BY DAN WINDHOLZ
After a short monologue in prayer, sophomore Tracy McClelland finished with “In His name, we play.” Although she had intended to end with ‘pray,’ the young offensive MVP from last season had just uttered the phrase that would motivate the girls of her team and would eventually be adopted as the team’s motto.
Maura Conant, head of the Women’s Lacrosse team, works with her knowledge of field hockey, her inspirational team, both past and present, discipline and accountability, and their new motto to motivate the players for the upcoming spring season. Comparing and contrasting last year’s team and this year’s team, Conant makes a property improvement simile.
“It’s like in last year’s team, we were clearing shrubbery and mud away; it wasn’t pretty or fun, and it was very tough,” Conant said. “But it was necessary and built character in the team, myself and my coaching staff. As for this year, we’re putting down bricks and building on little successes, as we have very committed and talented players.”
Conant commented that she was very excited for the players in Austria to return and combine the talent of the incoming players with the experienced members. Conant also confirmed that her seasonal expectations were positively high.
“We definitely have more experience and are in a better mental state,” Conant said. “We’ve gotten used to playing tough teams and playing together.”
The lacrosse coach plans to focus on defense, midfield and draw skills this season. To achieve her goals, Conant focuses her team on game days by forcing them to turn off their social devices. However, Conant’s main coaching technique focuses on accountability.
“If someone isn’t there, we have to know where she is,” Conant said. “And if someone misses, the whole team runs laps together – shared consequences.”
Another factor which promotes accountability is Conant’s partnership requirement. Each girl is paired with another and keeps her accountable for practices, as well as working out together; a three work-out session requirement will be placed in the spring. Conant learned this discipline likely from her background in sports, as she grew up playing field hockey.
“In high school, I started a field hockey club, which went varsity after I left,” Conant said. “I also taught field lacrosse at camps.” Although not participating in sports in college, Conant transferred to Franciscan University as a junior undergraduate history major and continued to get her master’s in counseling. “When I graduated, I wanted to get into high school counseling at home,” Conant said. “But then, I was offered the job as head coach for the women’s lacrosse.”
In spite of her background, Conant had been surrounded by lacrosse all her life and was very ready to make the transition from field hockey to lacrosse.
“It (the transition) was sharp,” Conant said. “I’d always loved sports with sticks, so I picked it up quickly with the help of many good mentors, like the other division III coaches.”
One of Conant’s favorite things about lacrosse and coaching in general is her players and their constant need for growth.
“I’m so inspired by my girls, and how they always strive for growth – both in sports and in their faith,” Conant said.
This need for betterment fuels both Conant and her team to continually praise the Lord both on and off the field, truly echoing the dedication of their motto.