Lacrosse is the type of sport that is very distinct and can be very confusing for most. This discourse has many different distinctions that makes it so different from even men’s lacrosse. For example, women’s lacrosse is a non contact sport. Whereas men’s lacrosse is full body contact. Our sport is more about the control and beauty. As any other team it helps you build relationships because like a family you have to learn to love each other or else the team won’t be able to work together on the field when it really matters.
In high school I picked up a lacrosse stick on a dare. I never thought that I would fall in love with the sport and end up becoming team captain for three years of my high school career. Then when my senior year rolled around and I was in the process of making the decision of where I wanted to go to college. It happened that the assistant coach of my lacrosse team had grown up in Portland Maine, and graduated from the University of Southern Maine. She pulled me aside after practice one day and told me that she had found out that I had gotten into UNE and told me that I should think about playing lacrosse there. At first I thought she was crazy then I decided that I’d meet with the coach at the school and see where I leads to. As Gee would say its the significance of me picking up a lacrosse stick that really changed the outcome of my life. He writes, “But for many things, we need to use language to render them significant or to lessen their significance, to signal to others how we view their significance.”(32) What this means is that in the moment I looked at picking up a lacrosse stick as just something to try and maybe I would like it. Now that I look back lacrosse has defined me and made me the person that I am today.
When looking at different aspects of college lacrosse I decided to really look at my experience. When you’re a high school kid you never really know what it takes to play college lacrosse as well as the process of being a walk-on. Walk-ons are a whole different breed of college athlete. David Frank wrote an article on “The Unwritten Code of the College Walk-on” discussing what it’s like to be a walk-on. One aspect of his article that really resonated with me is, “Most walk-ons will quit. This is just the unfortunate truth. Whether it is an inability to keep up the school work, tired of getting pounded at practice with no playing time or a desire to look for an opportunity to earn a scholarship; most walk-ons will not finish their four years of eligibility at the same school.” I’ve always been the person who never liked to quit anything and this has been true because you do get pounded at practice because you have to prove yourself as a player. Now I was what people consider a somewhat modified recruited walk-on.
Being a walk-on is all about having this upward battle of really wanting to achieve this level of being strong enough to play. When going into it no one really knows what they are doing so they really use their primary discourse of knowing their sport to help them achieve what they want to do. They also have to learn the new discourse of how the college team works. I know that my high school team even down to the warm up had a different way of working. It’s all about having your old discourse to help you get through the initial struggle of learning the new discourse of the college team.
For someone to be trying to join lacrosse as a discourse they have to spend tons of hours practicing. Gee states that “Practices” is one of the seven building tasks when attempting to joining a discourse. Something that could help one when they try to get into this discourse is that if one is very athletic they could have that help them when having to move and make cuts on the field and also just out running opponents. This can be considered using one’s primary discourse to help them but they can’t stay with the primary discourse the whole time. Gee writes this, “If one has not mastered a particular secondary Discourse which nonetheless one must try to use, several things can happen, things which rather resemble what can happen when one has failed to fluently master a second language. One can fall back on one’s primary Discourse, adjusting in various ways to try to fit it to the needed functions; this response is very common, but almost always socially disastrous. Or one can use another. Perhaps related, secondary Discourse. Or one can use a simplified, or stereotype version of the required secondary Discourse.” (9) With this you have to actually take the time to learn the stick skills of lacrosse because without them you really are useless when it comes to anything on the field.
Gee would look at all the work that I had to do as “practices”.Gee writes this as, “By a “practice” I mean a socially recognized and institutionally or culturally supported endeavor that usually involves sequencing or combining actions in certain specific ways.”(32) This is when Even on off days you can find me at the forum lifting, running and playing wall ball. This is all so that I can prove to my coach that I really am dedicated and not just another walk-on who’s just going to walk-out. Frank writes, “Being a walk-on is about the process; enjoying being part of a team, practice and a unique club of college athletes.” With the team that I am apart of it really is a unit. We are all very close and could be considered a family. This was all done by the process by which my coach picks people to play. She wants to make a unit that she knows will work with the rest of us and really takes into account if they will have a positive impact on the team.
Another aspect of lacrosse that plays a big role with Gee’s learning techniques is Significance. Anytime that you step out on that field you have just as big of an impact as the person next to you. For the next 60 minutes you have to give it your all and everyone is there for one goal and that is to bring home a W. It’s all about working as a unit. Every time that were about to walk out onto the field our coach looks at us and asks, “Is there any other group of girls you would rather be walking out on this field on. No? Well go out there and show them that you are a team and a family.” The significance of this is that it’s one of the challenges of learning a new discourse because you can’t learn compassion and the ability to care about a group of people without taking the time to know them and learn how they work on and off the field. This really includes how they communicate.
Communication is a huge aspect of women’s lacrosse, because you can’t simply layout the opposing team you have to talk to your teammate and let them know that you have their back if they need you. Women’s lacrosse has a very distinct language that for most sounds like a bunch of jumbled yelling. When the reality is that every moment that someone opens their mouth it’s a small conversation that could affect the whole outcome of the game. Some of the many terms that are said on the field range from “cutter” to “got me trail” even to something as simple as”yeah”. They all have something in them that really changes what the rest of the team is doing at that moment.
When initially learning the sport of lacrosse one can teach themselves the basics of the sport. Once they fully understand the sport they have to learn all the different rules and regulations that follow with it, this is where Deborah Brandt would state that the aspect of a sponsorship would be a key aspect to the sport. We see this when she writes, “The concept of sponsors helps to explain, then a range of human relationships and ideological pressures that turn up at the scenes of literacy learning – from benign sharing between adults and youths, euphemized coercions in schools and workplaces, to the most notorious impositions and deprivations by church or state.” These sponsors come from all different walks of life which could be a coach to even an more experienced player on the team. Brandt writes, “Sponsors, as we ordinarily think of them, are powerful figures”. These sponsors can be seen as being “more knowledgeable”. For example, when I moved from the discourse of high school lacrosse to college lacrosse I really had to use the aspect of sponsorships to help me grow as a player.
One aspect of the new sponsorship that I had to get used to was the portion of all new rules that weren’t in place in high school. Some of these new rules to the freshmen were “self start”, “defense being able to enter the crease”, and the aspect of having more “on the body contact”. With self start is when a minor foul is made in the midfield and the person that is given the ball gets to start whenever they please. Defense entering the crease is when the defense is able to enter the goalie’s crease to better defend someone. More on the body contact is just the simplicity that they let you play the game more then try and control everyone. Without the senior as our sponsors we as freshmen wouldn’t know all these different changes. Granted we have an amazing coach but she is only one person and being able to rely on her seniors plays a key role in the way that the team works.
This aspect of learning from more experienced players on the team also plays into the factor of teamwork. Lacrosse can be played as a very singular sport. One person can drive to cage and score for the whole game but that doesn’t win games. You have to work as a unit because at some point you will be very tired and having the rest of the team to pick you up and keep going makes a world of a difference. Another aspect that really was different from high school to college is way that a team wins or loses. This is most likely different for most people because my lacrosse team in high school didn’t have the best win streak so we became very good at losing and looking at it as a way to learn. We didn’t actually win a game till I was a senior. So the transition of moving to college and having to learn to have the fire to win and have those game really count and make a difference. The aspect of losing with dignity and winning with confidence and respect. When you look at these huge Division 1 teams you
Speaking of respect. Lacrosse like any other sport you have to have huge amounts of respect. This comes for coaches, ref, opposing teams, and your own teammates. It plays into Gee’s focus of language which play’s a huge role in. When entering this discourse you have to learn all the different tones that are used. You wouldn’t talk to a teammate the way you talk to a ref or your coach. It’s all about the learning curve that comes with a new discourse.
Personally I never would have thought that lacrosse would become such large part of my life. As a freshman in high school I picked it just because, I could. The thought that playing college lacrosse and how much comes with the sport is almost overwhelming. Granted when joining any new discourse there are many different things that one learns over the time of being in it. Some of the different aspects that can’t be taught are: teamwork, intensity, and having the passion for the game.
Simply being good at the game of lacrosse won’t ever be enough because one has to have the power and urge to want to be on that field for the better of the team. You have to be able to put your whole heart out on the field for every game no matter what. If you don’t you won’t have the fire that wins games and brings teams together. That’s something that a discourse can’t teach you.