As the pages of the calendar flip, marking the passage of days, months, and years, it’s easy to fall into the habit of taking things for granted. Sometimes we rush so quickly through the day to day moments of our lives that we forget how we ended up where we are. We forget what is important to us – what we value and cherish – and what those things say about who we are.
Do you remember your first time playing lacrosse? Whether you were three, 13, or 30, I bet you felt amazing the first time you caught a pass. You probably laughed out loud and let out a cheer when you scooped the ball cleanly on the first try. What did your first goal feel like? Your first save, or your first assist? Did you celebrate like a lunatic, or stand there dumbfounded because you couldn’t believe you did it? I don’t remember all the details of my early days learning lacrosse. But I do remember the people who taught me and the people who were learning beside me.
I remember learning to catch and throw in my backyard with my brother. We didn’t agree on much as kids, but we did agree that lacrosse was cool and we wanted to play. We taught ourselves how to catch and throw – remember these were the pre-YouTube days – and learned really quickly not to stand in front of the windows. I remember a picture of my brother and I holding our lacrosse sticks, wearing striped tube socks up to our knees, and the biggest smiles you could imagine. Lacrosse was fun! And looking back now, I realize that learning to play with my brother was a gift that I will cherish forever.
When I got a bit older, and played on an organized team at school, I finally had actual coaches. People who probably made peanuts, but loved the game and were willing to share their passion. My coaches encouraged me, corrected me, cheered for me, and always made me feel like I belonged. My teammates were my best friends. We shared a love of the game, a passion for competing, and a desire to continue improving. Lacrosse taught me so much… not just how to play, but how to BE.
Lacrosse taught me that you don’t always win. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you fail. Sometimes, someone else gets lucky. Sometimes, the officials call the game off and you don’t even get to play. Learning how to handle losing gracefully is one of the most important lessons I learned playing lacrosse. I’m almost ashamed to admit that lesson took quite some time to learn, and even still, I can be a sore loser. But my coaches taught me there is no shame in losing if you were prepared, played fairly, and gave your best effort. They also insisted that I look my opponent in the eye, shake their hand, and tell them “good game” whether I won or lost. Now that I am a parent, I appreciate how important that is.
Lacrosse also taught me that family is more than those you are related to by blood. The lacrosse community is unique. It is hard to explain the culture to those who have never experienced it. Lacrosse is a common bond that ties people together, no matter where they are from, what their background is, or how they are involved in the sport. I have met so many people through lacrosse. And so many of them have become my role models, my friends, my mentors, my family. If I am being honest, almost every person that I care about deeply is involved in lacrosse. My son plays lacrosse, my wife is an umpire, and my best friends are coaches; I belong to a group of lacrosse moms, I work in the sport, and I can’t imagine not having lacrosse as part of my life. I have been a lacrosse player, a collegiate lacrosse coach, a lacrosse umpire, a volunteer leader, a spectator, a lacrosse clinician, a youth lacrosse coach, and a fan of the sport. Lacrosse is so interwoven into the fabric of my life that it seems like it has always been there. And it has… whenever I needed something to ground me, remind me who I am, inspire me, or give me a reality check, lacrosse has been there.
Perhaps the best lesson lacrosse has taught me is that each year brings a new season. No matter if you won a Championship, lost every game, or ended your season early due to injury, every spring you get a clean slate. A chance to write a new chapter. There is nothing better than feeling like this is your year. Every winter lacrosse players around the country are preparing for their seasons, setting their goals, getting in shape, and reconnecting with teammates. The promise of a new season reminds us all that life is what we make of it, especially if we have the confidence to chase our dreams. And when one phase of your lacrosse career ends, you have a chance to take on a new role and keep writing your lacrosse story.
Lacrosse has brought so much value to my life. It’s taught me how to handle adversity, be a good teammate, value the details, see the big picture, adapt to the circumstances, persevere when I wanted to give up, and that hard work and having fun are not mutually exclusive. The people I’ve met through lacrosse, and the chances I’ve had to share the sport with others are invaluable and helped make me who I am. I am grateful for the opportunities that lacrosse has given me, the joy it has brought me, and the fact that it has been a constant and reassuring presence when I needed it the most. I am part of the lacrosse community and the lacrosse community is part of me. Thank you Lacrosse.