For some players, the peak of their career can be narrowed down to one season, one game or one moment. Maybe every member of the crowd cheered their name as they scored the winning goal against their most vexing rival, or they broke the 70-year scoring record by themselves within their first season.
While these players will boast of their achievements–as they should–they will never know what it truly means to be a team player. On the contrary, junior attack Jackie Martin of the women’s lacrosse team is not concerned with individual garnishments. Success for her is just as much winning games as it is bettering the players around her to form a strong team bond.
“I look to accomplish team cohesion and to grow individually as well as grow with my teammates to learn discipline, teamwork and respect,” Martin said.
As one of the inaugural members of the team, Martin has watched the program build from the ground up; an experience that none after her will encounter. Because of this, it is easy for incoming players to feel out of touch walking onto this team of established trail blazers. However, Martin is constantly mending that gap with an inclusive personality that puts everyone’s uneasiness to rest.
“Jackie always has a smile on her face and her humorous personality makes her approachable and relatable,” freshman midfielder Amanda Rom said. “Coming in as a freshman, she reached out to me and made me feel a part of the team. I’m never nervous to talk to her about anything and I know she always has my back on and off the field.”
For Martin, she thrives off of the coexistence of people seeking a common goal. In terms of sports, she chooses to see the game as bigger picture.
While wins keep a team healthy, losses build character. Applying what you have learned from the ebbs and flows of success and failure in a season to the ever-so-relatable ups and downs of everyday existence, Martin takes away so much more from her experiences with lacrosse than how to pass a ball or score a goal. The beauty in a team sport for her is learning how to better manage both herself and others around her.
“My decision to play lacrosse was based on loving a team sport. I also wanted to take lacrosse as a learning opportunity to grow and mature as a person,” Martin said. “I have accomplished learning how to balance work, school and lacrosse, while also growing in a team environment. Also, observing a complex set of diversities and learning how to respond to various personalities.”
Personally, Martin has assumed the role of motivator on her team. Her players look to her to push them to go above and beyond, both mentally and physically in games and practices. Not only does she challenge them during practice sprints by taunting them to race her when she’s in “turbo mode,” but she has also taken on the responsibility of setting the tone of the game before they even step on the field.
“[Jackie] gives a hell of a pre-game pep talk,” Rom said. “She pumps us up for our games as she leads our team cheers. She really wants the team to succeed.”
While this has become almost a ritual before every game, one particular pep talk stood out as more uplifting than the rest and set a precedent for the level of energy that the team needs to achieve every time they step out on the field. In a game against the imposing Limestone College, for the first time announcers were distinguishing Tampa as a threat. And while Martin admits that she ignited a flame within her teammates that night, naturally she refuses to take all the credit.
“I can say that I got the team pretty pumped up for that game. It felt great to notice that all of our hard work was being recognized,” Martin said. “But it is a team sport so nothing is individual. We have to do everything together.”
Tess Sheets can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org