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I was first exposed to lacrosse as a freshman in high school when I was applying to Fountain Valley School of Colorado. I knew nothing about the sport, but from the moment I saw the few pictures of what looked to be combination football-hockey players striding through the trees of Fountain Valley’s Victory Road, I knew I wanted to play. These hopes were soon dashed by an aside comment from one of my Track and Field teammates who, when I told him that I wanted to play lacrosse because it looked fun, said, “Dude you’re so tiny those guys would kill you.” And that was the end of that.
At the beginning of this spring semester, Juniata Women’s Lacrosse made their NCAA D3 debut. I can’t say that I was all that excited about watching the sport because I didn’t understand the rules (and even after watching two games I still don’t understand what half the fouls were called for) and my initial infatuation with the sport had faded. But I was excited to watch my friends play a sport they loved and had practiced hard to do well in.
The day of the first lacrosse game was cloudy but uncharacteristically warm for mid-March in central Pennsylvania. The stands were not as full as they could be for the inaugural game of our lacrosse program, but those of us who were there were all there to support our friends and family and we were excited!
To be honest I’m not sure how many of us thought we were going to win that first game. Of course, we were all hoping and praying that our team would win but it was their first game and we assumed the girls they would be playing would be hardened Lax athletes. But from the moment Kat scored the first goal, I knew it was going to be a good game. The moment the crowd saw the ball hit the back of the net, it exploded to its feet cheering and screaming in the elation of an early success. Then Britt scored, then Natalie then Kat again and Britt again and before I knew it the game was over and we had managed to win by a decent margin and we had made it into the double digits.
Before this year I never attended Juniata sporting events. I just never found the time to. But the energy of that first lacrosse game, the support that the crowd gave to the team was infectious and next year, when I will be a Senior you will hopefully find me at every single home game, supporting my team.
Growing up, sports were a very large part of my life. Between multiple sports and multiple teams for each sport, I was always kept very busy. When I got to college, it was almost a relief to decide to not commit to a varsity sport, and instead dedicate this free time to the increased workload and many friends that I was making.
At the same time, it was strange not playing soccer anymore, and I really missed it! Fortunately, I discovered intramural sports, which are a perfect combination of low commitment and low pressure fun with the competitiveness of actually playing. We usually play one day a week, always at night after everyone’s activities and meetings are over. Five people are on the field at a time, and halves are twenty minutes long. This is my second year playing intramural soccer and though my team isn’t very good, it’s a blast!
Now when I say my team isn’t very good, I should really clarify that we are downright awful. Our team name is the “Soccer Moms,” and we’re made up of both guys and girls who haven’t played in many years, some since they were eight years old! The point, however, is not really to win, but to just have fun running around and trying our best (I know this sounds clichéd but it’s true; after your team scores multiple goals on your own net, your expectations really lower).
In the fall, we lost every single game except for 1, which we tied. Somehow, this was enough to advance us to the playoffs, and then we ended up losing our first playoff game. Now, for the winter session, our record is currently 0-3, but I think we just got off to a rough start and things are going to start looking up. Ultimately, I’m just happy to get some touches on the ball and glad that there are low-key options for those of us who don’t wish to commit to a varsity sport but still want to play. So if this sounds like you, don’t worry – there are plenty of opportunities to still be active and play the game you love (whether it’s soccer, basketball, volleyball, or more). Wish the Soccer Moms luck!
On October 13th, my two worlds collided. My alma mater, Altoona Area High School, and Juniata College joined forces to commemorate the life of Erin Dodson. Erin graduated as a two-time all-state volleyball player in 2004 from Altoona Area High School and then began her freshman year at Juniata College, where she was to continue her volleyball career. Sadly, Erin was diagnosed with brain cancer at the start of her freshman year and lost her battle seven years later at the age of 25.
Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to personally meet Erin, but I played volleyball with her younger sister during my time at Altoona, so I was able to learn a lot about her. In an effort to honor Erin’s courage and perseverance, the girls’ volleyball team at Altoona organized a benefit volleyball game. Although I have attended several volleyball games at Altoona in the past six years, I have never been to a game quite like this one.
As soon as I walked into the fieldhouse, I was overwhelmed by a line of thirty baskets that team parents and community members had donated for the event. The entire lobby was just full of people. So many people were in attendance that they had to open up the other half of the gym, which is usually closed off by a movable wall. While Erin’s mom, Michelle, was expressing her gratitude between games, the wall started moving, and it soon revealed the entire Altoona Area High School pep band. When does a pep band ever play for a volleyball game?! Never.
At the end of Michelle’s talk, she asked the audience to hug the person sitting next to them because Erin loved giving everyone big hugs. The whole night was completely overwhelming and truly amazing. Erin’s family and friends from both Altoona and Juniata joined together to celebrate her life. I couldn’t be more honored to have walked the same halls and to have played on the same court as Erin Dodson.
I have been a runner since my freshman year of high school. Cross country was a sport that was foreign and honestly terrifying to me. I could not grasp the concept of willingly going out and putting yourself through that kind of physical torment for extended periods of time. But my outlook soon changed. The first month and a half of cross country was a blur of pain, from the burn of asthma in my lungs to the dull ache of overworked muscle. But I kept with it, and to this day I could not tell you why I kept going. Perhaps it was the encouragement my mom gave (as well as her sly comment about how I would feel if I gave up) or not wanting to let down my coach (a family friend) or my teammates (who were beginning to become good friends). Though I have veered off from time to time, running, the simultaneously magnificent and terrible sport that it is, has led me down a surprising path that I could never have imagined as I stepped off the cross country bus for the first time five years ago. And in many ways I have the same thoughts about college.
There was never a point in my life where I did not want to go to college. I assumed that college was the natural next step on the path of life. As time passed of course I came to realized that college was not the path that everyone took… or one that everyone wanted to take. And as I make my way through my third semester of college, I am getting a very clear picture as to one of the reasons why one might not want to move onto higher education.
College is hard.
I do not say that to scare or intimidate, just to state a fact. College classes are difficult, and rightly so–they are preparing you for jobs in the proverbial real world or for even more education at a higher level. It takes work and dedication to achieve the grades you want or need and sometimes that means sacrificing other aspects of your life. My freshman year there was a talk about the Social, Sleep, and School triangle. If you dedicate too much time to sleep and your social life then your academics suffer and too much study time and social interactions decrease how much sleep you can get etc. I am still trying to find that balance, and to be honest I am not sure anyone has been successful.
The fundamental goal for an individual in cross country or track is to get a lower PR (which is your personal best time). The only way to do that is to practice; to get out on the track after school and run 200 meter repeats or go on a 7 mile run. There is no half-way when it comes to competitive training, you either put forth the effort or get left in the dust. Only once in my running career did I put forth that effort. My sophomore year of high school I ran like I never imagined I could. I was winning races because I worked for it. I had a passion for the sport that made all of the grueling workouts and sometimes tedious long runs seem like nothing.
Steve Prefontaine (also known as Pre) was the United States foremost running athlete in the late sixties and early seventies. At one point, he was quoted saying, “Some people create with words or with music or with brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.’ It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.” Should we not all be creative in what we do? I know at times it is difficult because we get run down with work, school, family, social lives, the newest season of The Walking Dead, but there should at least be some glimmer of that passion in everything we do.
College is hard but not impossible. While it is not always possible for us to approach everything with such a passion as Pre’s, we should at least try. In whatever we do, we should let just a little bit of that passion show through. Your quantifiable success in college is given by a three digit number which is the equivalent of your PR. The only way to get a better PR is to train; to study like you have never studied so that the material is not just familiar to you but permanently ingrained in your mind. So have a passion for whatever you are doing, academically or otherwise, because in the end, whatever you are working toward will be worth all of the mental or physical toil.
Being from Florida, you get some interesting questions and looks from other people. When I am asked where I am from I always get this strange look because I chose to move from sunny Florida to bitter cold Pennsylvania. Yes it was a big change and a completely different place that was far away from home, but in the end it was worth it. I got to build my own major at Juniata where I could choose the courses I took and learn what I thing is necessary to build a career. I have chosen to name my degree Entrepreneurial Arts and it is exactly what I want to do. With my degree I can help businesses with their digital media plans.
I also got to continue to play the sport that I love and pick up track and field along the way to challenge myself further. I have two families here with me, my field hockey family and my track family. They are completely different and unique in their own way with multiple personalities. The relationships I have built with my teammates and the moments of silliness are ones that have made my experience so wonderful.
It is great that all the professors want you to succeed and want to genuinely help you to get a good grade, but to grow your knowledge and future. It is nice to go to a small liberal arts college where the professors make time to help their students and always have their door open for you to come in to talk. Juniata wants their students to thrive and the faculty help in any way they can to help students in any aspect they can. As a senior, I have many faculty and staff members that have helped me to prepare my resume and network. My boss even brought me to a marketing conference in Hershey, PA where I was able to learn more about marketing strategies for higher education. All this knowledge and experience will help me build the future that I envision and I am happy to have chosen Juniata College to help me do exactly that.