Dear Impressionable College Freshman with an Animal House Poster on the Wall:
As you very well know it's the start of a new college year. As you’re moving onto campuses that you may not be all that familiar with, you’re likely scouring the Internet looking for advice on how to get the most out of college. Well, just four years ago I was in your shoes, about to embark on a college journey at Syracuse University. Like you, I hopped on my computer at the hotel and read a bunch of different articles on what to do at my new school. Then I got the stupid bird flu that first weekend and I only knocked off "FRIDAY NIGHT ICE SKATING!" off the list. But now, with my brother off to Oneonta to start his college life, I figured I help out all you newbies with some additional wisdom. There’s just one issue: This is a lacrosse blog, so I'm going to drill something in your head that you won't use until February.
I'll begin with the usual stuff regarding general college life:
- Have fun, but put your studies first. (If you’re going to waste $150,000, at least do it by buying terrible property or something.)
- Ditch your high school varsity jacket.
- Try and get your classes out of the way at the outset so you can be living the minimum-required credits-high-life by the time you're a senior.
- Fake IDs are overrated. (I made out just fine without one my first two and seven-sixteenths years of college and I wasn't breaking the law. Your summer and break time mileage, however, will vary.)
- Go out there and meet all sorts of new friends and try new things.
- Don't worry, your friends from back home will still be there for you. Just keep in touch and remember that those close to your heart will remain that way if you choose.
Hooray! That takes care of the generic stuff. Now onto the fun stuff.
By all means, when you step onto campus, support the football team and the basketball team. If you've got a hockey team or a soccer team or even a baseball team (as much as we know that's an inferior spring sport), do that too. But if you go to the 296 schools that sponsor men's lacrosse, whether that be at the Division I, II, or III levels, my first piece of advice is this:
GO TO YOUR SCHOOL'S GAMES!
Even if you aren’t at Bill Tierney’s level of sophistication about lacrosse, going to a game is the best way to gauge whether or not you'll get hooked onto the sport. And trust me, lacrosse games can be a lot of fun. I won't blame you if you're not going to an early season game in 30 degree weather with light flurries (SPRING SPORT!) or a matchup in a complete downpour, but treat yourself and go to a rivalry game or a game when you've got nothing else to do on a Saturday. And hey, even if the weather sucks for the game you go to, you'll have some memories that you can talk about with your friends (and maybe you’ll even meet some new ones while sitting uncomfortably on metal bleachers). I myself still talk about freezing at a game at Hofstra, being in a monsoon at Princeton, dealing with snow at Colgate, and being in a climate controlled 70 degree Dome while lake effect snow was going on ou . . . never mind. But yeah, go out and support your team and hopefully you'll fall in love with the game like we did.
Let's say you don't go to a school with lacrosse, but you played it in high school or you're a fan of the game anyway. Then I offer you this suggestion:
CONTINUE TO FOLLOW THE SPORT!
Chances are, if you don't have a men's lacrosse team, you have a women's lacrosse team. It may not be exactly the same, but the games are still fun to go to (and if you make friends with some of the players they're a gas to be around with). You also probably have a club lacrosse team at your school. If you ever wanted to play lacrosse past the high school level and NCAA lacrosse didn’t work out for you, this is a cool opportunity to try out and possibly make a team. You’ll get to represent your university like the big boys and go around to different schools; most importantly, it allows you to keep playing the game you love. But even if you’re not good enough to make it, that isn’t a problem -- many club teams have pretty developed schedules, allowing you the opportunity to see some games in unique venues, especially if a varsity team is kicking around campus.
You can also continue to follow the sport really easily these days thanks to all the coverage available to you. The ESPN family of networks has lacrosse on virtually every Saturday from late February on, CBS Sports Network's got the Patriot League, and NBCSN and Fox Sports 1 also have their share of games for you to catch on the telly. Schools and conferences also offer streams for their games (some free, some at a cost) that you can fire up on your computing device. The Internet's got a whole slew of resources for daily news and live blogs, too. So yeah, if you start finding yourself becoming a lacrosse fan, feel free to hop here at College Crosse and contribute your thoughts on the game or check out some of the other blogs the web has to offer. (But here first. We're ordering you to do so.) Also don't be afraid to follow some lacrosse insiders on your Twitter feed to keep you in the loop.
Next up we've got a very valuable lesson to bring up:
DON'T LISTEN TO THE LAX BRO STEREOTYPE!
You will see an entire floor of girls dress up as "lax bros" for the first night of Halloween weekend. You will hear a bunch of "lax bro" jokes every spring. Ignore that. You, by absolutely no means, need to be a "bro" to be a lacrosse fan. Nor does the stereotype even fit half the players that play at the Division I level. So take your preconceived notions and throw them out the door when you step through the ivy gates at your college
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF GOING TO GAMES SOMEWHERE ELSE!
Is your school offering a bus to an away game? Are some of your friends down to go on a little Saturday drive to catch a game? Do it up! Going into enemy territory or a new place is all sorts of fun for a lacrosse game. As a Syracuse grad, some of my favorite memories were those Tuesday evening road trips down to Cornell to catch a rivalry game. Obviously, remember the golden rule of being respectful of your surroundings and don't cause any trouble. If it's a rivalry you can poke some fun, and by all means go out and cheer on your team. Just don't go there just for the sake of starting problems. You don't want to be banned from another campus for the rest of your life, do you?
This is also an opportunity to visit places you've never seen before. I ended up going to many campuses for the first time thanks to the sport of lacrosse, especially this past season as I've written in my diaries about my experiences. Broaden your horizons a bit and see how other schools do things, all thanks to the magic of lacrosse! Or something like that.
Now, going a bit off of what I said earlier about your friends:
TRY TO MAKE IT OUT TO GAMES THAT PEOPLE YOU KNOW ARE PLAYING IN!
This is quite easy if you're in a lacrosse hotbed, because you probably have at least six friends who play college lacrosse. In addition to rooting for your own school, adopt your friends' teams as your second favorites, and if they're in a division you aren't in, then make them your favorites. Keep tabs to see how they're doing, and if you're able to, go to their games when they're playing near your campus. In fact, probably my three favorite games this past season all involved my friends playing in them (it helped greatly that one was a double overtime upset [at my school's expense], another was an overtime win, and a third was probably the game that restored my faith in women's lacrosse). Obviously if the weather's bad or you're not able to find transportation, don't worry about it. But it can end up being one of the greatest times of your college life seeing your old hometown pals playing in your neck of the woods.
So, there you have it; a little guide for all you fresh faces, helping you become lacrosse fans this spring. Even if you don't end up liking the game (or otherwise ignoring the rest of my advice), at least you will have given it a shot. All in all, buckle your seatbelts, because the best four years of your life (so far) are about to occur. Let it all sink in, don't let it go too fast, and once you get past that initial period of homesickness/hate of commuting, you'll be having a grand ol’ time.