Playing for passion

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Bethel club lacrosse athletes get most of the leftovers, but nobody’s complaining.

By Maddie DeBilzan

At Bethel, 7:30 in the morning is early. It’s when professors pull into the parking lot, early birds wake up to watch the sun rise over Lake Valentine, and nursing majors speed walk through the halls to make it to their labs. It’s a time for coffee mugs, groggy eyes and raspy voices.

But for the women’s lacrosse team, 7:30 in the morning is practically lunchtime. It’s a time for Gatorade, sweat towels and post-practice showers.

If the only time slot available to practice in the Sports and Recreation Center is before the sun rises, fine. They’ll wake up and practice. And they’ll do it three times a week.

The men’s lacrosse team is the same way. They used to practice from 11-1 at night, but now that it’s warm enough for the spring teams to practice outdoors, they were able to push the practice times to 9 pm.

On top of the far-from-ideal practice times, the lacrosse teams don’t get much publicity. The captains’ pictures don’t hang outside of the Wellness Center. Their action shots aren’t included in the slideshow that loops continually in the athletic office. Their trophies aren’t flaunted outside Robertson Center, their game summaries aren’t posted on the Bethel Athletics webpage, and they carpool to games using their own gas money.

But the players don’t complain. It weeds out any athletes who possess anything but sheer passion, which is one reason why the idea of transitioning lacrosse into a varsity sport doesn’t excite club athletes as much as you might think.

Katie Pope, a junior media production major, is just as committed to her club lacrosse team as any varsity athlete. But she’s not in a hurry to change the club team to a varsity sport.

“At this point we don’t have a problem playing club because a lot of other schools also don’t have varsity lacrosse teams,” she said. “We would probably prefer to stay club.”

Teammate Andra Johnson agrees. Since lacrosse is still a growing sport, labeling it a varsity sport wouldn’t change its competitiveness. And the fact that it’s a club sport allows for first-time lacrosse players to join without feeling pressure of being good enough.

Not to say that the team isn’t competitive.

Last year the women’s club team won every regular-season game except for one. They drove 17 hours to a tournament in Michigan, and they also made it to nationals in South Carolina. They placed ninth in the nation out of several hundred teams.

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Last year’s women’s lacrosse team celebrates at nationals in North Carolina. The girls only lost one regular-season game all year. | Photo submitted by Katie Pope.

Thursday, April 6 marked the first — and only — home game of the season. The captains organized the game, ensured that the refs would be there, and led the warm-ups.

When the other team didn’t show up, they practiced instead.

The women have three volunteer coaches who help with the logistics of the game. Coach Amanda Fyle, a Bethel alumni and former club lacrosse player, drives to Bethel for practice before heading to her job. She spends between five and 15 hours with the team per week.

Before the season starts, she gets together with the captains to discuss their goals for the season. She lets the athletes determine how far they want to be pushed and how laid-back or competitive they want to be.

“Historically, we’ve been a competitive program,” Fyle said. “This season, the girls are pretty focused on that.”

Will Hancock — captain of the men’s lacrosse team — is the treasurer, coach, manager and administrator. All in one. Unlike Delgado, Hancock is passionate about making lacrosse a varsity sport. Not because he wants publicity, but because he wants professional coaches, reasonable practice times, locker room space and game transportation. The men’s team isn’t as fortunate as the women: they don’t have volunteer coaches.

“Being club is hard because we get whatever is left,” Hancock said.

Hancock, along with his two co-captains, have turned around the men’s lacrosse program. As previous years have been dry in membership, Hancock prayed for more men to show interest in the lacrosse program at Bethel. A few minutes later, he received emails from students from the University of Minnesota who were interested in playing at Bethel.

Now, Bethel has a full team of 16. More than enough.

Both teams expect big things this coming season, and they don’t care if they get recognized.

 

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