To My First year self,
I first want to say I'm so proud of you. You came into your first year of college playing a division I sport recovering from an ACL injury. Just when you thought the hard part was over, the harder part was still in front of you! That's not what a lot of your peers have experienced and it’s hard for them to understand. I want you to know that you won't get the attention you thought you would freshman year. The injured ones usually don’t since you are sitting out of practice for a while and you will feel disconnected. I'm not sure why it's like that, but it is and there’s no easy transition back into the game. I’m here to tell you that it’s okay because guess what, your value doesn't depend on your lacrosse career or what others think.
If I told you how your lacrosse career would turn out, you may have reconsidered your entire decision to play. Your childhood dreams of becoming a high caliber lacrosse player like the legendary players you admired, didn't exactly pan out the way you thought. You won’t have the experience that you expected, that could have prepared you for things like covid, a stagnant team environment, multiple different coaches, injury, anxiety, etc.
No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to control any of these things. But I can tell you that you won’t regret anything, even knowing how hard it really was to face so much adversity. There is no map, no guide, no right answers on how to help navigate these experiences, and there will be days when you feel like you just can't do it anymore. But with the support of family and friends, faith, and outside resources, you will find strength you didn't know you had.
Looking back, I wish I knew how mentally strong you will become. I’m not talking about “mental toughness” and the ability to embrace criticism and a coach yelling at you. I’m talking about our conscious and unconscious minds. The deepest part of yourself that creates all the noise in your head, the positive talk, the negative thoughts, your instincts and your decision making. I wish I understood that the belief in myself, my preparation, skills, talent and my knowledge of the game is all that I really needed to succeed. I wish I wasn't conditioned to be scared of mistakes, or to be so hard on myself. Past and present experiences have led you to feel this way and resort to those feelings of doubt. You will spend a lot of time struggling with performance anxiety and feeling a lot of pressure to be perfect. But you will learn that perfect doesn’t exist, and you will learn to believe that deep down.
Working through this performance anxiety and talking to a mental performance coach will lead you to realize that there’s really nothing to be scared of. Of course as naturally competitive athletes we do not want to be penalized, taken out of games or hurt our team. But you can’t live life trying to save energy, saving those risks for another day or allowing outside factors to feed into that self doubt.
Soon you will be like me: At the prime of my career and yet at the end of it. There’s no time for saving energy, there’s no time to be scared and there’s no time for self doubt.
Within all of these dreams and hopes for success will be a lot of heartbreak, challenges, and adversity. The stuff most people haven’t told you about. You'll be disappointed, hurt and often doubt yourself. But don't worry, you will fight like hell to get where you are today and your success will be knowing where you came from. It's knowing your worth. It's knowing that you left a mark, a legacy on your team for being a great leader, learning and showing compassion, being a great friend, an inspiration and someone to count on. You’ll persevere and you will make the most of your experience. Especially under the circumstances that you had, I'd call it pretty badass. You have been able to check off those boxes of your childhood self, and you may not be the best women’s lacrosse player, but you're pretty damn good. Not only did you prove a ton of people wrong, but you proved to yourself that you are good enough, and that's all that really mattered.