Fall Ball is full of traditions for college lacrosse programs around the country, but only one brings a program together quite like the alumni game does.
For one weekend every year the past meets the present as the alumni come back to campus. There’s nothing better than getting back together with the teammates you used to see everyday for 4 years. The friends that you battled against in practice, suffered through conditioning with, played cards with on road trips for hours, lived with in a messy apartment, celebrated overtime wins with, stayed up late studying in the library with, cried with after a season ending loss, and that you could call family after it was all over.
Even if you haven’t seen some of them for a year or more its like you’re right back in the locker room when you all get back together.
It’s exciting to catch up with your teammates as they reach the goals and milestones they talked about back in college as everyone moves on to the real world. They are working all over the country, going to law school, buying houses, getting ready to get engaged, or even playing professional lacrosse. However, this one weekend is a chance to put a pause on our new lives and return to the place where strangers turned into a team. To bring the people that were a part of your life for such an intense period back together as well as to see this year’s team as they will be the ones to carry on the torch now that you and your class have moved on.
Coming back for alumni weekend is also chance to share stories with your coaches that you couldn’t as a player and to finally hear their side of the story. It’s a little unexpected, but a welcome change when your coaches become your friends.
College lacrosse programs are not just made up of the 40 or so players currently on the team. The hundreds of alumni that once wore the school’s name across their chest and worked their tails off are still a part of that family. At Canisius we like to say “Once a Griff, Always a Griff” and I’m sure that rings true at other programs around the country too.
The actual alumni game itself is always interesting.
When you play the alumni games in college it is a weird experience. It’s exciting because you have been going hard in practice for weeks and now you get to play against a different team, but that team is made up of your former teammates and some older alumni you have never met that are yelling at you from the sideline. I can remember as a freshman the alumni walking through the locker room and not knowing who any of them were as they talked to the older guys. They look at you and just say “wow these freshmen are ugly” or don’t even look at you at all.
You have to play like it’s a real game because your coaches are watching and you are trying to prove yourself, but it can be hard to take the game seriously when the alumni are trying to do trick plays, knocking your stick out of your hands, doing crease dives, chucking the ball downfield, and celebrating like crazy after a goal.
As an alumni you still try to play hard, but more than anything its just fun to be back on the field you called home for those special years. You do your best to try and not get your ankles broken by one of the young guys or miss a pass. Even if you do you can laugh it off. Guys that played attack will play longpole and the longpoles will run around on offense or the goalies run up and try to score a goal.
This year at the Canisius alumni game we actually held our own as we tied the game in the second half, but ended up losing by 2 goals. Everyone played pretty well for most of us only getting a few hours of sleep. Having a couple current pro lacrosse players on the field definitely helped as well to balance out everyone else’s shenanigans.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter what the score is as it’s more about the current players getting a chance to play against the players that came before them and then hear the alums’ stories and experiences afterwards. They are connected by their shared experiences of living in the same dorms, walking the same halls, playing on the same field, and wearing those same colors. Learning from the teams that won championships before them will help the current team hopefully reach those same goals and beyond.
After the weekend is over, everyone goes their separate ways to return to work on Monday. As I sit at my desk remembering how great the weekend was I’m already counting down the days until next year.