Game-Day Anxiety

by Jessica Derr on March 3, 2017

One would think that after playing lacrosse for 11 years–over half my life–that I would be beyond game-day jitters. Beyond fretting over throwing turnovers, getting beat on defense, and flubbing plays. Beyond stealing glances at the sidelines, terrified of what spectators might be thinking about my performance.  My suitemates can tell you from all my pacing that I haven’t conquered it yet. But on this day, I was at least a little justified in my anxiety–it was my collegiate lacrosse debut.

Without athletics, my life lacked a certain structure and discipline. I needed an outlet that forced me to constantly be better than I was the day before. Which is why I always saw myself becoming a college athlete, regardless of division or district. Physically competing brings a sort of satisfaction and wholeness to my life that I have seldom found elsewhere.

But such things do not come easy. Throughout my high school career, my time was spent at recruiting camps, summer club tournaments, learning my way around a weight room. Upon coming to Arcadia, it was waking up at 5 a.m. for fall ball, practicing in 20-degree weather, and my own personal nightmare, a running test dubbed “The Georgetown.”

All my struggles and triumphs, all my hard work and time, would finally be tested in this first college season. The last thing I wanted was to invest so much of myself into this sport and get nothing in return. No pressure or anything.

Jean Lenox West Field

So on February 22, on an unnaturally warm Wednesday, Arcadia’s women’s lacrosse team set off to Jean Lenox West Field to face our first season opponent, Neumann College. Taking to the turf in rows of two, cleats clicking against cement, clad in pristine white uniforms, I felt every bit apart of an avenging army. There is an immense, sweeping feeling that you get when you are part of a team. In those moments, you are weightless, you are infallible, a part of something bigger than yourself. All my nervous energy turned to pure elation and excitement as we proceeded into warm-ups, our team mix thundering out from the speakers.

Suffice to say, that energy transferred onto the field. We managed to win the first draw, transitioning the ball quickly upfield allowing my teammate, Julia, to score within 48 seconds. That play set momentum for the rest of the game; it wasn’t until nearly two minutes in the second half that the other team scored, but by that point we had already mounted an 11-goal lead.

I originally started the game on the defensive end of the field. Seldom do defenders hear their names said by the announcer or read articles celebrating their accolades. Regardless, I like defense. I’ve played there all my life; it’s where I’m most comfortable. If a defender does their job right, the ball should only be in their end of the field for a short duration. It is only when they make a mistake that others may realize how essential they are to the team. My aunt and former lacrosse coach used to say, “Offense sells tickets, defense wins games.”

Considering how I was already anxious to be in my first college game, imagine how I felt when my coach decided to throw me in as an attacker at the opposite end of the field. Whereas my previous position required thwarting the plays of opposite team or shutting down shots, now I was the person responsible for making goals. Each time the ball got into the attacking end, inside I felt like a chicken with its head cut off. I managed to hit some good passes to set my teammates up for scoring opportunities, so I guess I did not fail in my new role. I’m not completely satisfied with my performance, but confidence will only come with time and practice.

But if there is anything I am confident about, it’s our team going into this season. A lot of people are underestimating us–on the MAC Commonwealth Coaches’ Preseason Poll, we were ranked second to last. But if our 16-2 opener hasn’t proved that we are a new team, a better team, a team not to be underestimated, the rest of the season certainly will–one nerve-wracking game at a time.