My main sports experience before Hanover College was playing in YMCA soccer leagues until I was about twelve and running a single season on the junior varsity cross country team my sophomore year of high school. So it’s pretty safe to say I would not consider myself an athletic person. In fact, much of my high school years were spent trying to defy the image I had of “jocks,” limiting myself to a classic teen movie view of the world. I’d like to think that I matured as I came to college, but old habits die hard, so last winter when I got an email inviting students to come out for the women’s lacrosse team, it stayed unopened along with the embarrassingly huge pile of unread emails I had lurking in my inbox.
That week, however, a perfect storm happened in my sorority’s dining room. One of my sorority sisters had gotten really excited about the idea of the team and was trying to convince the rest of us to come out. We were all skeptical, but then this sister listed off all these girls I hung out with who were considering joining, and I was intrigued. Then she said that when you join the team among the gear you get is large backpack. I may have joined the lacrosse team for a backpack.
The backpack wasn’t why I stayed, though. Last season was the first for Hanover’s women’s lacrosse and that created a special environment that fostered some intense bonding. As I said, I am not naturally athletic, but I was not the only person on the team learning this sport from scratch, and the patience I’ve felt from the team is astounding. Learning how to cradle a ball in a lacrosse stick is a weird process, and it’s a slow developing skill. I’ve really seen how far I’ve come now that we are practicing with other girls new to the sport and getting to see them pick up a stick for the first time, while our coach comments on how much my cradling has improved.
Our first season, we drove down to Georgia to play our first games, and I got to play in our second game. I then proceeded to cheer for the team from the sidelines for much of the rest of the season, getting out in maybe three more games. This year, I won’t be here for the actual season next semester, but I got out on the field for all three games during our play day. I felt confident on the field, and only goal got past me, much different from the panic I felt last year.
I still joke with my teammates that I need to be careful wearing my lacrosse gear around campus because I don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea and thinking I’m athletic or anything. But even though it still feels wrong to wear my running shoes to class, I can definitely sense the growth I’ve had over the last couple of months. I’ve developed skills I wouldn’t have had a chance to otherwise, and I have a whole team of wonderful women who have my back who I would never have gotten to really know otherwise. So yeah, maybe I’m not an actually an athletic person, but I guess I am an athlete. And I guess that’s pretty cool.