Photograph by Jamie Betts

When Maeve Holland ran onto the field as a starter on Senior Day, she carried with her four years of dashed hopes to be a difference-maker on the field. She played in only 10 games her freshman year because of concussion issues from high school, and she hadn’t been in a game since. Her next three seasons were claimed by a ligament tear, a quadriceps tear, and then a quad re-tear.

As she took the field, she could be forgiven for appearing not to know exactly where to go. Her specialty is defense, but her teammates were urging her to the center circle so she could take the first touch of the game.

The start was ceremonial. Holland made a quick pass back to a teammate who promptly kicked it out of bounds. With the stop in play, Holland subbed out, her quad still too delicate for any serious running.

But even through injury, the drive she brought with her as a three-sport star at Londonderry High School in New Hampshire remained strong. Although she couldn’t satisfy it on the field, she dialed it up everywhere else: in practice, in class, in internships, and wherever else she saw opportunity.

Holland majored in PPEL — philosophy, politics, economics, and law — and always saw herself headed to law school.

“Then I started taking econ classes,” she said. “I realized I’m good at this, and this is really interesting.”

The new interest led her in new directions. Just as she’d shadowed lawyers to figure out if she wanted a career in law, she landed a summer internship at Ironman’s headquarters in Florida, a chance to dip her toe in consulting and the marketing of triathlons and other endurance events across the country.

Ironman events produce adrenaline rushes, sore muscles, and immense pride. But they also produce gigabytes upon gigabytes of data and images. As an intern, part of Holland’s job was as mundane as mundane can be: tagging thousands of photos with information that would make them searchable and useful later for new marketing and sales opportunities.

The mental attitude ingrained in her as a student-athlete took over as she challenged herself every day to tag more photos than the day before. “How many can I get done today? How many this week?” she asked herself.

The professionals in the office noticed, said Ruthie Gelber, senior manager for partnership services at Ironman.

“We loved her,” she said. “She really won all of us over.”

Holland found herself invited to more meetings and working with analytics on account executive summaries. She was seeing firsthand that what athletes call “grinding” — going all out on even the smallest details — is a transferable skill.

“You do that, you get the project no one else gets or the opportunity no one else gets,” said Holland, who landed a post-graduation position as a consultant at Beacon Group in Washington, D.C. “Being hungry is the most important thing I learned this summer. I was very interested in making my presence there significant.”

They were the same qualities her teammates and coaches had seen in her for four years as she rehabbed and came to practice after practice with no expectation of playing. When she couldn’t do drills, she shagged balls. As she became a veteran, she sat with younger reserves, keeping their heads in the game and giving them an example of hard work and positivity.

When her teammates nudged her to the center circle on Senior Day, it was because she’d earned it. In pushing herself, she’d pushed them, too.