Editor’s Note: The following is an adaptation by the author of the keynote speech she delivered at the IWLCA All-American Banquet on June 4, 2016.
I thought I’d talk a bit tonight about what’s to come for our student-athletes in the room… ground you a bit with your readiness and hopefully, if I do this right, something might stick.
First, congratulations to our student-athletes. I can say from personal experience that the process of choosing All Americans is grueling… hours and hours of reading, evaluating and comparing players on both the regional and national calls to try and do our very best to honor the most gifted players in our game. So sitting here with us tonight is a credit to your excellence and your consistency. We honor you this evening for the contributions you have made to your programs, your schools and to this great game of lacrosse.
I’d also like to celebrate your support network. They have been on this journey with you every step of the way. They have supported you through the challenges and cheered you through the triumphs, helping you get where you are tonight. So from all of us coaches – THANK YOU for all you have done to support these women.
So what’s to come. After we celebrate here tonight and then after you celebrate with friends and family some form of change is bound to happen…and because we are a room full of overachievers who like success – that change, that unknown, might come with a bit of apprehension.
Remember that change is standard. Regardless of your current role and how that change might faze you, managing change as a student-athlete is who you are, its what you do.
TRUST the PROCESS.
Whether you are a first year, sophomore, junior, or senior you have been managing the most chaotic type of change throughout your careers…the life of a student-athlete. Changes to schedules, thunder and lightning storms affecting practices and games, bus break downs, flight cancellations, maybe some deer in the road, pop quizzes and exams… let alone new opponents every two to three days and breaking down film, studying new scouting reports, getting ready for new match ups. You are TRAINED for CHANGE.
The change will be different for each of you, unique to each situation and unique to each player. Overall – the most important thing to remember is CHANGE is OPPORTUNITY.
To our first years in the room. Well there are two of you…and yes I gave you a pink background. But I have two pretty special little girls in my house who are 4 and 9. They are strong, confident and opinionated. Pink is a color of strength for us… and you two women are pretty special and unique…so I gave you pink.
As a first year (or freshman) you have lived in the blissful world of the unknown. The “freshman Phenom” taking some weight off your upperclasswomen’s shoulders, surprising opponents with your excellence, charging on to the field with a “shock the world” kind of mentality so young in your college career.
Well, guess what, by being in this room, you are no longer a hidden gem. You are beasts. You are program players… For YOU teams will now prepare…. and thankfully for your coaches, they must prepare for 3 more years.
So how will you respond? Will you spin out of control or ground yourself in knowing – CHANGE IS OPPORTUNITY.
Focus in, be a student of the game, commit to outworking everyone around you and
EMBRACE the CHALLENGE. Be the first year who becomes the sophomore who schedules 5-10 more minutes a day to touch your stick, takes 15 more shots, breaks down film for 5 more minutes or attacks defensive footwork even though you live on the offensive end.
First years, never settle for “good enough.” Ignite the fire within to attack the game once more. Be sure you are better tomorrow than you are today so you can shock the world again.
Upperclasswomen – You are a complex and talented group.
Sophomores – First of all well done… you have officially overcome the Sophomore Slump. That’s a bigger accomplishment than you might think and you should feel extremely proud of what you’ve accomplished. Having said that, you will now become juniors that teams will have studied for two years… opponent plans will become more effective, opponent players more confident. Be ready, attack the challenge, PREPARATION is EVERYTHING.
Juniors – You have one of the most complicated shifts in front of you. With the graduation of senior leadership, you are about to embrace a new role. No longer just a player or a teammate, the expectation of performance sits alongside the expectation of leadership. You are now responsible for your team’s culture, a role that can become, as is sometimes seen, a distraction to performance. You will also find a new appreciation of what every senior before you has lamented “This is my last year,” while also feeling a new pressure, “what I am going to do with my life?”
Sophomores and Juniors – Remember that change is opportunity. DO MORE. In James Kerr’s book Legacy, he wrote, “the challenge is to always improve, to always get better, even when you are the best. Especially when you are the best.” Each of you will become the one your teammates follow. Make sure you are leading in the right direction. Be the upperclasswomen that coaches can look at to carry on a healthy culture, elevate performance, unite a team for another year. Be the player that became a leader in your summer months to help drive your team to success. Find a good book that inspires you to self-evaluate, to communicate, to lead.
Develop your game to become more dynamic – no longer a positional player, now multi-dimensional and fierce from end to end. Just like our first years – be a student of the game – put in just a little more time – become a new you. REDEFINE your SUCCESS.
Seniors – well you get the other favorite color in my household. My 4-year old definitely rules the roost – she wakes up talking and goes to sleep talking and purple is without a doubt her favorite color – I gave you, the most special group of women in this room, her power color.
You are special because you are on the verge of the biggest change. Leaving your roost. Leaving the place and the people that have been your home away from home for the past four plus years. Remember, CHANGE is OPPORTUNITY.
You, like the rest of us, must TRUST the PROCESS. Be the graduate that faces life ahead with excitement and energy. Organize those nerves and get yourself ready for what might come. Continue to lead as you have, supporting the teammates you left behind to keep attacking the game, while you set your sights on your future.
SENIORS, as you discover your future, I hope for you one very important thing…. find your AUTHENTICITY. The daily game may end here but your life and adventures continue. Spend some time, better yet make some time, to find your authentic self. Throughout your college careers you have been wrapped up in this amazing lacrosse world… being dillegent, balancing academics, lacrosse and some form of a social life. You have been following your coaches’ vision while every day bringing your passion to the field. Now your life is, more than ever, in your hands.
In the age of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and whatever app is way ahead of my tech savvyness… DON’T be DEFINED by the PICTURE on your SCREEN. Be defined by what your HEART speaks…by what inspires you. Be defined by who you are, authentically you, and finding a new niche where you can thrive.
Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said at the 2015 Wellesley College graduation, “Our time on earth is short – each moment that we are not our truest selves, each moment that we pretend to be what we are not, each moment we say what we don’t mean because we imagine that it is something somebody wants us to say – we are wasting our time on earth.”
USE your TIME WISELY.
BE COURAGEOUS. You may be full of anticipation, beyond excited to move on to the next chapter in your life… or nervous as hell and dreading the inevitable shift that will bring about so much change. It is time to turn the page to the next chapter…try something new. Be courageous.
Know that this game will always be with you… the pain of losses, even the excitement of victory will fade over time… but the memories and friendships will last forever.
YOU ARE READY. You are strong. You are prepared. You have all the life skills necessary to ready yourself for whatever adventure you CHOOSE. And seniors…. we as your coaches could not be more appreciative of all you have sacrificed and all you have given your programs.
To all of our honorees
Whether you are continuing to represent your schools or embarking on life beyond college,
BE COMFORTABLE being UNCOMFORTABLE. Organizing those butterflies will provide so many opportunities for growth and excitement. Have a plan. Trust the process. You thrive in the face of change, you are ready and you simply have to know it.
Our Director of Mental Conditioning showed me a version of this picture earlier this spring…it hit home and continues to guide me in my own life choices. To enjoy the magic, to embrace change as opportunity, we must live outside our comfort zones…LIVE where the MAGIC HAPPENS.
I hope something I’ve shared sticks with you beyond tonight. Get excited about your futures. Change is opportunity and YOU ARE READY.
Trust this crazy process called life knowing you have your SUPPORT system behind you every step of the way.
BELIEVE in who you are! Be you and nobody else.
Congratulations to everyone and enjoy the celebration tonight.