March 1, 2017
By Tyler Testin ’20
Gold is a color synonymous with the best of the best. Olympians vie for the gold medal. Miners dream of striking gold. At Notre Dame, gold gives a shine to the dome at the center of campus. It is also the color of the practice penny awarded each week to the member of the women’s lacrosse team who best exemplifies a set of six qualities known as the Gold Standard.
“We’ve always had gold standards and we wanted to make it something more visual,” senior midfielder Emma Claire Fontenot said. “It is a good way to honor people who have been working hard and showing good characteristics.”
The team’s seniors come to an agreement each season on specific characteristics encompassed by the Gold Standard. Respect, sacrifice, integrity, commitment, accountability and having fun amount to the current standard. Each week, the previous player designated as the Gold Standard passes on their uniquely colored penny to someone they have observed embodying those qualities.
“It serves as a visual reminder that that person is someone that we can follow their lead and look up to,” senior defender Hannah Rees said.
When an athlete is designated as the Gold Standard-bearer, a letter is emailed to their inbox describing the characteristics they demonstrated during the previous week. A list of responsibilities they must fulfill as the standard-bearer is also outlined in the letter. It reminds the player that they will be the one tasked with choosing the following week’s standard. A lot can go in this decision because anyone on the 30-women roster has the opportunity to be chosen.
“It doesn’t have to necessarily be someone that’s always on the field in games,” Fontenot said. “In the fall a lot of times it can be someone that’s working just as hard, if not harder, than everyone else for playing time.”
Throughout the season all class levels, freshman through senior, are typically represented among the select Gold Standards. The team intentionally did not put a limit on the number of times any one player could be the standard or impose any other sort of restrictions on who can wear the gold penny. The goal is for it to go to the most deserving player each week.
“The person that just had the penny at the end of their week will have watched everyone and then decided who they think deserves the penny the next week based on one or two or however many of these standards, and then that person gets to wear the penny the rest of the week,” Rees said.
In addition to the standard’s serious responsibilities serving as role model and motivator to her teammates, there are other fun benefits to this designation. These rewards include a cape and crown to wear and a feature on the team’s Instagram account.
“This year as a senior class, we added that you get a social media shout-out,” Fontenot said. “It was something that we wanted to make a big deal before this year but we’ve kind of throughout our time here tried to make it more of a big deal.”
The social media emphasis is a relatively new addition to the Gold Standard. Other aspects of the tradition have evolved over the years such as the standard-bearer no longer signing the penny at the end of each week. One thing that has not changed is that the Gold Standard is largely operated and sustained by the players themselves.
“It’s pretty much amongst us, which I think is kind of a cool part of it. It’s like taking it upon ourselves as a team,” Fontenot said. “We can take it upon ourselves to be able to recognize each other and follow each other’s lead without necessarily input from the coaches.”
The No. 8-ranked Irish had strong performances throughout February, going 6-1 and ending the month with three straight road wins. Despite the rigorous travel schedule and minimal time for in-season practices, the team always made time to select a Gold Standard.
“I think it does inspire people, especially doing it weekly. It’s a reminder and it keeps the Gold Standard in the back of our minds all the time,” Fontenot said.
From the slow buildup of practice in the fall to the peak of the spring season, the weekly Gold Standard consistently reinforces the qualities deemed most important by the team leaders. The standard set forth by the selected player shines as an example for all their teammates to achieve. They all have the goal of being gold.
Tyler Testin has been a Fighting Irish Media student writer since August 2016. A Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native, Testin is a freshman at the University of Notre Dame pursuing a degree in electrical engineering.