Regina DiGiovanni didn't let the demands of nursing stop her from playing not one but two sports during her Elms career.


Gina DiGiovanni

Nursing graduate Regina DiGiovanni '15 of Springfield didn't let the demands of her major stop her from playing not one but two sports during her Elms career: soccer and softball.

Legacy Balances Nursing Studies, Sports, Service

Nursing is one of the more demanding majors, especially in the junior and senior years. But Springfield native and recent nursing alumna Regina DiGiovanni ’15 didn't let that keep her from playing not one but two sports during her time at Elms College.

Regina, better known on campus as Gina, was an infielder for the Blazer softball team all four years, but realized after her freshman year that she also wanted to return to the sport she had a passion for in high school: soccer.

“I had a work-study with athletics my freshman year, and I used to work the soccer games, and it was killing me inside because I wanted to play,” said Gina, a midfielder. “So the next fall I decided I was going to play.”

Gina grew up playing sports. "It’s always been kind of big in our family, to play sports,” she said. Keeping up with both softball and soccer alongside the studies required for nursing is "definitely a balancing act,” she added, even though the sports are played in different semesters.

As if two sports weren’t enough, Gina has been active in Student Government Association since her freshman year, taking over as interim president for her final semester, and served as a resident assistant in O’Leary Hall during her junior and senior years. She also spent her January 2015 break on a Campus Ministry service trip to Baltimore, working with Catholic Charities at service agencies such as food banks and homeless shelters.

At Honors Convocation this past May, Gina received the Cheryl R. Condon Leadership Award, which honors a female student who completed at least four semesters with a minimum GPA of 2.67, and who also demonstrates leadership and integrity. The award is named for Blazers Softball Coach Cheryl Condon, the winningest coach in Elms College history.

“Gina is a person you want on your team. You can’t have success without a player like Gina,” Condon said. “She’s a leader by doing, and she makes everybody better around her. She’s a very composed, very focused athlete.”

Gina’s determination was on display during spring 2015 training in Florida. During the first inning of the team’s first game in Florida, a ground ball “hit the dirt and just took an awful hop and went straight into my jaw,” Gina said. “There was blood everywhere, and my teeth were pushed back.”

In the hospital, she discovered she’d broken her upper jaw and would need surgery. But the next day, “I still went to our softball games and watched from the side,” she said.

She was cleared to return to her position as shortstop after surgery, but had to wear a protective face mask on the field.

“That was my biggest concern in Florida -- not that I had a broken jaw, or that I was staying in the hospital and getting surgery. It was: ‘What if I can’t go back to softball? It’s my senior year,’” Gina said.

Her determination to stay on the team paid off big when the regular season ended with the Blazers winning the 2015 New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Championship.

“This was the first year in my four years that we actually made it to the final round,” she said. “It was really exciting.”

Elms Nursing a Natural Fit

Gina, the youngest of eight siblings, always knew she wanted a career that involved helping people. She watched her mother, Kathleen McCormick DiGiovanni ’90, now a retired nurse, struggle with health issues -- she was in and out of hospitals throughout Gina’s childhood -- so nursing seemed a natural fit.

Elms College was also a perfect choice.

“I was about 98 percent sure that this was where I wanted to come,” said Gina, whose oldest sister, Sarah DiGiovanni Bousquet ’01, majored in social work at Elms. “I actually argued with my parents over why I even needed to apply to other colleges.”

After applying to one other school “to appease my parents,” Gina said, “it was just a matter of doing all the paperwork” to come to Elms and join its well-respected nursing program.

Although her family lives in Springfield, Gina lived on campus all four years because she wanted to experience campus life as fully as possible. That also led her to becoming an RA.

“You definitely get to know a lot of people, and you see different sides of campus that you didn’t know existed,” she said.

The Future

Gina worked as a home health aid prior to passing her NCLEXs, the licensing exam for RNs. She recently accepted a position as an emergency room nurse at Hartford Hospital and begins in September. But even with a full time job she still plans to stay involved in Elms College soccer, at least for a while. She’s volunteering this fall to lend her expertise to the team and its new members.