Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lacrosse Longings

(Note: I wrote this a couple of days ago but waited to post until the event had come and gone, for security reasons.)

I spent a couple hours outside this afternoon watching a local high school choir and band rehearse for National Day. Yes, America's National Day is July 4th. And yes we're celebrating it in March. Why? Heat. Humidity. Summer Vacation. All these elements make it untenable to hold an outdoor event in July, so we re-appropriated a day in March. Makes sense, right? Anyway. I can take no credit for any National Day planning - that goes to some very capable and hard-working colleagues who should be proud of their effort. But today they invited me to help with anthem rehearsal. And being outside with a group of high school students, on a not-too-hot and not-too-humid day in March, it made me nostalgic. At first I couldn't quite figure it out, but it hit me late in the day.

It's lacrosse season!

When I was still living in NH and teaching and then working in international education, I had the good fortune to coach JV girls' lacrosse for several seasons. I fell into the job - my intention had been to start out volunteering with younger players - but it was an amazing experience. The Varsity coach was, and still is, an amazing role model and mentor, and I owe a debt of gratitude to her for imparting so much wisdom to me. I only wish I could have absorbed more of it! The athletes were wonderful young women; it's hard to believe, but some have graduated high school and even college by now. How time flies.

I absolutely love lacrosse, despite the toll it has taken on me. I played for three years in high school, though each season ended early with a devastating knee injury and then major surgery. To be fair, the first year I think I hurt my knee right after lacrosse ended, and the injury actually happened during a game of flag football. Spending as much time on the sidelines as I did, I memorized the rules and developed at least a mediocre feel for the game's intricacies. In college, I was privileged to manage the women's team for the three years I was on campus. Our lacrosse program was one of the best in the nation; the team went to the NCAA championship game twice while I was there. Spending so much time watching some of the best lacrosse players in the world and learning from world-class coaches just made me love the game that much more. (And the fourth knee injury occurred my freshman year during lacrosse season but, again, in a game of flag football.) I still try to catch games whenever I'm near a college program. In NH, the school where I coached was right down the road from Dartmouth, another top college program, so I had ample opportunity.

So for three years, March meant to me the beginning of lacrosse season. And one of the great things about lacrosse was that I got to spend 2-3 hours outside every day. At the end of winter and beginning of spring, this was a fragrant and sense-rich time in NH, so the memories are very linked to sights and smells for me. Wet parking lots, melting snow, damp grass, mud, and, eventually, blooming flowers, leaf buds on trees, freshly-mown grass, the sound of lawnmowers, and numerous other springy sensations. I love it! (And, you had to expect it, my fifth knee surgery occurred a week before lacrosse season started one of those years. This time the injury was far less interesting. I tore my meniscus reaching to get socks out of a drawer. Perhaps that will clue you in on how I was able to hurt my knees so easily so many times before. I am slightly accident-prone...)

So standing outside today with a bunch of high schoolers was just the right combination of things to make me nostalgic and happy. (Even though it was 92, dusty, and far more humid than a NH spring...)

Last spring was the first time I wasn't involved in lacrosse in a while, and I went through withdrawal. I never made it home for a game, but I did make one late-season practice. It wasn't enough, but it was great. This year, I may make it home just at the very end of the season, during playoff time, if I'm lucky. We'll see.

This spring is hard, too, because I don't have any local lacrosse to go watch. No high school or college teams, not even a (*gasp*) men's game. (Men's lacrosse is VERY different from women's. Almost a different sport altogether.) I do have my lacrosse  sticks here with me, but it's just not the same. So for the time being, I guess I'm content for those fleeting moments when it feels like a NH spring.

Unfortunately, the last few days have only resembled a NH spring in that the weather was wacky. Haze, zero visibility, low humidity, unseasonably hot temperatures, dust storms, rain, thunderstorms, and, oddly, clouds of dragonflies were all present. I've never seen Jeddah weather like that before. Schools preemptively canceled for two days. Universities too. Hospitals operated with skeleton staffs. And many workers scurried home as the first drops fell. I don't blame anyone. But, it has yet to rain for more than an hour or so with any significant precipitation. Wait and see.

One other sign of spring, though - St. Patrick's Day. May you find your very own pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Or your very own leprechaun. Whatever floats your boat. Me, I will be celebrating my Irish heritage in KSA. Hey, the flag is green, right?