For the Love of the Game

By Tanya Kotowicz, Head Coach, Quinnipiac University, @QU_WLAX

“The vision of a champion is bent over drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when nobody else is watching.” – Mia Hamm

With a sport like lacrosse growing at the speed it is, opportunities keep putting themselves at the doorstep of many young athletes to play at the collegiate level. But it was not long ago where those opportunities were rare and players would do whatever it takes to put themselves in a position to earn a spot on a collegiate roster.

Photo courtesy of Quinnipiac Sports Information.

We can easily get lost in the negativity within a growing sport like ours but something still remains, the spirit of the game. The players that sometimes remind me most about the spirit of the game are the “WALK-ONS.” It speaks volume about the type of competitor a student-athlete when she is willing to take a risk and tryout as a walk-on. She is the kid that knows she has everything to lose but in all honesty believes in her core that she could very well have everything to gain if she earns a spot on that roster! Who doesn’t want a fearless, confident, ‘earn it’ type of competitor?

Every day for that kid is special, every day matters, and every day is important. She cares to be prepared, she works tirelessly to erase the ‘Walk-On’ title she inherited the first day of tryouts. She is inspired by her teammates that may do things better than her physically or mentally and works to do it the same way or better than them. Missing practices or team meetings because of class would never happen because she believes the term student-athlete is two words, seven letters each, for a reason. She is the kid that gives faculty sitting in their office a headache because she’s playing wall ball (on the building) during every break she has in between classes because she feels responsible for making sure she isn’t the ‘drill breaker’ and becomes a play maker. As she grows in the program she never gets greedy – she gets more committed, more welcoming of competition, more loyal, and feels more responsible to be better than her last play.

She sees traveling and missing classes and having to make up work as – lucky. Soreness from workouts with her teammates – lucky. Lacing up her cleats and putting on her jersey with her teammates – lucky. The exhaustion she feels all year – lucky.

The “Walk-On” has a good handle on the concept of team. The WE in her life is much stronger than the ME. She evaluates her value on the team based on her contribution to her team – do I inspire my teammates? How can I motivate my teammates better? Are we practicing hard enough? Did I do enough for my team in the minutes I was out there? Do my teammates know me? Do I know them? Do I hold my teammates accountable? Her mind is clear and focused on the important things. She strengthens your program.

A “Walk-On” is a mentality, a mindset that any athlete can decide to approach the student-athlete experience with. My hope is that more players have the courage to try out, to attack the experience, and to be the champions drenched in sweat when no one else is watching. We need more!

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