Dec. 9, 2014
— Nick Beals (’18)
From Italy to Seattle and everywhere in between, the University of Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team found several ways to stay busy in the “offseason”.
An exhilarating 2014 campaign witnessed the Fighting Irish advance to the national championship game for the second time in five years. With the 2015 season two months away, the squad expects to be highly ranked again and understand they must be prepared for anything that may come their way.
While accomplishments, like advancing deep in the NCAA Tournament, are earned on the field, it is often the offseason that not only prepares the players for the season to come physically and mentally but also brings the team closer together.
Fighting Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan says his goal is for his players to enjoy the “best experience in college sports,” and this offseason exemplified Corrigan’s philosophy. The Irish enjoyed a variety of experiences, from traveling the country and world to taking part in several networking and community service events.
Following the loss to Duke in the national title game in late May, the Irish traveled as a team to Italy, which included stops in Milan, Florence and Rome. The trip wasn’t entirely about sightseeing and tourist stops, the Irish competed against the national teams from Great Britain, Italy and Norway.
Junior attackman Matt Kavanagh, a two-time All-American, said it was a unique experience not only because the Irish faced teams from around the world but also because the players and coaches on those squads were familiar with the Irish players and the success of the program in recent years.
Additionally, Kavanagh said trips like these allow the team to build chemistry by breaking away from the daily routine and putting the players in an unfamiliar environment.
“You really get close to your roommates on the road,” says Kavanagh. “It’s usually a guy from the same position as you so you’re able to build that chemistry off the field, which will also help on the field.”
Corrigan echoed similar sentiments. He believes experiencing different cultures adds to the perspective of both the players and coaches.
“Traveling provides players with a rich variety of experiences with teammates, which are good for helping a team bond,” says Corrigan. “It gives the team perspective on what they’re doing. They know that Notre Dame cares about them not just on the field, but off the field. It builds the culture that we want in our program.”
Corrigan understands that having a successful season and making a run in the NCAA Tournament requires a team to handle adversity and block out distractions. He believes trips like these only strengthen his team.
“It helps at the end of the year when the team wants to be the most experienced team that can handle any obstacles,” Corrigan says.
The Fighting Irish also were able to gain valuable experience during their fall break trip to Seattle. Notre Dame squared off against the United States Men’s National Team, a squad that has won nine of eleven World Lacrosse Championships. The mid-October exhibition contest was part of the NCAA Seatown Lacrosse Classic.
Although the Irish led for much of the game, they eventually were defeated 17-14. However, Kavanagh was impressed with the effort that he saw from the Irish.
“They’re the best in the sport,” the Irish attackman says. “We had a pretty competitive game, and I thought we could have won that game.”
Corrigan knows that as a head coach his responsibilities extend beyond competition. He is not only the leader of the team on the field but also knows it is his job to help his players in any way that he can so that they are prepared for life after lacrosse.
“We’re trying to help guys get jobs,” Corrigan, who is entering his 27th season with the Irish, says. “We’re trying to give them opportunities to tie into the Notre Dame network, the lacrosse network and the people who can help them professionally when they get out of school.”
While the Irish were in Seattle during fall break, they visited Microsoft and Amazon. Later that week, members of the team traveled to New York City to network with alumni working on Wall Street and other various companies.
Kavanagh said having so many accomplished alumni is a major perk of attending Notre Dame.
“It’s a huge benefit and we’re lucky to reach out to these guys who are willing to help us in any way,” Kavanagh says.
Like Kavanagh, Corrigan praises the Notre Dame alumni across the country.
“We have to be successful on the field, but I also think we have to make sure our guys are engaged in everything they can be on campus in order to get the most out of the experience,” Corrigan says. “Notre Dame gives us those opportunities [to help his players network]. At Notre Dame, you have the resources, opportunities and interest from people around the country.”
In addition to traveling and networking, Corrigan and the coaching staff have placed a heavy emphasis on the importance of community service.
“We’re the fortunate few,” Corrigan says. “Everyone at Notre Dame understands we’re fortunate to have the opportunities and blessings that we do. We certainly feel like we should give back to the communities we are involved with.”
A staple of the team’s service mission is mentoring children at schools in the South Bend area. The Fighting Irish program also helped establish the Playing for Peace initiative, which uses sports to unite people around peace and justice. In late October the team held the third annual Playing for Peace day of service in Chicago. The work helps Catholic schools and this year’s project took place at St. Malachy School.
The event was co-hosted by O.W.L.S (Outreach With Lacrosse & Schools) Lacrosse, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to starting transformative lacrosse programs for inner-city schools and low-income communities. The Notre Dame program and O.W.L.S. Lacrosse have built a strong relationship over the last several years.
“It’s all about helping and giving back,” says Kavanagh. “The more hands on deck, the easier it is for students and teachers. We’re treated very well so it’s our way of giving back and being thankful for what we have. It’s really a humbling experience.”
It has once again been a very eventful offseason for the Irish. Kavanagh says as a member of the lacrosse team, there really is no offseason. For the Irish, they are always thinking one step ahead.
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1st NDLax arrivals at Snoqualmie Falls
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The Irish signing post game autographs for young fans pic.twitter.com/PsEKddMk1n
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Early morning mentoring session at Dickinson School. pic.twitter.com/3Ix4phLh3h
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Dickinson School mentees have arrived at Arlotta to meet their mentors. pic.twitter.com/Z2UUTm0JD6
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