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I Started Out Playing on the Boys’ Team…Here’s What I Learned
Do you remember the first time you picked up a stick? I do.
I was in the 2nd grade. Basically everyone I knew was playing and it seemed like a lot of fun, so my twin sister Allyson and I decided to join up that summer. I should probably mention – my first stick happened to be a boy’s lacrosse stick. You know, one of those with a deep pocket for checking. Good thing, too, because I was playing on the boys’ team.
When I reflect back on that time, two thoughts come to mind: “Thank goodness my parents were way ahead of the curve in believing their girls could play right alongside the boys” and “Wow, picking up that stick changed my life.”
It still amazes me that my parents let their baby girls step onto a lacrosse field – and a boys' lacrosse field at that. Some might argue we didn’t belong there, but for my parents, it wasn’t a complicated or controversial decision. They saw it as an opportunity for us to play with our friends. They knew we were equally as strong and skilled as the boys. They knew that taking a check wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
And thank goodness because I know playing with the boys helped to shape the player and person I am today. From the get-go, my sister and I learned to see ourselves as their equals. Moreover, it taught our guy friends and teammates to see us as equals. We weren’t “the girls” on the team, but simply other players – integral team assets who were every bit as essential as the guy players. We passed, scored and hit just like our friends. It was empowering and rewarding, and helped to build my confidence at an early age.
Since second grade, I’ve dabbled in other sports, felt discouraged, and taken breaks, but 20 years later, I’ve still got a lacrosse stick in my hand. I’ve had my lowest of lows in the sport, but I always find my way back – lacrosse is my greatest teacher, my best friend and my forever passion. Here are a few other lessons I’ve learned over the years that I hope can be helpful or encouraging for you!
· Burnout is a real thing and it’s 100% okay to take a break. Learn another sport or even take a summer off – I ended up playing softball after my boys' lacrosse run and missed out on two high school lacrosse summers because I was still playing club softball. If I had it to do over again, I would make the same choice. I needed that break – time and space to rest and grow as an athlete and as a person.
· Lacrosse doesn’t define you. Outcomes don’t define you. I was under-recruited, with fewer opportunities than my competitors, but that didn’t make me any less of a person. Losing a game, missing a shot or not going D1 doesn’t make you a lesser human.
· You choose your path. To be the best means you work hard, but it doesn’t mean you go to every clinic, every camp, and play every second of everyday. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. I took two whole summers off. I took time to play other sports. I was cut from the national team. I felt rejection and loss. But now, I’m here – playing at a high-level, helping to coach the next generation of athletes and sharing my experiences with others. You choose your path. You control what you can – your priorities, your actions and reactions – and then you let the rest be and see what comes.
· Always be on time – for practice, games, coffee with a friend, family events, class, work – you name it. How you spend your time is the easiest way to check your priorities. Being on time is a sign of consideration and it shows that you’re committed to something bigger than yourself – that you recognize how your actions impact others.
· Treat your team like family - in many ways they are family. That means you’ll have hugs and fights, great moments and bad moments, victories and losses. But just like family, you stick together and have each other’s backs. You show up when it really counts.
Here’s the way I see it. Your path won’t always be perfect or straight. It will be messy and muddy with groundballs, checks and losses along the way. But whether you play for a season or a lifetime, the lessons you learn from lacrosse will have a lasting impact. So no regrets about picking up that stick for the first time.
P.S. It's super important to have a sense of humor about yourself - here's me and the rest of the STX squad reminiscing about our most embarrassing lacrosse moments.