For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an athlete. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household that encouraged participation in sport, and not just one sport, but many. I started with soccer, dabbled in dance, took a swing at baseball, and finally settled on basketball. I tried every sport under the sun, but I knew basketball was going to take me places.
I continued the trend of being a multi-sport athlete throughout high school. My main focus was always basketball, but I had so much fun playing other sports alongside. In my senior year, my sports world opened a little bit more; I was handed a stick and was told to pass the ball. It was a lacrosse stick.
Adding a new sport to my repertoire
After high school, I left my stick at home and ventured off to Sheffield, Massachusetts where I would be attending Berkshire School for a post-graduate year. At Berkshire, each student is required to participate in an after-school activity in each season of the year.
My sports of choice were soccer, basketball, and track, but during the first week of classes I was stopped by the lacrosse coach in the dining hall. She asked “you will be playing lacrosse in the spring, right?” I told her that I hadn’t really thought about it, figuring I wasn’t good enough. She responded by saying, “Oh, the stick skills will come, you’re a basketball player and you’re tall — you’ll be fine!”
I wasn’t entirely sure what she meant by that, but I figured it would help keep me in shape for basketball and that was incentive enough. So, lacrosse it was.
Lacrosse wasn’t easy at first
Lacrosse was a challenge. It challenged me both physically and mentally. It took speed, agility, endurance, and strength to muscle my way through an entire game. The stick skills were definitely the most difficult for me, and I took it upon myself to continually work outside of practice time to better them. Part way through the season, I found myself thinking less about my stick and more about my body positioning on the field.
I remember one practice when everything came together. We were running one of our offences and working on our defensive positioning at the same time. For some reason, things were not clicking for me. Finally my coach asked, “Alena, if you were one pass away in basketball, how would you be positioned?” I responded with, “I would have my hand in the passing lane.”
“Good,” she said. “Now use your stick.” DING! It clicked. Lacrosse wasn’t making me a better basketball player; basketball made me a better lacrosse player! Then the fun began.
My skills from one sport help me in the others
From that point on, everything we did I related it to the sport I knew best. Who knew basketball and lacrosse were so similar? I started to see the similarities between other sports and lacrosse, realizing just how transferable skills are.
The movement patterns, changing direction, my defensive positioning; all skills I learned growing up playing basketball that transferred directly to lacrosse. It was evident that skills that are specific to one activity could directly benefit you in another.
This experience made me realize just how important it is to be involved with different sports. My focus was always on basketball, but staying involved in a variety of different activities helped me excel in it.
After playing four years of basketball at Wilfrid Laurier University, I decided to play lacrosse in my fifth and final year. Had I not taken a chance to try something new in high school, I would never have had the opportunity to represent my school in two varsity sports — two experiences that taught me the importance of being a multi-dimensional athlete, how to overcome challenges, and the fun of trying new things.