What up Lacrosse Playground readers. First and foremost, I wanna thank everyone for the votes for the head I dyed that won in the Back-To-School Dye Contest. Be on the lookout for the head dyed by Max McCool I won… it will be up for sale/auction soon along with a dope Team Headshot Pinnie I donated. The selling price will go to the American Cancer Society, so get those checkbooks out! Some of you may remember my post last spring about our uniforms at Syracuse Club Lacrosse, but I’m back with a blog series detailing my relocation from Syracuse University to the University of Oregon. This is the first installment, and hopefully it doesn’t get railed in the comments and I’ll hit you guys back with another one soon.
So after the last two years playing club for Syracuse University, fall ball has become a time of the year I look forward to a lot. Getting back on the field with the team has meant a lot more than just lacrosse. For me it meant reuniting with friends I haven’t seen in months, getting to know the guys that make it past cuts, and look towards spring competition and think about what we needed to do to be a top team in the NCLL. This last spring, the club experience at Syracuse was so sick and if I could do it all over again I would in a heartbeat. So a big shout out to the guys still there, and I better hear that you guys put work in this year, and punch that ticket to the Elite 8 to outdo last season.
Having said that, I’ve been fortunate to have a new opportunity put in front of me that I’m super stoked for. I graduated from SU last spring, and was accepted to a PhD program in Biology at the University of Oregon. After getting in, I did a little research, and found out UO has a pretty dirty MCLA team. They won their conference last spring, and made it to the Elite 8 in the MCLA National Tournament. After finding this out, I got in touch Joe Kerwin, the head coach, and found out I’d have 2 years eligibility and could play as long as I was enrolled as a student fulltime. That was pretty awesome news for me for a couple reasons. Obviously the chance to continue to play college lacrosse was sick in its own right, but secondly our club at Syracuse was completely student run, so to play for a team with a full coaching staff and “virtual varsity” atmosphere was real exciting for me.
This summer I kept my stick in my hand and pretty much immersed myself in lax as much as possible. I ran a couple teams in summer leagues around Syracuse, went to Ocean State Classic with The Tailgators, and brought Team Headshot, a team I run, to War at the Shore in New Jersey. The War was pretty much the big finale’ to the seaon, and it was an awesome way to finish up the summer by going down to the Shore, play in the tourney, and camp out and chill with all the guys that made the trip. So shout out to everyone on Team Headshot… can’t wait to ball with you boys next summer.
I was kind of warned ahead of time that Oregon was going to be… different. On my interview trip for my graduate program, only a couple of the grad students and professors even knew what lacrosse was. Most were like “Oh, that’s that game with the nets and you run around all crazy?” or “Lacrosse? Isn’t that kind of like field hockey?” I laughed a little bit at first, and definitely enjoyed explaining the sport to the people I met and GTG a little, but I realized that this was going to be a big change from Syracuse, NY. Obviously lax is everything in ‘Cuse, and I started to realize how important it was to me not only as a sport, but a social outlet.
When school started to get really serious for me a couple years ago, I had to stay away from the party scenes, and I lost touch with a lot of people. Joining the club team at ‘Cuse introduced me to a whole new group of people, and a lot of those guys I met are now my best friends. The same thing thing has happened through summer leagues, and going to tournaments — I’m always quick to get to know guys I play against or play with on a team I’m new to. Because of this, basically about 99% of my friends are laxers. I didn’t set out for it to happen like that, and I don’t have anything against NARPs, but from playing 3-5 times a week year round, lacrosse players are just the people I see all the time and end up hanging out with when I’m not playing. When I realized this, the opportunity to play MCLA at Oregon became a lot bigger than I thought before (and I was pretty worried about how I would make friends if I got cut !)
When booking my flight to Oregon from ‘Cuse, I was able to get tickets for the morning after a game at the box league I play in with my team the CNY Spuds. I figured win or lose, being with those guys and balling out one last time was going to be a good way to spend my last night at home. I’m happy to report the guys haven’t skipped a beat without me, and were able to defend our league championship for the 3Peat this past week. So shout out to the Spuds.
After spending my last waking minutes in ‘Cuse playing lax with good friends, I got on a plane the next morning to head 3000 miles to the other side of the country. I hate to go all emo’ on everyone, but a couple times I caught myself staring out the plane window and I starting to realize that this change was big, real, and serious. The whole situation felt a little overwhelming at first, but I told myself I’d just take it easy and not panic. I knew basically nobody ahead of time, and the only really effective way I knew how to make friends was through lax. So I did what I knew best, and after getting moved into my apartment at Courtside (right next to THE Matthew Knight Arena, no big deal), I spent a lot of time with my stick just wandering around campus, sticking close to the athletic fields.
Things didn’t get off to too fast of a start. I passed the time with wallball, and spent a lot of time training and doing sprints since tryouts were coming up anyways. Day 1… zero laxers spotted, but at least I got to work on my pinnie and midcalf tan. Day 2.. tan improved, still no laxers, and I noticed that kids really, really love soccer here. Day 3…more rain, no laxers, mad soccer. Day 4…also rain, also no laxers, also soccer. Day 6…7…8….9… I basically stopped counting. I started to really wonder if this “Oregon Lacrosse Team” actually existed, and if Oregon has like 25 soccer teams. Day 12, I finished a lift session in the rec center, and headed out to the turf right outside to break in my new Volt Huarache 3’s my boy Kaz from Lacrosse Unlimited in Syracuse hooked me up with. I jog around with my stick and am starting to really think about saying F it and hop in this soccer game and make some friends. I notice the “Lacrosse Field” is completely empty (At Oregon, the Lacrosse Field is right next to Hayward Track, and has 4 other turfs on all sides of it). I walk out to the middle of the field, completely alone. I look over to the left, and see at least 25 kids going absolutely HAM on some pickup soccer, laughing and smiling. I look to the right, and see the tennis courts full of people going Djokovic-and-Nadal. Off in the distance I see the far field with kids going after an ultimate frisbee game the Patriots-vs-Colts. I look back in front of me at the Lax scoreboard… I’m still the only PERSON on the field. The ONLY lacrosse player. I felt pretty homesick right about then. It felt like I was on an alien planet. At home, it’s the opposite. Lacrosse sticks, nets, and games are seen everywhere except the dead of winter — and then we have Syracuse University games to keep us occupied. That Upstate NY winter was starting to seem better than a Caribbean beach to me at that moment.
I started to walk towards the soccer game, feeling half like playing and half like getting on a plane to go home. I got over by their sideline and stood there for a second, then took one last look over my shoulder at the lacrosse field… And God intervened. I was not meant to play soccer, or go home. I saw two guys with lacrosse sticks, and yes, also a ball. I was saved. I literally ran over to them out of fear they’d leave in the 28 seconds it would’ve taken me to walk. All I said was “Yo can I play catch?” and made two friends. Twenty-six years old, boys and girls, and that’s the extent of my social graces.
So it took almost two weeks, but I found out there are, in fact, lacrosse players at the University of Oregon. The two bros I met told me about a pickup game with new guys trying out and returning members of the team, which to me sounded about as sick as a Memorial Day weekend considering my situation. I also was pretty curious to see what Oregon lacrosse was all about. I’d heard different things about the level of talent, but in this situation the beggar was not going to be a chooser.
The pickup game was super dope. The athleticism and stick skills were pretty impressive. If I had to make a comparaison, I guess I’d say that at home behind-the-backs, around-the-worlds, indian pickups, and shovels are seen much more, especially in a pickup game (or if you’re a CNY Spud). Being from Section III, to me pickup games are all about trying new stuff and dialing in the passes/shots I just named… or completely whiffing and laughing it off. But besides that, those moments being out on the field running around with a bunch of other guys that love lacrosse made me forget all about being 3000 miles from home. I forgot all about the rain, the soccer, and those Oregon locals that thought lacrosse was an event in the decathlon. The best part was the spirit of the whole pickup game was exactly what I was used to back home… just lacrosse players having fun and meeting new friends. Some of us stuck around after the game to just chill and throw the ball around. Sometimes it feels like having a catch and some laughs is just the best way to get to know a person. It works for me, at least.
I’ll be back soon with another blog after tryouts… if you don’t hear from me again that means I was cut and I’ve checked into a hospital for the clinically depressed… or if you are too impatient you can follow my twitter to know what’s happening @VincentVan_Bro.