Whether it’s the order in which gear is put on, the pattern of their warm-ups, or something as simple as their choice in stretches, every sports team has its own rituals. For the Whittier College Men’s Lacrosse team, those rituals are practically set in stone. Each member of the team participates in pregame rituals to get themselves pumped up and ready to take on their next opponent.
As far as practice goes, the team’s schedule is consistent. Practices are held Monday through Saturday, each consisting of about two hours of hard work. This year, Men’s Lacrosse has a slightly smaller team, so practice consists of high-intensity drills to prepare the team for their games. “We do a lot of one on one work, a lot of uneven situations, and we typically go six on six,” said senior captain Nick Angileri. “All of this is to get a real game feel.”
There are specific pregame warm-up rituals that the team endures before every game. “We just do a simple warm up without our gear; it just mainly consists of shooting for the defensive players and a little bit of footwork for the defensive players,” said Angileri who is also a midfielder. “As we progress closer to the game, we move up to the locker room and in that time we have about ten minutes amongst each other to pump each other up and give each other energy.”
Suited up in their helmets and gear, ready for battle, the Men’s Lacrosse team take to the field to warm up. As the sounds of AC/DC, Alice in Chains, and Korn sound out onto the field, the team gets into formation during warm-ups, becoming one cohesive brainwave. “That just brings a lot of hype to the team,” said Angileri.
Having captains allows the team to move as one unit. “You have to be authentic,” said Angileri. “You have to bring your own message, your own energy, and try to connect with as many players you possibly can to build cohesion within the team. It’s not so much saying everything right all the time, but more so carrying yourself and conducting yourself with a manner that brings the team together.”
Not surprisingly, how the captains are chosen is yet another ritual for the Men’s Lacrosse team. At the beginning of the season, the captains are chosen by filling out a sheet designed by the team’s coach. The sheet consists of questions that depict characteristics of a captain, such as hard work, progress, how a person carries themselves, or a player who brings the team closer to being more cohesive. For each question the players put three names of those who best embody that question. The sheets are then assessed by coach and captains are chosen off of that.
This year, those captains are Angileri, senior midfielder Nick Hernandez, and senior defenseman Alex Hernandez. All captains have a role of their own. “There are not necessarily defensive and offensive captains,” said Alex Hernandez. “But with myself being a defender, and [Nick Hernandez] primarily playing offense, we do tend to focus on those areas. Nick Angileri plays on both sides of the ball and does a great job of coordinating within both defensive and offensive.”
Each captain has their own belief of why the team chose them to lead the way. “I think that up until this point I have been one of two guys who have stayed here all four years,” said Angileri. “These four years I have just worked my hardest and progressed as a player and a leader on this team. Naturally, as I became a senior, a lot of the guys looked up to me as a role model. I believe that’s how I got captain.”
“I think I fit into the role as captain because I love to help out my other teammates whenever possible,” said Nick Hernandez. “I live to help others become better. I believe I became captain because of my ability to play lacrosse and my ability to help people out on and off the field.”
The team also puts an emphasis on academics and according, to Alex Hernandez, it helps with his role of captain. “I have found myself in this position due to my mannerisms on the field and in the classroom. We take academics seriously and try to embody the role of what it truly means to be a student athlete. For myself, putting academics as a priority shows the team that academics are important.”
According to Angileri, havinga lot of younger players come in this year and twelve graduating players last year has proved itself to be quite a challenge for the captains, but not impossible. “As captains, there are several roles,” Angileri said. “One is a liaison between coach and the players, so just regurgitating messages and getting word out on things. The main challenge is bringing [the twelve first-year players] up to speed at the collegiate level and just having them buy into what we do as a team.”
As for individual, personal rituals, the team has a few. “I usually like to nap before I play,” said attackman sophomore Jared Holguin.
“I tie my cleats a certain way,” said Angileri. “I have a bad knee so sometimes I heat that up. But other than that, nothing particular. When we go on the road, the ritual may break, like I might not be allowed the same breakfast, or to do the same ritual so I do those two things I’ve mentioned.”
“Before every game I always re-tape my stick,” said Nick Hernandez.
“One big thing for me is the music I listen to. I always have to be listening to music before games,” said junior midfielder Conner Sexton. “There’s a lot of songs that I’ve listened to and played throughout my years as an athlete, so I have a pretty good collection of ‘pre-game’ songs that I always play. Music is something that I have to have.”
The Whittier College Men’s Lacrosse team’s unique dynamic has resulted in their success in the past and will continue to bring them success in the future.