Being a college athlete has its perks: you're known around campus, you get the locker room, the media day, the travel, the gear, the TAILGATES (literal chefs kiss). It also has its most insane challenges
But let's rewind a few years. I was in 2nd grade when I started lacrosse. I knew nothing about it; my dad asked me if I wanted to try this new sport and I never said no to playing something. I walked to the middle school field with by blue and yellow stick (lowkey foreshadowing if you ask me) and all I remember was two girls were selected to play with the big stick and wear a helmet for the day. I knew then and there i wanted to do the same thing. I was always voted "most likely to get dirty" or "most likely to get hurt," so it wouldn't *metaphorically* hurt to add "receive endless bruises" to the list. Little did I know what that helmet and stick would lead to.
Being the goalie is probably one of the most mentally challenging positions on the field. However, when I first started, I never felt that. From getting accolades from my 4th grade coach as he spotted me on the school bus on Monday mornings and parents telling me great job after each game, I never really experienced the bad side of being a goalie until later. Once I hit high school, I would say my self confidence spiraled. When we lost tight games in high school, I wouldn't talk to my dad when I got off the field and halfway home; he always found a way for me to start talking. At the beginning of college I personally think I was saw as "replacing" the starting goalie. I expected to not start or even play my freshman year since there were three other goalies ahead of me. I never saw what others saw in me. I still don't.
I became really statistic orientated when I was in high school, but I didn't really understand most of them. My dad would keep track of them on a spreadsheet. It turned into a more prominent and detrimental thing when I played in college. My freshmen year I kept track of my save %, texting my high school coach whenever it was over 50%. My junior year it got really bad. With losing a year because of covid, I was determined to stay on track to the work I did for my first year and a half; that backfired. By senior year I had tabs open for the stats of me against the other goalies in the conference. I kept asking myself how do I stand among the other top two teams and what can I do to become better. Asking yourself these questions is a great from of self reflection and figuring out how to improve yourself. however, I didnt have much time to physically improve myself by then.
I didn't have time to really do much during my senior season. I was student teaching every day and going to practice or a game right after that. I've forgotten clothes, cleats, mouthguards, and brought the wrong color shirts on numerous occasions because 7/10 times I was going straight from teaching to lacrosse. The other times I sprinted home to change and inhale something small and go heat my knee. Ive taken class in the locker room or the athletic trainers office, doing what I could to get ready for practice while already being up to 45 minutes late once class ended. Ive had absolute days while teaching and had no time to properly process it and once it hit me, I was laying on the locker room floor sobbing while putting my socks on. The actual lacrosse side especially made this season less bearable than the others. New coach, new season. but I wish it wasnt that way.
Yes, making each other better is absolutely important, but I wanted to win.
After each season of collegiate lacrosse, I fell into a form of depression. I thing that I did with my friends every single day was suddenly done. This was at its worst when we lost my senior year, ending my career. Within 48 hours, I was done with lacrosse and student teaching, the two things that filled my life for 16 weeks straight. No matter how much my last year sucked, the sport that I played for 14 years was over in a way I wouldn't dream of. I didnt know what to do, nothing interested me. The only thing that I was able to watch all the way through was D1 lacrosse.
During the pandemic, I would go on walks around my neighborhood and I went past my first coach's house; he was throwing out old equipment from when I first started and lo and behold: my first stick was on the curb. I continued on my walk but I knew when I got home that I couldn't let that stick go. So, we got in the car and went back to picked it up. Sometimes, I think that that stick is more valuable than my current stick; it's the one that taught me the most.
The only thing keeping me going in lacrosse during my last year was my students I student taught. At my first placement, my 5 students didnt know what lacrosse was, but they knew I had practice every single day. Most of the time they were absolutely shocked when I would practice outside in January and February "without a jacket on." During my second placement, once they found out I found out I played lacrosse, thats what they all talked about. Every Thursday morning, the morning after a night game, they would walk in the door and ask "how was your game?" or "did you win?" and get so excited when we did. Ive had three of them come up to me saying that they wanted to start playing too or that they actually got a stick to play with. It wasnt the fact that they actually started playing the sport, it was more of the fact that I was able to influence these children do try something new. My only regret was not letting them come to a game.
I occasionally look at some games from throughout the years: MAC Champs, HS championships, my 300th save, our first ever NCAA win, and my last game ever. It shows me what I was able to achieve, even though I dont think I did enough.
This got very hard to write as I kept brainstorming. So many emotions, memories, and frustrations came crashing down all at once. To the thing I never wanted to end, I'm happy it did.
but ill always be a cougar.