My Experience on the OES Men’s Lacrosse Team

by Charlie Norgaard

My time at OES has arguably been the best four years of my life.

Whether it be listening to VJ’s dreamy voice as he lectures our class about the spiritual significance of synchronicities or me receiving my unfortunately graded midterm from Peter Langley, I have learned to love and appreciate every moment here.

And while I can attribute my appreciation for OES and its community to many things, my most profound and cherished experience was my time on the OES lacrosse team.

When most people talk about their love for a sport, they talk about the amazing plays, the wins, and the trophies; this team was something else.

My freshman year, I distinctly remember sitting down in room 71 with a crowd of fellow lacrosse players. There were at least 40 of us crammed in there and the room was filled with quiet murmurs and all eyes darted back and forth between fellow players and a sturdy man with an intimidating 5’o’clock shadow who was standing confidently in front of the whiteboard: Dennis Sullivan (“Sully”).

Usually, when a coach welcomes new players they’ll start with something like, “Welcome everybody!” or “Boy, am I excited for this season!”. It was quite the opposite with Sully. Instead, he started with something along the lines of, “This program is not for the faint of heart. If you can’t commit to the demands of this program, then this isn’t the team for you.” Of course, as a 3A school, this is just about the worst thing you can say to a group of potential players. I remember sinking in my chair, wide-eyed, thinking, “What the hell have I gotten myself into?” The next meeting, there were only 30 of us.

My freshman season was not an easy one for me. Not only was I comparable in size to an especially large sardine, but the JV team also practiced with the Varsity boys, and of course, all seven Varsity defensemen averaged a height of 6’4 and weighed at least 200 pounds. Great. To make matters worse, my brother was a senior at the time, and he salivated at any opportunity to make an example out of me. Needless to say, every practice was nearly a fight for my life. But as small as I felt on that team, Sully reminded me, along with the other JV players, “You are as valuable to this program as anyone else here.”

That’s what the OES Men’s Lacrosse program was all about – being part of something bigger than yourself. When that season ended in the quarterfinals, I cried. In fact, we all cried. Not because we lost our chance at winning a championship, but because we knew we weren’t going to have the chance to go out on our field for two more practices and a game with each other.

I soon discovered that OES lacrosse was never about the wins, but rather the people. Our coaches always emphasized the importance of following a set of qualities known as the three C’s: courage, compassion, and character. As a team, we learned to love each other unconditionally. Through the good times, and especially through the bad times.

When we forgot about winning and focused on playing for each other, the success came. I remember my sophomore year, our team had battled our way to the semi-finals where we faced the greatly feared West Linn lacrosse team, who we had previously suffered our only lost to earlier in the season. Our team had about 20 players who looked like a group of middle schoolers in comparison to the small army of about 40 football-playing behemoths. Cam Rafish, the assistant coach at the time, said one simple thing before we took our positions on the field, “Run to run again.”

The big wins and championships didn’t mean anything to us other than that they were symbols of the great things we could do together as a team. Being part of this team taught me more about myself, and life in general, than any other class or experience at OES. I am eternally grateful for everything that I have learned from my teammates and coaches, past and present. This experience has shaped me as a young man and I know that I am a better person because of my time on this team. So, to all of those who supported me while I was on this team, thank you.