While some of her classmates have focused on a specific interest, Cheshire High School senior Danielle Floyd doesn’t like to limit herself to one activity. Whether competing in softball and field hockey or baking food in the kitchen, she has enjoyed watching her skills develop over time.
“I like being creative and working with other people to make something special,” explained Floyd.
When it came to her college decision, she was driven to pursue her full potential as a student-athlete. As a junior, Floyd committed to playing softball and going into culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island.
“It is a really good feeling to have this opportunity,” reflected Floyd. “With a lot of players having a hard time getting looked at by coaches due to COVID, it is good to have got my decision out of the way.”
“She has known for so long that she wanted to go into culinary,” said CHS softball head coach Kristine Drust. “She has been feeding that passion and wanted to keep playing softball, too.”
Since not many schools offer both athletics and culinary arts, Floyd was able to focus quickly in her college search. While SUNY Cobleskill has a softball program, Floyd didn’t feel as comfortable with the school as she did with JWU.
She also looked at the Culinary Institute of America, but they didn’t offer sports.
“Johnson & Wales was always at the top of my list,” reflected Floyd. “The campus is beautiful.”
As a freshman at CHS, Floyd met JWU Head Coach Kim Camara-Harvey when she went to the school for a softball clinic. In her junior year, she returned for an official tour.
“I started thinking about college softball in eighth grade,” recalled Floyd. “My mom told me to look early at schools because you don’t know what to expect and it is also good to get to know the coaches early in the process.”
Floyd likes how the JWU team works with players to balance their responsibilities.
“The coach is open to players missing a practice because she knows that school comes first. She just wants you to make up the work,” stated Floyd.
In starting her college career next year, she hopes to make an immediate impact and help her teammates.
“Even though I’ll be a freshman, I want to be someone that people can come to if they need anything,” stated Floyd.
Off the diamond, she dreams of one day becoming a pastry chef and working for a cruise line. Back in seventh grade, Floyd first became interested in culinary arts when her mother needed help on Thanksgiving.
“At first, it took time to learn how everything works in the kitchen,” reflected Floyd. “It comes easier to me now.”
She enjoys making anything involving bread or chocolate.
“It is fun being able to develop something out of ingredients. I can express myself through baking,” explained Floyd, who loves making chocolate lava cakes.
As a freshman at CHS, she took an introductory culinary arts course. In a highlight, Floyd got to give a presentation about cooking, food, and wellness at a Cheshire Board of Education committee meeting.
“It was great to share my passion with others,” stated Floyd.
When teacher Paula Smalec retired in 2018, Floyd started learning from her field hockey head coach Eileen Wildermann, who shifted from teaching English to culinary arts.
“It has been really good working with her,” said Floyd. “She has always been there for me, on and off the field.”
Wildermann feels that it is fun to see how players like Floyd work in and out of the classroom.
“She is exceptional as a student and an athlete,” stated Wildermann. “She is exactly what you want all of your players to be.”
In her sophomore year, Floyd enjoyed taking Wildermann’s advanced cooking course called Food Service. Along with cooking in the classroom, students also prepare dishes for school and community events.
“It gives you culinary experience in the real world,” said Floyd.
While she will pursue culinary arts in college, Floyd considered playing both softball and field hockey at one point.
“I’ve been playing softball for so long, but field hockey also brings me joy,” said Floyd. “Since I’ll probably have 6-hour labs in college, I think playing both sports would have been putting too much on my plate.”
At age 11, Floyd started her softball career as an infielder and pitcher, but she felt most comfortable in becoming an outfielder for the Rams and Cheshire Wildcats travel program. In reflection, Floyd feels that she has always felt joy and a sense of relief when she steps on the field.
“I know that I’m out there with great players who are always willing to help me,” explained Floyd.
“Dee has shown us consistency, grit, and unselfishness throughout her whole career,” said Drust. “She loves the game and her team.”
Floyd is excited to follow in the footsteps of her older sister Bri, who plays softball at William Paterson University in New Jersey. At CHS, the sisters both played softball and field hockey.
A 2019 CHS graduate, Bri Floyd was a four-year starting infielder for the Rams and contributed the program’s first unbeaten season (27-0) and Class LL title in 2016.
“It is good to follow in her footsteps because she has been a role model for me,” reflected Floyd. “I’ve always looked up to her.”
In becoming a varsity starter in 2019, Floyd enjoyed the opportunity to finally share the field with her older sister. In her favorite game, the girls propelled the Rams to a 4-3 win over Southington.
CHS trailed 3-1 going to the bottom of the seventh inning, but Danielle came up with a clutch two-run single to tie the game at 3-3. Her sister Bri followed up minutes later with the winning RBI single.
“It was a surreal moment. I didn’t think that it was going to be my sister and I that ended up bringing home the win,” recalled Danielle. “Earlier in that season, I had told my mom that I wanted to share a big moment with my sister and it happened in that game.”
In the Southern Connecticut Conference final, the Floyd sisters helped the 2019 Rams rally again to beat North Haven, 3-2, in eight innings. In making the Class LL semifinals for the fifth consecutive year, Cheshire fell 4-2 to Norwich Free Academy.
“It was sad to play my last game with my sister at DeLuca Field (in Stratford), but we can reflect on the great memories we’ve had together,” Floyd said.
Last year, Floyd hoped that the Rams could make another run in states, but the spring season was canceled due to the pandemic.
“It really stunk not being able to play, but we saw it as an opportunity to get better,” explained Floyd. “We know that our hard work will pay off when we get back on the field.”
While softball is her favorite sport, Floyd has also played a key role in the success of the CHS field hockey program. In 2018, Floyd and her older sister contributed to a defensive unit that posted a single-season record 19 shutouts.
“That was cool,” reflected Floyd. “I thought we were playing well, but didn’t expect to break the record. (Goalkeeper) Lexie (Hemstock) was a beast in goal.”
For the first time in 28 years, the Rams earned an unbeaten regular season in 2018. Cheshire won the SCC regular-season title and then finished runner-up in the conference and Class L tournaments.
“With my sister being a senior on the team, it was great to share that last season with her,” said Floyd.
Last fall, CHS earned another perfect regular season and won the SCC Division A regular-season title. Teaming on defense with classmates Taylor Warburton and Megan Crowley, Floyd helped new varsity goalkeepers, junior Hannah Jalowiec and sophomore Elise Hurlburt, get six shutouts.
“We were playing our hearts out every time we got on the field,” said Floyd.
The Rams took an 11-0 record into the SCC Division A final on Nov. 11, but lost 5-1 to Guilford at CHS. Floyd was thankful to get a tournament experience in during the pandemic.
“Because of COVID-19, I was very nervous coming into the fall season,” recalled Floyd. “We had to play every game like it was our last because we could have been shut down at any time.”
Wildermann feels that Floyd is definitely the most coachable athlete she has ever had.
“You can tell that she is the daughter of a coach,” stated Wildermann. “She looks right at you and nods her head, listening to every word.”
At the end of 2020 season, Floyd received Cheshire’s Inaugural Unsung Hero Award.
“It was a little bit of a surprise for me,” reflected Floyd. “I’m grateful that my teammates voted for me. I’m always there for them.”
Wildermann said that Floyd’s example was the one of the reasons behind creating the award.
“She never asks for anything and deserves to be recognized,” explained Wildermann. “I’m glad that her teammates knew what her contributions were.”
After getting to close out her field hockey career, Floyd wants to have the same opportunity in softball this spring.
“It means a lot to get back out there,” stated Floyd. “If I need to wear a mask, I’ll do it.”
Despite missing last season due to the pandemic, the Rams return a deep group of experienced players. Captain Bri Pearson (Adelphi University-New York), Gracie Hemstock (Western New England University-Massachusetts), Trinadey Santiago (American International College-Massachusetts), and Ella Watson (Fairfield University) will join Floyd on the college level next year.
“I feel really good about being a part of that group,” said Floyd. “The whole senior class is an amazing group of girls.”