Growing up playing lacrosse the ultimate goal is to go to your dream college. We’ve worked so hard all our lives to make that happen, and when it finally comes to the time when your days in high school are dwindling down and it’s time to start preparing for college – what is some of the advice that people give you?
“Make sure you’re in shape.”
“Keep an open mind.”
“It’s going to be a big step up from high school.”
Yet, sometimes we don’t know what these pieces of advice truly mean.
I want to share a little bit of my advice for the young women who are taking their next step in their journey and are going off to college to play lacrosse. I want to take a second to explain some of the pieces of advice mentioned above, while also adding a few things that helped me through the transition from high school to college. It’s a nerve-wracking time with high school ending and college about to begin. When I was a senior in high school, I thought nothing could ever beat the four years in my hometown. But now that I am done with college, I can tell you that my four years playing college lacrosse was by far the best experience of my life.
The following is some advice that I’ve been given over the years from coaches, parents, and teammates about the transition from high school to college. And I’ve mixed in a little twist of my own, in hopes of helping you – the next generation of talented and inspirational college women’s lacrosse players – go into college with the mindset to work hard, the goal of having the time of your life, and overall excitement rather than nerves.
- Clean Slate – No matter if you were considered the best player on your team in high school or one of the worst players on the team, if you work hard you can achieve anything with this new journey and opportunity in front of you. Keep an open mind, learn from your coaches and the older players on your team, and be willing to accept a different role than you might have in the past. Every college team out there needs great players; but even more than that, they need great teammates. Soak in all the new experiences and lessons that you can, be open to trying new things on the field, and all in all, be a great teammate.
- Fitness – When you think you’ve done it all, do a little extra. It can only help you in the long run (no pun intended!). Adding one extra sprint a day that might not be listed in your summer workout packet could make all the difference in how confident you are on the field come fall. Making sure you do all you can to get in the best shape will make all the run tests you might have less miserable and will help you have less anxiety about them. Run tests will always be something that makes athletes nervous, there’s no hiding from them; and getting on the line is inevitable no matter where you go to play. So, make sure you’re not the one coming in last – follow your workout packet that your coaches provide you with, put in the work, and you’ll be flying around the field in no time!
- Nutrition is Part of Fitness – Nutrition is an important habit to get used to as you go to college because it has a large effect on your performance as an athlete. Not a lot of people put emphasis on paying attention to what kinds of foods you’re putting in your body, but I know that personally when I changed my eating habits to that of an athlete and not just a regular kid my age, I fully transformed from a high school lacrosse player into a collegiate athlete. It is important to know how to hydrate with lots of water and what kinds of foods to eat in order to maximize your full potential energy in practice and lifts. This will give you a lot of energy for long days of school and lacrosse, and help you avoid the campus dining hall foods that might slow you down on your quest to be great!
- Don’t Be Nervous – Shake off the nerves! This is a new and exciting journey that might seem scary because everything is unknown; but the best thing about going to college to play lacrosse is that you immediately have 30 new friends the moment you step on campus. The older players on your team are there to help you figure out how college life works, and the other teammates you come in with are there to experience this new journey alongside you. Your teammates and coaches will become your family away from home, and very soon you’ll be wondering why you were even nervous in the first place!
- Stick Skills – Getting on the wall is always an important part of getting better – whether you’re just starting to play lacrosse for the first time or if you’ve been on Team USA for 10 years. No matter how good your stick skills are, always stay on that wall and continue to master the basics, especially that weak hand! And practice things that are out of your comfort zone – because every college program has their own way of throwing new challenges at you. Being able to challenge yourself during your wall ball routine by throwing in anything that makes you uncomfortable will give you a huge advantage when it comes time for your college coaches to throw something new at you in practice. Here are some things you can try:
a – Anything that makes you uncomfortable in your weak hand – face dodges, high and low fakes, sidearm, one hand.
b – Bad passes – throw passes at the wall that don’t come directly back at your stick. Sometimes it’s good to practice the ability to catch any kind of pass thrown your way.
c – Sidearm and underhand passes – test your limits with how low you can drop your hands and still be able to control a snapped pass at the wall.
d – Behind the Backs (I know, you all knew I was going to say that!) – these are not only challenging and fun to master, but they are incredibly useful in a game situation where your hands aren’t free to throw/shoot normally!
e – Any other tricks you can think of – around the world, “twizzlers,” shovel passes, reverse grip passes and offhand catches, high one-handed grabs (especially for players who are around the draw circle), between-the-legs, bounce passes, the list goes on and on. And defenders/goalies – these things are good for you to try, too! Get creative!
- Watch Film – If you’re nervous about people telling you how fast the college game is, get on YouTube and watch some of your favorite teams play. Watch how offenses move the ball, how defenders react to slides in different kinds of defenses, how goalies step to the ball and line up for free-positions, how draw-takers set their stances and go for the ball, and how midfielders box other players out and scrap for ground balls. Look for things that pertain to you and the position you play and try to learn as much as you can by watching the people you are going to play with and against at the next level. This is also a great way to get to know some of the rules that might be new for you as you transition into the college game – like the shot clock, moving on the whistle, and how free-position shots are set up. Again, don’t get overwhelmed; you’re also going to learn all these things when you get to college. Instead, get excited that you get the opportunity to play such a competitive and thrilling sport!
- Time Management – This is a skill that you’ll hear a lot of people tell you is super important to learn as you transition into college life. Not only are we athletes with long practices and physically demanding lifts, but we have classes to attend and schoolwork to get done – while of course maintaining a healthy social life. The best thing to do to get used to your schedule is to ask people who have been in your shoes before for help. The older members of your team have all been there before, and it doesn’t hurt to ask when you’re picking classes or need help finding time to study. My personal advice for time management in college: keep an organized planner so you can stay up-to-date with all your schoolwork and lacrosse events, use the resources that are available to you like tutors and study hall if your school offers those things, and make sure you have time each day to get your beauty sleep so you can crush it on and off the field!
- “Hard Work Beats Talent When Talent Doesn’t Work Hard” – This one is self-explanatory, and one of my personal all-time favorite quotes. Work, work, work!
- You Are An Example – Remember that now that you are going to be a collegiate lacrosse player, there are lots of little girls out there – some you may know, some you may not – that are going to look up to you for everything you do. Be an awesome role model for those young girls on the field and off the field, because they are going to want to grow up to be like you one day, and that is an amazing gift you should always take pride in!
- Last, But Certainly Not Least – Playing lacrosse in college is an amazing opportunity that not everyone gets the chance to experience. Make the most of it – because time flies when you’re having fun and before you know it, it’ll be over. Try not to take any day with your teammates for granted because the memories you make with them are going to last a lifetime!
Those are some of the things that you can keep in mind as you start to think about some of the things you should prepare yourself for when you go to college to play lacrosse. No matter what, you always have your family, friends, and new teammates and coaches to lean on for help. And ultimately, just give everything you’ve got every day with a smile on your face, and you will be unstoppable in anything you set your mind to! And I hope one day, some of you are able to give the young girls that look up to you some more advice about how they should approach the best four years of their lives.