Sports have slowly been slipping back into fruition, with student-athletes all over the nation attempting to get back into shape after a grueling quarantine phase. This is especially true for the men’s lacrosse team at Fairfield University, who have been seeking to bring back last year’s successes. This upcoming spring, the lacrosse team will take to Conway Field at Rafferty Stadium to test out their offseason preparations and to make a push for the National Collegiate Athletic Association Championship.
Head coach Andrew Baxter has “had some really great mentors” throughout his time on the coaching staff at other universities including Yale, Ohio State, Drexel and Colgate. With all of this experience and passion for the sport of lacrosse, Baxter was given the role of head coach for the Stags last season. He was able to gain lots of insight into the program in his first year of coaching at Fairfield, even with the abrupt end to the season, about which he was obviously disappointed. He stated that “the team was just beginning to grow into their roles” and discover their collective strengths and weaknesses when the season came to a halt..
“Lightbulbs were beginning to turn on in terms of our gameplay,” Coach Baxter said.
With his first full season coming up, he has high hopes that the Stags will be able to go deep into the playoffs and develop a strong team for the future.
Coach Baxter and his team were able to rally and overcome some challenges that COVID-19 presented to them. For example, every Tuesday night, the team gets together for a team Zoom meeting to stay in touch and study the playbook.
Coach Baxter also outlined his ‘October Challenge’ which consists of different activities for his players to complete each day. Each day has three different objectives: connect with a teammate through competition, use a meditation app to relax and revisit a mental performance course that the team took in August.
With the first pillar, he hopes that his players try something new to compete in, like playing chess online. With the second and third objectives, he wants his players to be in a good mental position so that they can be the best lacrosse players that they can be. Another very interesting approach Coach Baxter is taking this season is having his players read a book and discuss it in small groups. He believes that keeping his team stimulated in this way is extremely important to developing the team’s dynamic.
The physical aspect of the game is obviously important as well, especially in lacrosse. The contact of the sport is similar to that of ice hockey or American football, with large hits and swinging sticks.
“Conditioning isn’t as much of a priority as connections are to our team,” Coach Baxter said.
However, it is still crucial to be in shape and understand the game; this is the true embodiment of cura personalis, or the “mind, body and spirit” philosophy that Fairfield carries as a core value. To keep his athletes involved and in shape, Coach Baxter has been holding team workouts which involve lifting, conditioning and stickwork to benefit the team’s high-tempo play.
This year, Coach Baxter and his coaching staff will tweak the playbook so that the team can be the most efficient they can be in terms of goal scoring and defensive strategy. Oftentimes he has his players read through the playbook and study the terms, concepts and strategies that will be utilized. The ultimate goal of this is to eliminate errors in all facets of the game, whether it be on defense, offense or by the goalies.
There is a lot to be excited for; Coach Baxter said that one facet of the season he is extremely excited for is making connections and relationships with his players so that he can relate to them not only on a lacrosse level, but on a personal level as well.
“The future looks like a lot of fun,” Coach Baxter said. “The expectation of hard work is present, but we always make time for fun.”
Students and players alike are abuzz with the excitement of sports returning, and many cannot wait to see the lacrosse team take the field and show off what the Stags are made of.
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