NXTlacrosse features so many different players who have such varying backgrounds and life stories. This is the second story in a series of first-person renditions of those backgrounds and what each player thought and went through. NXT 2017 midfielder and attackman Colby Smith, an Ohio State commit who has emerged as Hempfield's next All-American, continues the series. This is his first-person account of how he had to bide his time before seeing the field for the Black Knights. Click here to read NXT 2017 and Radnor attackman Clayton Proctor's story.
There's really no way to sugarcoat it: not being able to play is an awful feeling.
It's just terrible. You want to go out there and make a difference, but you're told that your time hasn't come yet.
I know because I personally experienced it. When I was a freshman at Hempfield, our coach didn't want to play younger kids. We had a great group of seniors and the philosophy was basically that we were going to run our ones until they were basically dead. The seniors wanted to hit the field on every rep, so there wasn't any time left for the rest of us.
I was always one of the better players on my teams growing up, so not seeing the field much was a shock to the system. I prepared like I was a starter, but when game day rolled around, I'd be relegated to cheering my teammates on and only taking the occasional run. Still, my pride took a little bit of a hit and it ate me up that I was basically told I wasn't good enough to play.
I used it as a chance to be humble. It was pretty frustrating, but it also presented an opportunity to tell myself that maybe there was a reason I wasn't on. I felt like I could have made a pretty big difference, especially as a second-line midfielder. I've always prided myself on my work ethic and I brought a unique skillset to the table, but by the end of the year, I only had 13 goals and four assists. Not bad for a freshman, but a little bit disappointing when there was no doubt in my mind that I could have helped our team go even farther.
That motivation helped me a ton the summer after my freshman year. I had an awesome summer for NXT 2017, and eventually, I committed to being an Ohio State Buckeye. I loved the campus in Columbus and I knew that OSU had a bright future. My good friend Ryan Terefenko, a NXT 2016 midfielder who I've gone up against in high school when we've played Wilson, committed there a month later. It's exciting to be able to play with him and another 2016, Christian Feliziani (Episcopal Academy), and Ohio State is bringing in some really talented recruits. I feel good about our chances to do big things. I ended up attending Nike's The Ride and playing in the Philly Freshman Showcase, Boys Philly Showcase and Maverik Showtime, which rank among the best experiences I've ever had.
I learned so much from my freshman season and it's something that I'll be able to carry over to college. Not playing is definitely a motivating factor. I never want to have that feeling again of almost being ready to play and not playing. I need to maximize my opportunities. At Hempfield, I'd show up before practice and stay after, getting shooting reps to make sure both my left and right hands were almost equal, and making the most of the reps I'd get during the games.
Maybe it was a good thing that I didn't get to play. It gave me plenty of motivation, and when I finally got the chance to play a lot as a sophomore for a new coach, I think I showed what I can do. I'm very blessed to have these opportunities to play a high level of lacrosse. It's cool to see where I've come from. Nothing's ever been given to me. I've always had to work for it. I played with some unbelievably skilled players, like Zach Ward, who's at Cornell now, and Chris Brogan, and I put up 86 goals and 23 assists at attack. This year, I'm also playing midfield in addition to attack because that's where my team needs me. It's kind of cool to see young guys playing a lot, too. It's a nice change to see freshmen like NXT 2019 Cam Aksu and Matt Heuston out there. Our freshman and sophomore classes have a lot of potential, and they're learning on the fly.
No one's ever satisfied with their playing time. Guys who get one run per game want 10, guys who get 10 want 20, and guys who get 20 never want to come off the field. It's only natural. My advice is to always focus on the positives. Just keep moving forward. There are always more hours to put in the work. If you're putting in the work, you're going to see results, and when you do get your chance, make everyone question why you weren't playing.
Trust me, it works out in the long run.