. “The energy in the locker room with that team has always been great, even if things on the ice weren’t. 

“The team stays resilient and keeps looking at how to improve and win the next game.”

Even though she’s not playing hockey currently, Ebenger has kept herself busy by finding a new sport.

“One of the best things to come out of this pandemic for me personally is that I’ve found another new sport, cycling,” said Ebenger. “Most days I commute to work by bike and I’ve also joined the Cleveland Clinic’s Virtual VeloSano event to raise money for cancer research.”

Ebenger talked about her appreciation for the sports that have helped her continue to maintain a balance within her life and how she thinks finding a positive outlet can be beneficial for anyone in more ways than one.

“Medical studies have shown that regular exercise is associated with improved sleep, reduced stress and anxiety, and a lower risk of depression,” said Ebenger. “So not only are sports psychologically beneficial, but also socially and physically.”