Editor’s note: Ryder Cochrane, the head coach of the boys’ lacrosse team at Mountainside High School in Beaverton, Oregon, pens a letter to the Class of 2020.
To the Class of 2020,
Most of you don’t know me, and I don’t know most of you. But that doesn’t matter – not really – because I’m just here to speak for all the high school coaches out there. To speak for your coaches that want to say this stuff but might not get the chance.
It wasn’t supposed to end this way.
For some, it might not; the season remains on hold at some levels, in some places.
To my own seniors: I hope that our new shelter-in-home order works, and that a random Thursday night practice in March isn’t the last time we’ll take the field together. To think that all the hours of work we all put in together – all those dark and stormy nights out on some chunk of turf – were for nothing is heartbreaking for all of us.
You deserved a better ending than this.
Sure, only one team in each state each year gets a happy ending, but you deserved the chance to at least go out fighting. To sacrifice something as huge as your senior season to help your fellow citizens is the sort of awesome selfless gesture that nobody will ever forget, even if the choice was not yours to make.
Own it, and move forward with purpose.
Here’s the thing: even if you never get that moment “under the lights” this year, with the bleachers packed and the crowd screaming their support, all the work you put in wasn’t for nothing.
Even if nobody else ever gets to see the results of your hard work, let me, on behalf of coaches everywhere, tell you this: we saw you.
We saw you there before practice, taking shadow dodges against the night air.
We saw you dig deeper than you ever thought possible, and find the strength to do that eleventh rep when the others stopped at ten.
When you were out there in the preseason, with rain or sleet or snow whipping through your facemask, we were right there with you, watching you grow.
You might not get to put that jersey back on.
But the marks you made will live on. The underclassmen that you brought up with you, that you built up alongside you, will come back stronger because of the examples you set.
The iron you helped sharpen will remain sharper for your impact, even if nobody outside of your program knows you did the sharpening.
You leave behind a legacy that may alter the entire course of your program’s history.
Hopefully you’ll come visit.
Someday, perhaps, you will come back to see a game, and you will watch that same jersey you once donned being worn by another player. When that happens, I hope that you understand that none of that would have been possible without you.
For some, this is it.
The stick will find its way to a garage, or a closet, or get sold away on the eBay.
The experience, though, will always be there.
Your teammates will always be your teammates, no matter how much time or distance separates you.
The work ethic, the mentality, that little voice in the back of your head telling you to fight for what you want? That stuff all comes with.
For many of you, this is just the transition to the next phase. College ball will return. Club teams all across the country will want you out there, helping keep the game alive.
If, like me, you can never let the sport go, now it a great time to realize that the sport will always be there for you, too.
Lacrosse the world and back.
Lacrosse has taken me from my hills in Oregon to the Onondaga’s native lands where the game first began. It took me on my first trip abroad, and, in 2018, lacrosse allowed me along thousands others like me come together in Israel, and experience the World Lacrosse Championships.
No matter where you are, no matter what you do next, lacrosse will always be there for you, whether that means playing on another team, or just finding a peaceful moment of solitude between yourself, your stick, and a wall.
Thank you for all that you have done for the sport, Class of 2020.
You have left it in a better state than you found it. The sacrifice that you all have made means that many others will continue to play this beautiful game long after you’re done with it. And if, like those of us here at LAS, you find yourself itching to stay involved after you toss that graduation cap into the air, know this:
you can run a shift on my squad anytime.