I strongly believe gratitude is one of the strongest proponents of happiness, and although at times it can be incredibly difficult, I really try to find at least something small to be grateful for every day not just on Thanksgiving. 

Many times, the big ones come to mind for us, like family, friends, and the health of ourselves and those around us. For me, the one that always comes up on the list is the sport of lacrosse. 

At the age of five-years-old, I had no idea what I was getting into. Despite the ups and downs mentally later on, lacrosse has always been my oasis as both a player and coach. I was always a shy, quieter kid, definitely a follower, which makes sense if you've ever met my siblings. Once I started playing goalie I was able to find my space where I could be loud, animated and looked to for direction. It filled me with confidence in myself. 

My first year of lacrosse at age 5.

My first year of lacrosse at age 5.

I don’t even know where to start thinking about what lacrosse has given me. Lacrosse taught me how to work hard, like really work hard. Like when you feel like your body can't move and you can't breathe and you keep going, that kind of hard. When it's freezing out and you have to get outside and play wall ball and run sprints so you can just feel the air crush your lungs, that kind of hard.

I learned some tough but good life lessons, like sometimes things don’t work in your favor or the way you’d like, but when you persevere things end up happening the way they’re supposed to. I can’t tell you how many times knowing this has helped me. 

Lacrosse gave me friendships, most of them I probably wouldn’t have formed if I wasn’t playing lacrosse with them. On my Stanford team alone, we had so many personalities, from so many different backgrounds, and coming from across the country. We all were able to bond and form connections over this amazing game. 

When I worked at WINNERS, I was able to use lacrosse to bring these great things to other kids and families. You could see the impact the game was having in each of their lives. Yes, you could maybe say well that’s team sports. I’m biased clearly, but I’ve just found going into all the schools I did, and talking to over 1,500 students in the time I was there, that there is something special and unique about this game. There is a space for every kind of person in this game, and the beauty of it still growing is that the kids feel like they can make It “their” thing. I’ve heard this a lot from students I worked with there. 

Last week I had breakfast with a former WINNERS player and parent. Now in high school, her mom wanted to sit down with me before I left to tell me how much lacrosse and me coaching her daughter impacted their lives. I knew this game had the power to do create positive change, but wow, I was blown away. Her daughter was never interested in sports, until this one. She saw her daughter change and thrive through playing the sport, and now she’s continuing to grow at private high school which is something they hadn’t considered prior to lacrosse. I told all the girls, whoever wants to play goalie I will teach you, and she was one of the few who jumped right in. She wants to continue playing, and I’m so happy I formed a bond with this family and look forward to seeing all of her success in the future. 

Now lacrosse is providing me another opportunity to go to California, empower girls, and teach them this amazing game. It really is incredible what one sport can do, and this is why the work that organizations like WINNERS is doing is so important. I am so grateful for what this sport has given to me, that I plan to give back and donate today, on Giving Tuesday, to WINNERS. If you’re able to I hope you’ll join me in helping grow the game and create unimaginable change in the lives of youth in DC. If you’re unable to donate, please share or post about organizations doing the same work!