The Long Road to a State Championship

Wearing your high school’s name across your chest means a lot more than a club team logo.

I’m sure that some coaches and players might think differently as most college recruiting takes place at summer and fall tournaments now, but high school lacrosse is still the true test of a player’s leadership, dedication, character, and on-field performance.

Winning a state championship is an incredible achievement, but the journey to get there will be filled with come from behind wins, tough practices, struggles, and plenty of moments you’ll never forget. There’s only one level of lacrosse where a group of players that grew up together playing for their community can rally one last time to leave their mark as the best team in their entire state.

This documentary of Jamesville-Dewitt’s journey to winning the 2011 State Championship is still my favorite example of what happens when a talented group of players, a passionate coaching staff, and a dream all come together to make magic happen.

Whether you’re on a team in the Top 25 National Rankings or playing your first season ever, this is the best time of the year.

Some schools down south have already been playing since February, but most of the teams across the country are just beginning their seasons and building toward that ultimate goal. It can be hard to refocus for the high school season if the players are just finishing up hockey, basketball, or wrestling seasons while others were getting ready in winter leagues and training sessions.

The first day of tryouts are always a good indicator of what kind of year the team is ready to have. You can tell right away who has been putting in the work and who hasn’t touched their stick since last season. If everyone comes ready to go and is already playing at game speed, then a good season is likely ahead.

High school lacrosse is such a small window of time. I only played varsity lacrosse for two seasons and I can remember the workouts, practices, and games so clearly because they meant so much at the time.

There are no home fields in club lacrosse. Your home field in high school is sacred ground and you have to do everything you can to defend it.

My high school, De La Salle Collegiate, just got a new turf field, which is a far cry from the bumpy grass field we used to practice on in the same spot. Our home games were played at the community college grass field about a mile away. Schools like Detroit Catholic Central and Brother Rice would almost refuse to play as they were so used to their nicely groomed turf. We embraced playing on that gritty field and played a tough style that reflected it.

A part of me misses playing on muddy grass fields in freezing cold March games. It’s hard to pinpoint why, but those games of battling for ground balls in the mud or hitting crazy bounce shots were special. The teams today that still battle on the grass are going to be a menace once they hit the turf.

The high school season is a grind as most teams play two or three games a week and travel all over the state or even across the country. Players have to be all in for the team to find success, which can be hard with so many distractions and events going on throughout the spring.

Are players willing to give up spring break? Are they willing to miss parties with their friends?

I remember guys leaving halfway through the season because they had different priorities, but they almost always regretted it.

The teams that band together will be the ones with the best chance of making it to that final game. Your classmates, teachers, parents, and community will support you along the way hoping you win it all just as much as you do.

Teams that are able to bring together their stud college committed players, the players who have gotten better every season, and the players there just to have fun playing a sport with their friends are the ones who will find success. If they can focus on one goal for 3 months, then they could finish their season with a memory they will never forget.

Whether teams play in New York, Michigan, Utah, Georgia, or anywhere else in the country, it takes a special group of young players and a dedicated coaching staff to reach the end of that long road to the State Championship.

Will your team make it to the end of the road this year?

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