The odds were stacked against us and we knew it:
- A high school student body of 4,900 vs. 400
- A mature lacrosse program playing for its 4th consecutive state championship title vs. a program that was in only its seventh season
- 42 players (a total of 60 were cut from the team) vs. 22, many of whom were freshman
Being a dad of twin boys who play on the Charlotte Christian School lacrosse team, I will allow myself to use the pronoun “We” when describing this David vs Goliath match. Dads of student athletes will understand this.
We made the trip to Charleston to fight even though we knew that we would lose, big time. It didn’t matter. If you have a passion for the sport and love your teammates, you’ll go into battle, regardless of the outcome.
Wando High School is located in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, about 215 miles from Charlotte. Driving on I-26 from Charleston you cross both the Cooper and Wando Rivers and if you look to the South, you can see Fort Sumter in the distance.
When we arrived at the Wando stadium we were impressed by its size. We soon learned that ours was the last lacrosse tournament to be played at this stadium as it was being torn down and the Wando Warriors would soon play at a much bigger stadium.
Our players, the Knights, were on the field warming up when all of a sudden loud Indian war music started to blare from the stadium loudspeakers. It was time for the Wando Warriors to take to the field! They marched out of their locker room, two by two, yelling as if they were preparing for battle. The lead “Warrior” was carrying what looked like an Indian spear with feathers on it. Once they got to the field the spear was stabbed into the middle of the field, as if to claim the land and protect it against any intruders. I must say, it was a pretty impressive entrance.
The seconds were ticking down and the warm-up ended. Our coaches called the team together to give them some last minute instructions and encouragement. I saw the players raise their fists and yell: “1, 2, 3, Knights” and the starters trotted onto the field. Things were about to get ugly; that was just the nature of the beast.
Within minutes the Warriors were putting numbers on the scoreboard. We had difficulties penetrating their defense and remained scoreless through three quarters. When it was all over, the scoreboard read:
Warriors: 16 Visitors: 1
So what positives did our players take from this “experience”? Here are a few that I noted:
- They knew their opponent: They knew who Wando was: a lacrosse powerhouse that had won 5 state championships in the past 6 years. That the school was 10 times the size of ours and had more kids that wanted to play lacrosse then they could fit on their team. They also knew who the key players were and where to concentrate their efforts.
- They weren’t intimidated: When a team is double your size (42 vs. 22 players) it can be visually overwhelming. This can get into your head even before the game starts. Our guys could have been shell-shocked when Wando took to the field. They weren’t. They simply went about their business getting ready for battle. And when the tribal music blared from the sound system, they took it in stride, even finding humor in the moment.
- They were well prepared: Our players were physically and mentally prepared. They spent weeks running, lifting weights, practicing plays and talking strategy. They weren’t going to blame the loss on the fact that they didn’t get their minds and bodies into shape.
- They have great team spirit: Whether Senior or Freshman, starter or player who probably didn’t getting much playing time, this team formed a strong bond athletically and personally. Because their numbers were small, they had to depend on each other. They cared about each other and they knew that they had coaches that took a personal interest in each individual player. While our coaches want to win every game, as do the players, the coaches are more interested in developing character and building the team spirit.
- They have parents who care: It is interesting to notice that whether our team is playing at home or away, we always have more fans than our opponents. Our parents sacrifice for their kids, financially (sending them to a private school) and in time. Our families do an outstanding job preparing meals, keeping stats, filming the games, booking hotels and restaurants and countless other issues that wouldn’t get done if people didn’t step forward. I believe our boys know how blessed they are to having parents who really care for them.
- They learn from setbacks: Even though they got their butts kicked, our boys want to play against teams that are much better than they are. These teams are usually outside of our conference and are a good preparation for teams that are more our equal, once the regular season starts. Every tough game is a learning experience.
- They left the field with their heads lifted high: It would be easy to play the blame-game and point the finger at a fellow teammate who messed up a play or accuse the referees of making unfair calls. Our players didn’t do this, and our coaches wouldn’t allow for it to happen. They went into battle, lost, but left it all on the field.
As a dad, I’m extremely proud of the effort that our team brought to the Wando field. They came with grit and heart and battled until the last whistle. You can’t ask for more than that!