By: Megan Moore
Assistant Women’s Lacrosse Coach
I’ve been traveling a lot lately. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving break Brooke and I headed down to Naples, Florida for the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Annual Meeting and high school recruiting tournament. Do I dare stir the already over-heated pot and discuss airport security? There were no pat-downs involved and we made it to all of our gates unscathed. So I do not dare, and would prefer to keep the post much less controversial.
It’s intimidating when you realize that you’re going to spend three days in the presence of some of the greats of your sport and profession. Perhaps this isn’t as ironically funny to the rest of you as it was to Brooke and me, but there is nothing like scoping out a dinner table on the fringe of the patio only to have the one and only Jen Adams approach us, introduce herself as if we might not have known her to be the greatest player of all time, and ask to join. I haven’t often found myself in a situation like that, but it’s quite difficult and a little awkward to make conversation with someone whom you and every other girls lacrosse player tried to emulate by wearing your hair in two messy buns and striving to play for the Maryland Terps. “So, how exactly did you perfect that no-angle lefty shot from virtually behind the cage, because I never could quite get that one,” didn’t really seem appropriate. Instead I played it cool, said about six words to her, and managed to give a friendly smile and maybe mouthed hello in passing for the remainder of the convention.
One would think having spent significant time with one great in particular that I wouldn’t suffer from such intimidation. Jan Hathorn ranks right up there with the best of the best in women’s lacrosse and was so deservedly honored at this year’s convention with the Diane Geppi-Aikens Memorial award. It’s next to impossible to summarize Diane’s triumphs, spirit and valor and the impact she had on the game. If you are not familiar, Diane was the 13-year head coach of the Loyola College Women’s Lacrosse team, leading them to 10 trips to the NCAA tournament and seven to the Final Four. For eight of those 13 years she battled brain cancer. In 2003 she coached the Greyhounds to a National Semi-Final appearance, only one month before the cancer took her life. Jan accepted the award on Thursday night with grace and charisma and it was her telling of stories and the camaraderie that ensued after the banquet that inspired a shift in my sentiments from intimidation to humility. It was awesome to see and hear some of the most winningest coaches and former players congratulate Jan and share their remembered tales. I felt an overwhelming sense of community and pride for the game and a new understanding of what so many of those people have given to it to help shape what it’s become today. In spending so much of their lives dedicated to the sport they have formed lasting bonds with each other. And the coolest part is they’ve become great friends, despite being or having been fierce competitors on opposing sidelines. It was not only the success of these people that made the experience so awe-inspiring, but their genuine and unassuming demeanors and as Brooke so aptly put it, “that they are truly good people.”
I was also fortunate to get the chance to spend time with former teammates and opponents who have become some of my best friends. We absorbed our surroundings, listened to many passionate debates about NCAA tournament seedings and shooting-space rules, and happily recounted the glory days. But not without realizing just how large of shoes we face to fill; there seemed to be an unspoken understanding between the younger generations that at one point all of those coaches who we’ve come to admire were in our positions, wide-eyed and star-struck and anxious to prove themselves.
I can’t say that the celebrity sighting wore off completely, as I was very aware of the legend joining us on our flight home and am pretty sure I adamantly caught Brooke’s attention to let her know that Gary Gait was sitting three rows ahead and across the aisle from us. I watched from afar with envy as another ODAC coach tossed his carry-on in the bin and saddled up in the seat next to Mr. Gait’s. But I couldn’t be bitter remembering the knowledge, inspiration and experience I’d gained in the few days prior. Besides, I’d already had dinner with Jen Adams, and who gets lucky enough to have two encounters with celebrities in one weekend?