Behind the Whistle: More Than the X's and O's


This story initially appeared on Behind the Whistle, the official blog of the IWLCA, and is being republished with permission from the organization. Alyssa Voccia is the assistant coach at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Everyone has “their people/person” in their life. I like to consider myself extremely fortunate for who I have in mine.

One person in particular, Megan Smith, has made such a positive impact on my life. I first met Megan the summer before my freshman year at Limestone during camp. At the time, I was still fairly quiet, and Megan had made it her mission to get me to open up and be her friend. At every opportunity she had, she went out of her way to make sure that she ran up to me and said, “Hi, Alyssa!” I heard this a lot that week. It’s honestly something that she still brings up quite often. At the time, I might have been a little resistant, but now I couldn’t imagine my life without her. There is a lot of emphasis placed on the X’s and O’s of the game, but there is so much more to it than that.

Megan is a true example of a servant leader. She is somebody that is always looking for ways to help others, whether it’s her team, her community, the lacrosse community and the IWLCA, and of course the people around her. Her willingness to help others is something that I look up to and something that I hope to be able to mimic not only for my team, but also for the people around me.

While in college, it can be easy to get caught up in the day to day of lacrosse and life. One thing that Megan does really well is caring about you as someone who is more than a lacrosse player. She understands that while lacrosse is important, it only lasts for a relatively short period of your life (for most people), and she wants to be sure that you are setting yourself up for your future. As somebody who struggled throughout my time in college, having someone like her in my life made such a huge difference and is one of the reasons that I wanted to start coaching. She is somebody who you can go to at any time and will make time to listen. Now, I pretty much talk to her every day. Good days, bad days, and everything in between, she’s always there — and I don’t know what I would do if she wasn’t. She’s really good at giving advice, even if it’s something that I don’t necessarily want to hear but need to hear.

One thing that I’ve learned, and am constantly reminding myself, is that the little things are important. It’s hard to do the big things without focusing on the little things. A lot of times we have this really big goal and want to go from our starting point to a really big goal but find it difficult because we forget about all of the smaller things that we have to do along the way. Megan does a really good job of reminding me of this. She’s constantly reminding me to take things day by day. It’s really easy to get caught up in thinking about the future and what it holds, when we should be focusing on how to make the most out of today. Something she likes to say often is, “run the day, or the day runs you.”

In the Fall of 2016, Megan began her fight with cancer, and even then, never strayed from the amount of thought and effort that she could put into her team and her players. She may not have been able to be there physically at all times, but that didn’t stop her from working and constantly checking in on everyone else. We didn’t get to see each other physically as much during this time; however, that just gave me an excuse to bug her more over the phone. It also made me appreciate the time that we did have together a lot more. (I’m not sure she enjoyed the food and forced fun as much as I did, but spending time with her was something I really looked forward to.) Megan is always there for everyone else, and this was an opportunity for us to show her that we’re always there for her as well.

Last year, her team won its first-ever regular season conference championship. (Sorry, I have to brag as a proud best friend.) While a big part of that win was due to what they were able to accomplish on the field, I believe a lot had to do with how much of herself she poured into her players. Her passion and commitment to being the best for her players is admirable. She’s constantly looking for ways to make their experience better.

To the person who has been there through it all, thank you. Thank you for reminding me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that there is so much more to life than who you are on the field. I hope that one day I am able to inspire others in the way that you have done for so many.

Editor’s Note: Megan Smith, assistant coach at Lee University, was acknowledged for her contributions to the IWLCA during the previous academic year, when she was presented with the 2020-21 IWLCA Service Award at the IWLCA Convention in November. Smith serves as the co-chair of the Annual Meeting Planning Committee and is also an active member of the All-American and the Membership Committee

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