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What It Means to be a Leader: Lessons Learned from Liz Hogan

Freshman year, there’s always that one upperclassman who scares the crap out of you. 

It could be her intimidating look, her deadly check, or the attention and respect she commands every time she hits the field. But, more than likely, what really scares you is how hard she goes – how hard she pushes herself in the weight room, how she kicks into high gear on sprints when you’re on the verge of losing it, and of course, her no-limits winner’s mentality on and off the field. 

For me, it was Bridget Looney (Syracuse Orange ’09). Looney, as we affectionately called her, came from a big family – three brothers and two sisters – and I swear they were trained from the womb to go hard at life. 

[Pictured: Bridget Looney (#24) and Liz Hogan (#2). Photo credit: Debbie Dove, Syracuse Orange Team Parent.]

Looney used to tell us stories of their family competitions, races and rivalries.  They involved blood, sweat and inevitably tears, but their daily contests created a unique, strong family bond. Lucky for me, Looney brought that mentality and lifestyle to Syracuse.

As an athlete, you’re automatically pegged as a leader, whether on your team, in your school or in your community. Looney took this responsibility seriously. Her influence not only pushed me to be a better player, but showed me what it meant to be a true leader. Be an example, never settle and put everything on the line.

Be an example. The first thing I noticed about Looney wasn’t her loud voice or commanding tone; it was how hard she worked. From day one, I realized that if there was a ball on the ground, it was Looney’s.  If there was a sprint to be won, she was in the front of the pack. If there was a 7-v-7 competition, then whatever side she was playing on better win. Her example challenged everyone on the team to step up their game – if you wanted to keep up, you had to show up and work even harder than her. It was either do it with everything you have or don’t bother showing up.

Never Settle. Off the field, Looney demanded excellence. I remember being told as a freshman that there was no excuse not to go to freshman study hall. Put in the work and take care of your studies so you could succeed on the field. It was as simple as that. I also remember being hot-headed and thinking I didn’t need to participate in optional runs. Looney had a nice little chat with me about that silly idea and let’s just say I never missed an optional run again. She never settled. If there was work to be done, she was going to do it. But what made her a true leader was how her mentality made you want to start putting in the work. It made me never want to settle for less; if there was potential for more, I wanted to go out and get it – and still do.

[Pictured: Bridget Looney (#24) and Liz Hogan (#2). Photo credit: Debbie Dove, Syracuse Orange Team Parent.]

Put Everything on the Line. Looney comes from a long line of fighters. Her brothers are in the Navy. Her mom fought one of the most courageous battles with cancer that I’ve ever seen. It’s no surprise that when Looney put on that Syracuse jersey, she put everything on the line. To this day, I vividly remember the fearless way she flew into ground battles, the end lines she dove for,and her way of denying players even a step into the 8m. It didn’t matter how many bruises she came home with or how tired she was at the end of the night – Looney was going to put everything she had out there for the win.

[Pictured (L-R): Katie Rowan, Liz HoganHalley Quillinan, Assistant Coach John Battaglino, and Bridget Looney with the Big East Lacrosse Conference trophy. Photo credit: Debbie Dove, Syracuse Orange Team Parent.]

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had Looney as a role model. She taught me what it meant to be a hard worker and a tough player. More importantly, she taught me what it looked like to be a leader and role model. I know I wouldn’t be half the player – let alone half the person – I am today without the lessons Looney imparted, often without words. Those lessons extended well beyond my playing days at Syracuse and, with the advent of social media and platforms like this, I’ve found ways to pass her influence on to others.

It’s no small task, but what I’ve learned from Looney is that every action matters. Whether you’re the senior on a high school team or captain on a professional one, people look up to you.  

There’s the little girl in your neighborhood who dreams of playing lacrosse, looking for a female she can follow. There’s the high school player mimicking your every move so that she too can be successful in college. There’s the parent who sees you treating their child with respect and compassion as you take time out of your day after a game to get to know them and sign some autographs. 

Whether you’ve got a blue checkmark next to your Instagram handle, or you’re just picking up the sport, you’re a role model to the people on your team, in your school and in your community. The impact you can have on someone else, sometimes without you even knowing it at the time, is incredibly rewarding. 

So, I encourage you. Be someone’s Bridget Looney. Be an example. Never settle. Put everything on the line.

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Learn more about how Liz's early beginnings shaped her as a person and athlete in I Started Playing Out on the Boys' Team...Here's What I Learned.