Be forewarned… this is a story without a happy ending. As much as I wish for a better ending, this is not possible… and all this disappointment is because of one man. Let me begin where all stories should begin… at the beginning.
My older son, D, started playing lacrosse in his junior year of HS. His brother had been playing the sport for a few years and had truly found his sport. E had always been a natural athlete, but this sport just fit him to a “T”. As a result, D decided to try his hand at the same sport. He loved it, but he always had to work harder to pick up and master the skills that seemed to come naturally to his younger brother. Where this could have created a great deal of jealousy, my boys seemed to use it as a bonding point. They would discuss different ways of stringing a stick, debate offensive and defensive strategies, and were able to enjoy each another’s achievements without allowing it to create an antagonistic relationship between them. They have always been each other’s biggest cheerleaders and for that, I will always be incredibly grateful.
When D was a senior and making his college selection, he had narrowed his choices to two very different schools. He was making the choice between a large in-state public university where he could be part of the marching band OR he could choose a small private out-of-state college where he had the opportunity to be a Varsity athlete. He thought long and hard about this choice, but ultimately chose to go to a school where he had the chance to be a varsity athlete. Having him choose my alma mater (the small, private, out-of-state school) made my heart sing, but the deciding factor for him was the possibility of playing college lacrosse… something he had never thought would be possible. He was in heaven.
Playing lacrosse at this Division III college was a unique experience. Since the college had only recently become a co-ed institution, their lacrosse program was very new. When D attended his accepted students day, Coach D was the head coach; a great guy who was energetic and positive. By the time D began his freshman year, Coach D had stepped down (he had accepted a new position at his job and it didn’t allow him time to devote to being the head coach) and Coach F had taken over. Coach F was another positive guy; hard on the guys but fair in terms of discipline and expectations. Coach F remained for two years and then Coach M took over just before D’s junior year.
From a parent’s perspective, Coach M was a nightmare in many ways. His behavior embarrassed me, as an alum, but the seniors begged parents not to complain. They were concerned that if coach found out whose parents complained that there would be repercussions for them on the field or in the amount of game time they might see. We tried to give him the benefit of the doubt… the college must have seen something positive in him when they hired him, right? D actually played in a few games during his junior year… making it into 6 games when the score difference was large enough to justify his participation. He moved to long stick after spring break that year and was as positive as ever. He asked me to please not say anything negative regarding my impressions of the coach and I tried mightily to honor his request.
D’s senior lacrosse season had a rough start when Coach M didn’t play him in any of the Fall Ball tournament games. By Spring, we were determined to see as many of his game as possible, since this was his final season, and traveled to a majority of his games, both on campus and off. I had been the team’s photographer since D’s freshman year, so I made his schedule my priority throughout the spring. Each time we saw a game, no matter the final score, D was consistently positive, focused, and determined…. even though he never got to play in the game.
Injury plagued D throughout his college lacrosse career. He had ankle, shin, and knee problems that kept him from being 100% at times, but he never failed to participate to the best of his ability. His determination to be part of this team, no matter the amount of playing time, was a constant source of awe for us. He put up with so much and worked so hard to be a contributing part of the team that we, stupidly, were hopeful about seeing him play at some point during his senior season.
As the season came to a close, we were truly hopeful that we’d seen the worst that Coach M could offer… surely he’d recognize the contributions and dedication that D had shown for four years… but it was not to be.
Senior Night versus Marymount University started out in grand fashion. The boys played their hearts out and held the lead for the entire game. Sadly though, Coach M decided not to include THREE of our seniors. All these three young men had been part of the team for four years, enduring 6AM practices, only two or three days off for Spring Break each year, and then were snubbed on the single day that was to have been dedicated to their contributions. It was maddeningly offensive to me, but my son’s focus was, as always, on the team. He was ok with the idea of not having played, because they won the game. I could only stand on the sideline and fume privately as both hubby and son pleaded with me not to make a scene. I honored their request… as much as I resented the need to do so… but prayed that honor would prevail for my son and the other seniors on their final game, played this past Friday.
D’s final college game was played on Friday, April 27th… but D did not play. They lost that game 9-3. When one of the other seniors, who had made it into the game, asked Coach M to put all the seniors in for the final 2 minutes of the game, he was told to shut up. D and one other senior never saw the field. Sadly, the ONLY time D made it onto the field during his entire senior MLAX season had already come and gone; during the Salisbury game on April 7th, when they lost 29-1…. and we weren’t there.
I wish I could say that I was enlightened enough to look at this situation from a more positive vantage point…. however, I truly believe that there was no earthly reason why my son was not included in either his senior night OR his final game in a Hood College uniform. My son has endured all the elements that God can offer just to play the game he loves… but his coach, who should have had the foresight to realize the lasting impression he was providing my son and his fellow seniors, couldn’t be bothered.
I wish I could say that this story has a happy ending, but it doesn’t. D’s college lacrosse career ended with nothing more than a tongue lashing at the team by their coach. What should have been his happiest game, was not to be.
I am filled with pride for my son and his fellow seniors for the class they showed in persevering through four years of hard work to earn college degrees AND participate in four years of varsity lacrosse.
This coach hurt my son… and I will NEVER forget…