The lilacs had just begun to bloom under the warm spring sun. It was my sophomore year of high school and lacrosse season was about to begin. Unlike prior years, my small high school was finally able to field both varsity and junior varsity lacrosse teams for the upcoming season. One of the reasons we were able to have two teams was because of the large number of male lacrosse players in my class – we had nearly enough players to stock an entire team. The only area where we were short was on defense. There were only two defensemen in our class and I was one of them.
As a scrawny freshman the prior year, I got plenty of playing time on the varsity team, playing defense alongside my brother Alex who was three years ahead of me (one of the most fun experiences of my sports career). This year, having grown both as a player and in physical size, I was excited to take a starting position on varsity defense.
The day after our first pre-season varsity practice I was walking off the field with the varsity lacrosse coach. I still distinctly remember the purple color of the lilacs in the meadow below the field and the feeling of bitter disappointment when my coach told me that for the upcoming season I would have to play on both the varsity and JV squads.
The season was brutal. I played in 26 lacrosse games over the course of 16 weeks, frequently playing two games in the same weekend. Despite the fact that I somehow “felt above it,” I still played hard in all the JV games and helped the team compete and grow.
Looking back I can confidently say that my only mistake that season was harboring feelings of superiority. Playing those extra games helped me develop my skills twice as fast as all of my classmates who played only on the varsity squad. I simply played more lacrosse. Also, playing both varsity and JV allowed me to develop multiple skills at the same time. On JV I learned how to rally a team and help less skilled players perform beyond their natural level of ability; I was also able to practice some of the more advanced take-away checks that would later become one of my core strengths as a defenseman. On the varsity team I was able to compete with the top players, study the impact of positive chemistry with my teammates, and learn how to win at the highest level.
It was hard for me to recognize it at the moment, but looking back the benefits are clear. After my sophomore year I went on to play two seasons where I was selected for the prestigious MIAA all-conference team and was recruited to play at the college level.
In my career I frequently think back to that one, very tough lacrosse season. In the work place it’s easy to get swept up in the rungs of corporate ladder and with fancy titles and management responsibilities. However, no matter what role I’m playing, in order to ensure long-term success I always hope to be in a position to play varsity and JV at the same time.