I remember shaking my coach’s hand, telling her I would come play lacrosse for Lehigh at just 16 years old.
I remember napping in the backseat of my mom’s car on the way home from my visit. My decision seemed to be nothing more than a sleepy agreement I had made so that the months of visits and long drives to different colleges would finally pay off.
I remember wearing my Lehigh T-shirt and hat while my parents snapped pictures of me signing my National Letter of Intent — a letter that acted as a legally binding contract for my commitment to play Division I athletics at Lehigh for the next four years of my life.
At the time, my picture and signature seemed like nothing more than my most-liked post on Facebook and logical next step to continue my academic and lacrosse career. I had no idea what the words on the paper actually said or what signing my name on the bottom of that piece of paper actually meant.
My story and time at Lehigh is about what the contract doesn’t tell the 16-year-old version of yourself. My story is about the extensive dedication playing a sport in college takes, and how — for better or worse — it shaped the person I became.
Like many athletes, I came into freshman year at Lehigh under the impression that I deserved playing time. I even dared to think I deserved to start. That was the first lesson I learned here — you don’t deserve anything until you prove yourself otherwise.
High school accolades and accomplishments are something every other player on my team had in common with me. What differentiated us from one another was who demonstrated going the extra mile, who had a better attitude when things weren’t going their way and who had the continual persistence to keep trying when they failed.
I can confidently say I failed to demonstrate almost every single one of those characteristics.
By the time my freshman season came around, I stood on the sidelines cheering for my friends, proud and a little bit jealous of their own success. It took digging deeper than I ever had before to find the persistence to continue to succeed through my shortcoming.
The failures I experienced as an underclassman here at Lehigh weren’t just a compilation of mistakes and defeats. They were also the beginnings of my rebuilding process.
I was given the opportunity to make a choice — succumb to my setbacks or give this place the most positive, hard working version of myself.
I chose the second option.
I believe all athletes have the innate desire to compete and succeed. This drive is what carried me into the second part of my journey and lesson I learned here — control the things you can. You only have control over those things — hard work, attitude and being the best teammate you can be.
The more those values began to resonate with me, the more authentic and genuine I became as a player and person. The more I started to care about my team’s success over my own, the more I began to grow as a player.
I became a dependable teammate and positive outlet for others to confide in, and slowly — really, really slowly — over time, my skills and actual playing began to follow suit.
By the time the end of my sophomore year rolled around, I had excelled in all the parts of my life that I could control, and without even realizing it, I truly appreciated being a part of something bigger than myself.
I loved my team, and through them, I relearned to love the sport again.
From my failures, I found new success, and from that success, I explored the depths of what my full potential could be through Lehigh lacrosse. Understanding where my strengths could continue to develop was my final and greatest lesson I learned here — be the best at what you can be. Instead of concentrating on your weaknesses, shift your focus to strengthening your strengths.
My coach once said to me, “Know what you’re good at, and learn to be great at it.”
At first I couldn’t grasp this concept.
For so long, I kept trying to learn to be like my teammates. I wanted to be the best runner like Jane Henderson or the best at ground balls like Liv Kelly. But the harder I tried to be like them, the more I failed. It wasn’t until my coach said those words to me that I realized my strengths weren’t the same as theirs.
What made me so special was that I wasn’t them.
My failures and mistakes along the way made me a relatable and attainable leader, the relationships I built and strengthened gave me guidance and insight on how to lead my team, and by the time that my senior year snuck up on me, I was ready.
Somehow Lehigh lacrosse had showed me how to overcome adversity and become the best version of a player and person I could ever be.
I may not have known what the words on that paper I signed at 16 years old meant — and I can guarantee that if the words on that paper had told me what I was about to go through these last four years, I wouldn’t have believed it anyway — but I’ve never been happier I signed my name on that dotted line.
Because without this place, the people and Lehigh women’s lacrosse, I would not be the person I am today.