April 4, 2000
by Paul Camarata
Ask him about the development of his own role or approach this season on the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team, currently ranked #15 in the country, and Stedman Oakey’s answers are brief. If four years of college lacrosse have given him a lot to say, then Stedman Oakey isn’t talking. Not unless it’s about his teammates.
“We all need to make sacrifices for the betterment of everyone. It’s a team game and we’re a pretty tight team,” says the senior midfielder.
Hailing from Charlottesville, Va., the 6-1, 187-pound Oakey is a native of arguably the most searing lacrosse hotbed in the nation. Kids growing up in that mid-Atlantic region are often reared on the game and, if Oakey is any indication, the unselfish attitude that is so vital to it’s play.
“I came from a pretty good high school program, which helped prepare me for the college game,” he says. “I played attack there, but in college I just wanted to get on the field.”
To say that he only “got on” the field as an attack man is hardly indicative of the year Oakey had as a freshman. Referees and goal posts and sidelines all get on the field. Oakey, instead, was all over it. He wasted little time, notching a goal and an assist in his first collegiate game against Penn State. He also netted perhaps the season’s best individual scoring performance with four goals and an assist in a 20-7 win over league rival Ohio State.
As his freshman year progressed, Oakey began to see action in the midfield as well as at attack. Not only did this versatility help him play another twelve games as a sophomore, but it earned him nine starts in that 1998 season.
“Attack is probably my natural position, but when coach asked me to switch, I didn’t even hesitate,” Oakey explains. “That’s what’s real cool about our team, that we’re always looking out for each other. I’ve been on a lot of teams in the past that aren’t like that. Everyone on our team is sacrificing a lot, and playing different positions is part of that.”
The way that Oakey talks, mentioning sacrifice as much as any priest, it’s appropriate that high school led him Notre Dame. His prep success offered him several collegiate choices but, as you might expect from a guy who says he has no favorite position, Oakey was most attracted to the Irish for the spirit he received from his potential future teammates.
“I was recruited at North Carolina, Navy and Penn State as well, but I came and had a really good time on my recruiting trip. I think that was more than any reason why I came out here.”
From these influences of his older teammates, Oakey took the lessons that have helped him become a teacher in his senior year. “As a freshman you’re real impressionable, and I think you look up to guys. I definitely did it and now I feel like I’m in that position. Hopefully I’ll show a good example to the younger guys.” It’s more than hopeful that his presence will be felt by his teammates.
After playing in fourteen more games as a junior, mostly in the midfield, Oakey returns with impressive credentials that have already earned him high praise from his head coach.
“Stedman has gotten better with each season,” head coach Kevin Corrigan says. “He has matured in every way possible and will be an important leader for is in the midfield.”
Of this season’s course, Oakey is typically quick to distribute both praise and responsibility equally among the team.
“It’s been an up and down season so far, but I think the biggest upswing is still to come,” he says. “I think it’s important for us to come out and play the way we need to play. We can’t play the same game as Virginia or Johns Hopkins or Syracuse. But if we come out and play the way we need to play, a defensive game that takes care of the ball, I think we can play with anyone.”
It’s hard not to believe his sincerity after the way he’s explained things. The things he explains being his team, mostly, since it’s nearly impossible to make Oakey talk about himself. To speak with him is to be constantly aware of how lacrosse has ingrained in Stedman Oakey the value of mutual effort.
“It’s a team game,” Oakey repeats again, “and we’re a pretty tight team.”
He reminds you one more time. As if he’d ever let you forget.