A number of team members were given the opportunity to speak at our end of year team banquet last week: our captains, team leaders, reps from each class, SAAC rep, and more. Here are two speeches from two completely different perspectives. That said, there is one clear similarity — the people come first. Person over player became a theme this season, and it rang true to the very end. The first speech is from Victoria Della Pia, four-year starter at goalkeeper, Positivity-Police chief, All-MIAA pick, and all-around lacrosse superstar. The second, is from head coach, Shanta Loecker, as she reflects on the 2016 season. Enjoy!
I cannot believe the day has really come for the four of us (seniors) to become retired athletes. Quoting my favourite rapper and fellow Canadian, “We started from the bottom and now we’re here” [with lots more to go]. I say this because if you did not know, this team came from a tough beginning. The four of us agreed to play lacrosse for a team that had never won a game. I remember my recruiting visit and the Brits played against Adrian and lost by 25, but man I was so excited for my college journey. Izzy and Julie had similar experiences… except Kadie who wasn’t sure why she chose Albion. Another person who decided to commit and persevere that year with the win-less Brits was Coach. Coach was the best thing that ever happened to this program. Coach has always been an amazing confidant to each one of us, whether it was about school, lacrosse, our futures, or personal issues. Coach has instilled and encouraged such great values upon us and the team. These values are much more than our standards of success, but the words to live by and better yet, life lessons. “We will encounter things that we can’t control, but what matters most is how we control the things that we can” we have all definitely heard this before. I think this is one of the most important life lessons coach has taught us over the years.
Your attitude and your actions matter the most when things are not in your control. It is a very hard idea to grasp, but the constant reminders have engrained this motto into who we are.
Over the years coach has put in more time and love than most coaches. It’s not usual for a team to go from never winning to being a tournament champion three years later and then conference champions four years later. Coach’s whole hearted support is the root of this team. Being a part of this team has been the most rewarding part of college; more than any other organizations. Knowing the four of us have completed this adventure as four year student-athletes is one to be so proud of and honoured for. Every person on this team has had a personal effect on me and all of the other seniors. Cait’s interesting dance moves, Tay’s loud Hulk explosions, Wieg’s goofy commentary, Kristine’s personalized raps, Nat’s questioning ability, Jordan’s love for sports, Mikaela’s boxer mentality, Shannon’s amazing dinosaur braid work, Sabrina’s wise words, Alyssa’s imagination, Alex’s giraffe story , Ari’s insights and love, Freddy’s daily uplifting words, Mikenna’s no mercy attitude, Molly’s koalaing, Coach B’s game day message of set the tone, and Coach’s daily cool, hydrate, and stretch. Together, this team has been one of the most amazing things I’ve ever been a part of and will always be a part of. I love everyone on this team more than you all know and I thank you for allowing me to be part of something bigger than myself.
– Victoria Della Pia, #94, Class of 2016
Victoria (third from right) with the team’s 6 other All-MIAA selections at the awards banquet.
I wanted to take a moment to share a few things with everyone before the year ends…and in true coach fashion, attempt to find some closure for the team this season. I’ve always been more of a writer than a talker, so I wrote some thoughts down for today.
A few weeks before this year’s preseason practices began, I was in a bit of a panic. Some things had happened that felt completely out of my control and I wasn’t sure where that would leave us as a team this season. It’s probably no secret that my biggest fear is somehow letting them down or not setting us up to be successful.
Fast forward, 2 weeks into preseason. We have a few new, unexpected additions. We have a completely new vibe. And in all honesty, I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more confident in a group at Albion so quickly. Not because we had the most talent or skill or experience. But because these kids walked around like CHAMPIONS when they had no real evidence to back it up. Muhammed Ali is famous for saying “I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was.” This team reminded me of that. Two weeks into preseason, I felt ready to win a conference championship. I felt like we could. I knew it would be a process, and I knew we’d have our share of challenges. But it just felt right.
Well, we did that. But, what I’ve realized since then, is okay…8-0 is great. Conference championships are exciting. Sure. But if we base our success on those numbers, those material things…then what are we supposed to think about that 1-goal loss on Saturday, that hit us all like a hard punch in the stomach…? Was it all for nothing? Of course not.
We can’t define our success that way. There is no perspective there. We have to find value in the details, the in-between. When I have a conversation with Ari about increasing diversity on college campuses and the effect that has on the political climate or Sabrina performs the most hilarious stick challenge trick I’ve ever seen or Julie gets more than a little weird. When Kadie wins a competitive drill (wait that’s daily thing) or Iz tells everyone how much she loves them (also a daily thing). When Kristine cracks a joke about putting a tally of the number of times she’s cried in my office on the wall, or Alyssa drops the best pun ever in our inboxes. When Cait forgets she’s in public and goes a little nuts during pregame and pours some sugar on Taylor. Or Jordan basically plays through an injury so well that half the team doesn’t even know it happened. When Mikenna demands point blank for me to tell her that she can’t do something — geez coach, don’t you know how to motivate me by now?? Or Wiegs dominates a completely new position at practice without a word. When Freddy tells us all that her day has been “phenomenal” or V finds the perfect hairstyle to compliment her crazy ways. When Molly agrees to help us pull off the best coaches April Fool’s prank EVER. When Nat practically breaks the bench cam with Brit pride, or Alex looks up at the snow in the middle of practice and says “Look up, it’s beautiful!”. When Shannon sends me a text that she’s glad she’s here at Albion, or Mikaela makes some sad soul on another team basically look like a non-athlete. It’s all the stuff in between — that’s where the real value lies.
We like to go through life with this wonderful idea that if you work hard enough — you can do anything. If you’re good and kind and selfless and honest — the world gives you what you need. Sort of like some weird self-righteous sense of entitlement. The reality is — there are still going be pieces of this game, and pieces of our lives, that we simply cannot control. Which means, sometimes, even when you least deserve it, you fail. Even when you’ve given everything you thought you had, you come up short. Even when your intentions are right, your commitment is visceral, and your focus unwavering, you fall flat on your face in defeat. It’s a lesson we hear over and over again — life isn’t fair.
But I think John Wooden had the right idea when he said, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”
That is what’s so magical about sports. We are experiencing that truth on a daily basis. If there is one thing I genuinely hope you learn on this team, it’s that you have to accept the inevitability of mistakes, that failure is impossible to avoid. We are not perfect. We screw up, and then we get up, learn something new, build our bank of knowledge, and get better, smarter, and stronger so that we’re prepared for the next opportunity that comes our way.
One of the single most important things I’ve learned in the last eleven years of coaching is to enjoy the good things — and this team was one of the best things I’ve ever had the privilege of being a part of. As much as I love lacrosse, it’s just a ball and some turf —the people are the heart of anything and everything that we do. The last four months with this group of people has given me the amazing opportunity to fall in love with coaching all over again. I am so unbelievably grateful for that, and I know with zero uncertainty that the future is bright for this program — because I’m looking at a foundation that cannot be broken.
– Shanta Loecker, Albion College Head Women’s Lacrosse Coach
The 2016 MIAA Champs!