March 6, 2015
Walking behind the red, white and blue flag, Nick Koshansky felt the enormity of the moment. The University of Notre Dame sophomore midfielder was participating in the Opening Ceremony for the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championships in Colorado. However, Koshansky was not playing on the American team. Instead he was following in the steps of his brother, Will, and playing for the Russian national team.
Koshansky, a Kings Park, N.Y., native, has lived in America all his life, yet comes from Russian heritage. His great-grandparents were born in Russia, but his grandparents and father were all born in America.
Koshansky’s brother, Will, a defender for the Rochester Rattlers in Major League Lacrosse, was on the Russian national team and was approached about potential players who could play on the national team in Russia’s first appearance in the FIL Championships. Will suggested that Nick should join the team.
Nick Koshansky accepted the challenge to join Will on the squad despite the fact the Russian team was composed of a majority of Russians, with only a few Americans rounding out the roster. Koshansky was not just younger than many of his teammates but was also from a different country and knew only a few Russian words. For Koshansky, it was the latter that brought about the most difficulties.
“The biggest challenge was the language barrier,” Koshansky says. “There were a few guys who spoke both English and Russian and they would have to help translate.”
The language barrier was only intensified on the lacrosse field, where Koshansky was expected to communicate with his teammates with full knowledge that many of them could not understand English. Despite these difficulties, the lessons Koshansky learned have been extremely rewarding, and he has already seen these lessons pay off this season with the Fighting Irish.
“[I have learned] more about coaching and being a leader and have helped develop leadership skills that I’m taking into my second year,” Koshansky says.
These lessons did not just come from Koshansky being forced to communicate in another language. He was also able to learn because he was required to play more of a leading role with the Russians than he did during his freshman season at Notre Dame. Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan believes that Koshansky’s new role with the Russian team has been great for his progression.
“He got to play a role outside of the role he plays for us, which is another thing that can help him develop as a player,” Corrigan says. “There are a lot of different ways that I think that experience will benefit him.”
Despite being younger than many of his Russian teammates, Koshansky was expected to help them learn and elevate their game by taking on more of a `player-coach’ role. Corrigan expects Koshansky, a short-stick defensive midfielder, to use his experiences to help make him into more of a complete player and leader for the Irish this season.
“Any time you play in a high-level and competitive environment, it’s good for you,” Corrigan says. “I’m sure there was a tremendous amount of pride playing in those games and the pressure that he’s going to put on himself to perform well is definitely going to help his development.”
While Koshansky’s experience with the Russian team has been beneficial for his Irish career, he also believes that the workmanlike attitude that Corrigan and his staff instilled in him (along with the rest of the Irish team) was vital in his ability to help lead the Russians. Koshansky learned during his first year at Notre Dame to work every day as preparation for game day and to not take any days off.
“We believe that the only way to succeed is to focus on what you are doing right now,” Koshansky says. “We prepare on Tuesday so that you can play well on Saturday.”
This attitude was especially important because it was Russia’s first ever Championships. They knew that they would face difficulties because they were competing against teams that had played together for years. However, Koshansky told his team that they could learn lessons from every practice and every moment, regardless of the result.
“We’re going to get better,” Koshansky would tell his teammates. “Let’s keep our heads up and take what we learned from the first scrimmage into the next scrimmage.”
Russia went 2-6 in the Championships, but for Koshansky the true reward was watching the maturation of his teammates.
“It’s great to see the guys grow from one game to the next,” he says.
For Koshansky, his time spent with the Russian national team goes beyond x’s and o’s. It allowed him to reach a new appreciation for his Russian ancestry. As he put on the Russian jersey for the first time, sitting side by side with his brother, Koshansky reflected on his family’s Russian origins.
“I thought back to my parents and great-grandparents,” Koshansky says. “It was an opportunity to represent our heritage.”
While Koshansky did learn some Russian through his teammates’ teaching, his greatest lesson learned from them was a renewed sense of nationalism for his great-grandparents’ home country. Because Koshansky was born in America, he has always felt very patriotic towards the United States. However, this experience allowed him to appreciate his ancestral home.
“It was a special experience to see how honored they were, and it made me feel really good to be a part of something like that,” Koshansky says. “I felt proud to be of Russian descent.”
— Nick Beals `18