I got word this week that I’ll be inducted this year into the Washington and Lee (W&L) Hall of Fame for lacrosse. Whoa. First thought…God I’m that old, aren’t I? Second thought…I am beyond honored. I’m humbled and it makes me long for those days. Although I feel I’ve lived three decades during the past one, I still vividly remember what it was like to be a part of that team. To prepare for a game. To stand on the field right before it started. To size up who I was guarding. I remember what game days felt like and even the night before. To prepare for a game was as much mental as it was physical. Not to mention my superstitions. I was always supremely proud to play during college. No matter what we missed in terms of parties or functions or how long we’d spend on a bus driving to Florida… I loved it. I truly loved it.
I don’t want to wax poetic too much, but playing lacrosse both in high school and in college truly shaped who I am. From a young age, I remember wanting to be good. Wanting to be great even. When I got to high school, I wanted our famous coach and my teammates to respect me. So I worked hard, like we all did for our coach and for each other. Just like in the infamous sports movies we all love, 2nd place was unacceptable at St. Stephens/ St. Agnes. We competed on a national and international level. When I was a junior, we were undefeated and national champions. And at 16…. that kind of success felt pretty nice. I think I still have that green jacket that had those achievements embroidered on the chest. It was a great high. Yet it taught me that to achieve that kind of success, you really had to work hard at your craft. Dedication was everything. It didn’t hurt that playing was the most fun thing I’d experienced in sports. I loved the beauty of the game. That it was a bit exclusive…not everyone had a team back then.
Onto college. Attending Washington and Lee felt like a dream. From the first hour on campus during my visit, I knew it’s where I would go. The fabled school that I grew up hearing about from my grandfather seemed almost too good to be true. A place where honor and a speaking tradition flourished within a tiny Virginia town. A place where you could leave all your doors unlocked. During the years, some classmates felt the school too small, too tucked away. I never did. I love that town and our school as much as I love my huge crazy current city of New York. It really felt like home.
I remember our first lacrosse meeting in those old classrooms in the athletic building the fall of freshman year. The anticipation of playing in college and the excitement of meeting this group who I’d share my favorite thing left me with horrible butterflies. I remember easing into fall ball felt awkward. To learn how to play with new people. To adjust to a different way of doing things. But there on that field, my love for the sport grew in new and different ways. Through injuries, struggles, I feel that I slowly matured. I became even more dedicated. I learned to love more than just winning. I learned to love the game more.
Playing those four years was one of the most important things I did there. I’d say THE most important, but obviously education and my best friends rank alongside it. We missed dances, horse races, parties. What we gained though…you can’t explain to someone who didn’t play college sports for four years. You gain a sisterhood far and above what a sorority offers. You gain discipline, dedication, patience, and it’s where I learned that I loved leading and teaching. And from my high school years where I was accustomed to winning, I had to learn how to lose. I had to learn how to swallow that particular type of pain. We didn’t lose all the time, but we weren’t number one in the division. We weren’t undefeated. But we absolutely wanted to be. That made us work for it. And it was a unique lesson.
Washington and Lee is THE most special place on this Earth to me. If you went there…you get it too. There is a charm to those hills. There is a love for the people we met there, the fields we played on there, the rivers we floated down there. Representing the school by wearing Generals on your jersey was an honor. Now to be honored by the school for playing… I am elated.
When we had Landon, our expectations had to be reset. Not majorly, but in order for her to have a truly “normal” life, we’d have to work at it. I have to manage my emotions, I have to dig for strength when I learn about or contemplate her surgeries. I am learning still to accept the new reality and move on from mourning what we thought would be. I am celebrating everything she is and championing her special needs. The teacher and leader in me is researching and learning how to let her excel in every way. I know in my heart that attending the schools I did and playing lacrosse for them made me more capable to be this kind of mother. And playing lacrosse for W&L prepared me in such unique ways to face all that we will as a family. I hope this post can in some small way honor what the sport and the teams I was a part of gave me.
The Hall of Fame induction is on Landon’s first birthday. That seems to be the most fitting day of the year to me.