Making the Cut

For many young lacrosse players around the country this time of the year marks the beginning of their high school season. The high school lacrosse season offers a respite from the chaotic summer and fall recruiting circus of showcases and tournaments where young men and women hope to impress the sidelines full of college coaches.

High school lacrosse, in my opinion, is one of the purest forms of the sport. There are no coaches in camping chairs on the sideline. There are only high school kids playing their hearts out for their team. Not everybody is an all star on these teams. There are the players who want to play college lacrosse, the ones who play lacrosse as their second sport, and those who joined to have fun with their friends all working together to try and win a state championship.

They represent their town, their family, their friends, and their school. Playing for your high school team is special, but only a select few get the honor of playing for the varsity lacrosse team.

Before they won national and state championships every great lacrosse player had to go through the gauntlet of testing and drills that all high school players must endure: tryouts.

Depending on their experience and skill level as a freshman, sophomore or junior the time will come to try and make the leap to varsity. If a player has not put in the work to get ready for tryouts they are in for a tough couple days.

That first day is so daunting as everyone gathers at the field and gears up. For some, these are friends they have gone to school with since 1st grade and now have to battle and try to beat to get a spot on the team. Friendships have to be pushed aside for the next few days. Playing with the older kids is so intimidating at first, but that will be the sophomores or juniors one day so they try to follow their example and do everything they do.

Every drill is a desperate fight to win the ground ball battle, dominate in 1 on 1s, make the right pass in fast break drills, and to run as hard as you can. They know the coaches are watching their every move. How do they react to a bad play? Are they afraid to get hit? Can they make the extra pass or do they have the blinders on? They look and shake their heads as they write notes on a clipboard. Are they writing about me?

After days of endless drills the most nerve racking and exciting moment finally comes. The candidates sit and wait to be called into the coach’s office to find out if they made the team. Seeing some of their friends come out with a thumbs up and a smile while others shuffle out with their head down in disgust or trying to hide tears. It is hard when friends do not make the team, but sometimes not everybody is ready to make the next step.

My hope is that all the players that really worked for it and truly want it are told what I was told after my tryouts many years ago.

You finally get called into the office as your stomach is doing backflips and doubt fills your mind. You walk in and are greeted by your smiling coach. He shakes your hand and says “congratulations we expect big things from you.”You made the team.

What a moment of relief and accomplishment. You did it. You actually did it. All the nights of wall ball in the dark, shooting for hours, and running until they puked have finally paid off.

For me it did not sink in that I really made varsity until the final roster meets for the first time and you look around the room. My coach lead us to a classroom where all the jerseys were laid out. I held my jersey up and put it on. My school’s name across my chest. I was a varsity lacrosse player.

This time of year I hope young men and women around the country get to experience this feeling as well as other firsts like their first game, first goal, and first win. Good luck to everyone trying out for their high school team or starting their season this week. Enjoy every moment.

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