Student Journalism at San Rafael High School

Off the Leash

Off the Leash

Off the Leash

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The Lacrosse Family

We went through a lot of coaches and didn’t win many games, but we were an amazing team.
The+Lacrosse+Family

San Rafael lacrosse is not known for its wins. To be honest, we’re often ranked the lowest in the Marin County Athletics League (MCAL). We didn’t win a single game my senior season. Game after game, we lost by like 20 points. People would assume that it is terrible being on a team like that. This was not what I experienced.

There was something you couldn’t see by just looking at the score. Something that kept us motivated even when we were losing by so much. There’s something else to girls’ lacrosse than just wins. Something debatably more important, something more special.

We have the future of a program to build. A program that is a community – no – a family. A program with the hopes of being able to compete against top MCAL teams, but stay humble. A program with a full roster of girls who support each other on and off the field.

I joined the lacrosse team my freshman year. Ruby Jobe had started the program two years before. She was a senior during my freshman year, and was more than a player – she was a captain, the star of the field, and even helped coach. I got to witness the amount of effort she put into the game, the amount of passion she poured into the program. 

She helped me in learning this difficult sport. Everyone learns how to throw a softball or kick a soccer ball when they’re a kid, but they don’t usually learn how to catch a tiny ball of rubber with a netted stick and then score a goal with it.

It was also difficult to be a freshman on a varsity team – I was playing against lots of MCAL upperclassmen. MCAL teams are full of girls who have been playing club since they were young. Teams with enough bench players for another team. Girls who have played on JV for years before this. They are terrifying, and that year, I barely knew how to pass and catch, yet was expected to play against them. 

There were some wins, and a lot of losses that year, but for my sophomore year, we had more success. We had a solid season with losses, but wins against a few MCAL teams. We weren’t too worried when three seniors left at the end of the season as there was a strong, dedicated crew of juniors. A couple teammates were even doing club. 

A series of events led to a change in coaching. Two lacrosse players at Dominican, and a middle aged man who coaches the Blue Jays lacrosse club. The two main coaches were student-athletes, which resulted in them being unable to commit as much time to our team as we had hoped. As a result, they didn’t get to know us, and our skill levels individually. It was frustrating, but they made it where the girls lacrosse program could keep going.

We had a few wins, and had some major growth as a team. The solid crowd of seniors had opportunities to step up, as the coaches were very busy. They helped create the culture, and a foundation of skill, as many of them had been playing since their freshman year. We had to let go of 9 seniors. But, there were a ton of juniors, so it again seemed like we would have a skilled team the next year. The future was still bright.

The next school year, things were uncertain. I started hearing about one of our star players getting a leg injury and not playing lacrosse. Word had it that her friend, the other star of the team, might not play either. Like a domino effect, I heard about other seniors not wanting to continue either. Without many returners, how would we have a team? Even if we did have a team, how would we survive against MCAL teams? We didn’t even have a coach, as the ones from last year were not going to continue.

Close to the start of the season, one of the juniors found us a new coach: Coach Charlie Hurst, the director of Blue Jays. This meant that we would get to have a season if there were enough girls to form a team.

It seemed like we would be able to, as a lot of returners came to the interest meeting. The new coach told us about his hopes and dreams for our program. He seemed like a good fit, but you can never quite tell just from an informational meeting. 

Practices started. Two returners quit after the first day. 2 more quit by week two. From the players to the coaching style, the team was so different than it used to be. Again I was worried that I would indeed have no senior season. But, our coach was determined to have a team, and more so, keep the program alive. He was also determined to set a foundation for the culture. From the beginning, he told us that before practice every Monday, we would do team bonding. 

I was honored to be a captain. It took practice, and unending patience, particularly when drills were going at a snail’s pace. Just like all the older girls I had looked up to in the past, who had now graduated, I wanted to shape SR girls lacrosse culture. I wanted to help make one that was so good that no one would want to leave. A team with so much support and positivity that the score had no effect on their energy. A team like a family. 

We had a couple weeks of practices, then our first game. I was terrified – some people could still barely pass and catch. We didn’t even have enough people to do 7 vs. 7 in practices. Also, I would be in charge of the “draws,” which are matchups at the beginning of each quarter, and after every goal.   

Before our first game, we nervously warmed up while looking over at our opponents. Everyone had questions about the sport. Based on the score, we got absolutely destroyed. But we kept playing to the last whistle, and had kept it positive throughout. I’d never been on a team that I had so much fun playing with while losing by so much. There was something special about this team. 

After a game where we had lost by over 20 points, instead of hanging her head in our post-game talk, one of our captains came in talking excitedly about how proud she was, about our improvement, about our little wins. This was the type of team worth sticking with. 

It wasn’t all easy – the season really forced me to step up physically and mentally. I played almost every minute of every game as a midfielder which required so much running. I did the draw against people many inches taller than me and many levels more skilled than me. Running down the field, I’d get shoved to the ground. But I fell in love with the sport even more. And with the beautiful community that you can only get by staying on the team.

We got to the heart of MCALs, still losing every game by so many points. But in each one, we kept celebrating the little things. A sophomore scored her first career goal against Redwood, the defense stopped so many plays, the long pass was caught in the midfield, and the goalie made an amazing save. Every game had incredible moments like these and others.

Then there were the little things off the field, or I guess, the big things. I saw lasting friendships being made. I saw people (including myself) connecting with these girls who they never would have met without this sport. I saw girls who had never done a high school sport commit to the team, and fight against girls who had been playing for years at Redwood and Tam. It was a team of bravery. We had a goalie who faced rubber lacrosse balls flying at her face for hours a day, new underclassmen rookies who stepped up as midfielders and endured the daunting amount of running every game, a coach who was willing to commit so many hours to a program about to die. Also, I saw this bravery in the three seniors who hadn’t quit when their peers were dropping out left and right. 

Above all this, it’s a team of hope for the future. I’m leaving this amazing team with the knowledge that their coach has his sights set high. I went through multiple coaches, but Coach Charlie is one who I believe can take them to the next level. He has a positive coaching style that pushes us, but makes us feel supported. He hopes to help people have access to lacrosse before high school. Teaching people at Davidson, being involved in Blue Jays, he’s hoping to get kids a foundation before high school, so that they can build off of these skills. One day he hopes to have a junior varsity team as well. He hopes to even be able to compete against MCAL teams like Redwood and Tam. Coach Charlie is helping girls’ lacrosse grow in SR.

For me, I hope that the culture is just as good – no, even better – down the road. I want them to feel like family, able to support each other on and off the beautiful SR field. I hope they feel so connected, that they would never quit, like so many people from my grade. I want them to fall in love with the sport, and develop memories – memories like mine, where there’s the feeling of positivity and support.

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    NaomiJun 12, 2024 at 6:06 pm

    So amazing Hannah!!!

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