Editor’s Note: I met Steve Dircks years ago playing Summer lacrosse, and two weeks ago, he wrote about how he made it to the MLL. Today, Jake Tripucka is joining Steve, in telling his MLL story.
Check out Scout It Out Sports as well, which is a project Dircks is currently involved in, to learn more about how YOU can train to get to the highest level, and find athletic services, info, and professional trainers in your area.
My name is Jake Tripucka and I would like to share my journey of becoming a Major League Lacrosse player with you. I grew up in Boonton Township., NJ and played lacrosse for Mountain Lakes, NJ, a small town with a tradition of successful teams, winning, and hard-working and talented players.
I started playing lacrosse in the 6th grade, which some would consider being late to the game. This was because I played football, baseball and basketball prior to lacrosse. My father, Kelly Tripucka, was a 10-year NBA player and a huge influence in my life. Many would think that my 6th grade future called for a life of basketball, but my father encouraged me to try whatever sport I found interesting.
My dad felt that being a multi-sport athlete would keep me out of trouble and that the skills needed in each sport would be beneficial for the other sports I was playing, and for my overall athletic development. My dad was particularly fond of lacrosse, and pushed me to play the game because of its fast pace and similarities to football and basketball.
So, I turned into a four-sport athlete in 6th grade. Playing lacrosse and baseball was particularly hard on my mother, who was constantly in the car driving me from practice to practice and juggling being a baseball and lacrosse fan. As all youth baseball and lacrosse players had to do, I was forced to make a decision between my mitt and my lacrosse stick in the 8th grade. I think you know what decision I made.
During my freshman year at Mountain Lakes High School, I excelled in football and basketball. I wanted to get better at lacrosse and I wanted to be a contributor on Coach Tim Flynn’s varsity squad that following year. This is no simple feat for a junior or senior, let alone a sophomore. Spots on the varsity roster were earned, and many seniors waited their turn for a crack at the lineup. Despite the difficulty and challenge of making varsity, I still made it my goal for my sophomore year.
A staple of Mountain Lakes lacrosse has always been “The Wall”, which needs little explanation. It is here where players spend countless hours working on the fundamentals of lacrosse: catching and throwing. I wanted my left hand to be as fluent as my right, so I too found myself playing catch with the wall for hours on end.
Going into my sophomore year, I wanted to be in the best shape and not make simple mistakes from poor stick skills. With the fundamentals down, I let my athleticism and knowledge from other sports take over. I am proud to say that I made varsity that year and helped my team win a State Championship as a Defensive Middie.
My hard work was not only recognized by making varsity that year, but also by being invited to attend Jake Reed’s Blue Chip camp, where the country’s top 100 players compete against each other in front of almost every Division I coach. I was very excited, but at the same time very nervous to attend this camp. Was I good enough to play at this level? I put my head down and went back to work. I hit the wall, lifted at the gym, worked on my footwork and made sure I was still in top shape. Within the first five minutes of being at Blue Chip, I realized that I could play with anyone in the country. It was at that moment I told myself I would never doubt my ability again.
Shortly after Blue Chip, I started getting letters from Division I colleges. I now knew that lacrosse would be my focus and the sport that I would go on to play in college. One letter that particularly caught my attention was Duke University. During the time that I was getting recruited, Duke was still recovering from the incident in 2006. I respected how the team handled themselves and how they stuck together during this difficult time. I knew this was the mark of a true TEAM, and I admired their courage.
A few months later, I went down to visit Duke. It was everything I expected and more. From the extremely knowledgeable coaching staff of Coach Danowski, Caputo, and Gabreilli and talented players like Matt Danowski and Zach Greer, to the warm weather in December, Duke was where I wanted to be. I knew what I was getting myself into by committing to Duke.
Coach Danowski told every recruit about the responsibilities and expectations for everyone involved with the lacrosse program after 2006. I wanted to be part of something special. I wanted to be part of the restoration of Duke Lacrosse. After four great seasons and two National Championships, I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything in the world.
With hard work and commitment, anyone can achieve their goals. Never doubt your ability and always set your sights high. What motivates you to get to the top?