The University of Richmond’s men’s club lacrosse team continues to gain legitimacy as it begins its first season playing under the varsity club title.
The team gained varsity club status last semester, which is a new term used nationally to describe a sport that resembles a varsity sport, but is not formally recognized as one, said Tom Roberts, the director of the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness. The team benefits from many of the same things varsity sports teams do, such as paid coaches and trainers, the use of coach buses for away games and university equipment and uniforms, he said.
A less tangible advantage the team has received since gaining status as a varsity club is the changed mindset of the players, said junior Clay Palmer, one of the team captains.
“We no longer feel like guys who all played lacrosse in high school,” he said. “We understand [that] we represent the university now.”
With that understanding comes an entirely new level of commitment for the team, which now practices four to five times a week as opposed to last year’s two, Roberts said.
“A lot of it comes down to commitment,” said head coach Glenn Carter, who began coaching the team in October. “They have to be willing to make the transition to something serious and put their priorities in order, starting with their family and faith. Number two should be their academics and number three should be lacrosse.”
Managing these priorities has been one of the team’s biggest challenges thus far because many of the players are involved in a number of activities off the lacrosse field, Palmer said.
“I understand how difficult it is to maintain commitment to all facets of this campus before you feel as if you are spreading yourself too thin,” he said.
Despite this challenge, the players have continued to push themselves harder, which is ultimately what will keep the program going in the direction it is, said senior Russell Gong, who is also a team captain.
“The guys on this team truly push themselves when they are on the field and it’s been contagious,” Palmer said. “The seniors on this program have set the example for this team, which is loaded with underclassmen, and everyone has responded.”
Carter agreed that the team was an eager group, filled with players who loved the sport and were committed to learning. This dedication will help the team establish itself within the ranks of collegiate lacrosse, he said.
Though the team currently plays in the National College Lacrosse League, it aims to move toward the more competitive level of play found in the Men’s College Lacrosse Association, which is just one step below the NCAA, Roberts said.
Like teams in the NCAA, the men’s lacrosse team has also begun recruiting, Gong said. The recruits were coming to Richmond specifically to play lacrosse and had clear expectations that the program was growing, he said.
Roberts said he shared these same expectations. The reason the team was elevated to varsity club status was to evaluate whether there was enough fan and financial support from alumni to consider it for a varsity program, he said.
But before they can achieve full recognition as a varsity sport, the team had more immediate goals to focus on, such as winning the NCLL title this spring, Roberts said.
Within the next few years, the team hoped to make a smooth transition into the MCLA and compete for that championship, Carter said.
The captains said they shared those goals for the future, but also hoped to see the program become defined by more than just what league they played in.
“We want to start a legacy of lacrosse at Richmond,” Gong said.
Contact reporter Liz Aquilino at email@example.com