The Vault: Austin Sims, Gold Rush (September/October 2016)


For the past three months while he’s quarantined at his parents’ home in Fairfield, Conn., Archers LC midfielder Austin Sims has seen a daily reminder of one of the proudest moments in his lacrosse career. 

In a frame on his bedroom wall, there’s the USA No. 18 jersey he wore during the 2016 U19 world championship tournament, the gold medal and the US Lacrosse Magazine cover on which he was featured. 

“Gold Rush,” the September/October 2016 cover reads in bold font underneath a Randy Daly photo of Sims sprinting down the field — arms wide in celebration — next to Terry Lindsay after Team USA rallied from an 8-2 halftime deficit to beat Canada 13-12 in Coquitlam, British Columbia, almost four years ago. 

“If we were on a Zoom call, you would be able to see it right over my head,” Sims said in a phone interview. 

The commemorative display is more than a cool virtual meeting backdrop. It was the culmination of a dream and a lot of hard work. Since he studied abroad in Spain in the summer of 2015, Sims joined the tryout process later than most of his future teammates. He was also the only member of the final 23-man roster with two years of college play under his belt. That experience was one of the reasons Sims was named co-captain along with Timmy Kelly. 

Sims had a breakout spring in 2016 at Princeton, earning second-team All-Ivy League honors and finishing second on the team in goals (23). While he only scored one goal with four assists for Team USA in the world championship games, his responsibilities were mainly on the defensive end. 

“He's a team-first guy and a good leader,” said Archers and former Princeton coach Chris Bates. “That was evidenced by his performance and role for the U19 team.” 

Like most players, Sims would have rather played offense. But he quickly bought into the “all-in, we-not-me” mantra that U.S. coach Nick Myers and his staff preached. They were there for something greater than themselves. Because the roster was so small, Sims learned that every player was a crucial part of the team’s success and needed to pull his weight. Offensive middies took runs on defense. The goalies split time. No one was more important than the group. In other words, everyone was equal. 

A veteran of high-pressure situations during Ivy League matchups, Sims also proved a calming presence after Canada raced out to a 6-0 lead in the final. 

“It’s a long game,” Sims reassured his teammates, several of whom, including an attackman by the name of Michael Sowers, without any college experience. 

“People naturally gravitated towards him,” Sowers said. “On a personal level, he instantly looked out for me and was the first person I turned to if I needed help with something. That’s just the type of person he is. He’s very caring and a leader by nature.” 

When Bates recruited Sims out of Fairfield Prep (Conn.), he was captivated by more than his athleticism and silky moves.

“I thought, this is a young man that is going to have an opportunity to have a voice, be a leader and speak some truths that make those around him uncomfortable in a positive way,” Bates said. 

Last week, Sims made his voice heard. He posted a picture on Instagram standing on the field at Percy Perry Stadium with his family in the afterglow of the U19 final. But instead of Port Coquitlam or British Columbia, he tagged “The United States of America” as the location. In his left hand he clutches the world championship trophy. The piece of net dangling from it is now tacked on the corkboard in his bedroom. 



I know that it is blackout Tuesday but I truly believe that the conversation needs to be continued. This was one of the proudest moments of my life - winning a championship representing the USA wearing the number of my idol growing up. It pains me to see that same country that I worked so hard to properly represent torn apart because we can’t decide how we should treat people based on the color of their skin. As many of my fellow black lacrosse players and athletes have shared over the last few days I have been subjected to racism and prejudice on and off the field. I was always told it is best to ignore it and prove myself on the field or prove them wrong with my actions - while this is effective in diffusing the situation in real time, the conversation must be continued so that the situation never occurs in the first place. There has been an explosion in the growth of lacrosse and sports in general in black communities and cities over the past few year - it is our job to allow those kids to grow and be accepted by a country that has promised them the opportunity to do something great, and hopefully they will once again be inspired to represent that country. #blacktuesday

A post shared by Austin Sims (@austinsims18) on

“I know that it is Blackout Tuesday, but I truly believe that the conversation needs to be continued,” Sims wrote. “This was one of the proudest moments of my life — winning a championship representing the USA wearing the number of my idol [Kyle Harrison] growing up. It pains me to see that same country that I worked so hard to properly represent torn apart because we can’t decide how we should treat people based on the color of their skin.”

Sims had gone back and forth about whether he should post something in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor that sparked protests and a national conversation about racism. He saw fellow PLL pros Trevor Baptiste, Dominique Alexander, Myles Jones and Harrison use their social media platforms to share their experiences. Sims decided it was important for him to speak out, as well, because he hadn't voiced his opinion on the topic of race in a serious way publicly before and felt that if he said something, it could carry some weight. 

“This is a crucial time for everyone to be sharing these experiences,” Sims said. “It's easy for people to turn a blind eye to it and for even those that are affected by it to write it off as just trash talk during a game. That's part of the problem.”

Sims was in fourth grade when he saw “someone who looked like me” win a national championship with Johns Hopkins. Harrison won the Tewaaraton Award that year, too. Sims has worn the No. 18 most seasons since. 

“Looking back on it and seeing him going to an amazing school, and being an amazing lacrosse player, having his own lacrosse line after he graduated and being an extremely successful black person in America definitely gave me the inspiration and the hope that I could take lacrosse and do great things playing the sport,” Sims said. 

Growing up, Sims was always taught you are going to get into more trouble if you retaliate than the person who instigates. If someone told him lacrosse was a sport only for white people, he’d show them they were wrong by dominating them. He tried to keep his head high and play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. 

“This is effective in diffusing the situation in real time, [but] the conversation must be continued so that the situation never occurs in the first place,” Sims wrote. 

While reflecting these past few weeks, Sims realized that a driving force throughout his career was to prove to others, but more to himself, that he belonged. 

After finishing his career at Princeton with 111 points and earning first team All-Ivy League honors his senior year, Sims was drafted 20th overall by Major League Lacrosse’s Atlanta Blaze. He was a member of the MLL All-Star squad that defeated the U.S. men’s national team back in June 2018 in front of 6,589 fans at Harvard Stadium. Last year, after making the leap to the PLL, he reunited with Bates and played in five games for the Archers, scoring two goals. 

Sims has balanced his lacrosse ambitions with a burgeoning career in finance in New York City. Since graduating from Princeton with a degree in political science, he’s worked at Morgan Stanley in equities sales and trading. Last week, he found out he was selected for the associate rotation program. 

Around the same time, Sims noticed tons of messages of encouragement and unity in the Archers’ GroupMe chat. The team that breaks every huddle with “together” once again rallied around each other. 

“I know the character we have in our Archers locker room,” Bates said.

In a team-wide email earlier this week, Bates encouraged the players to stand together and be active. He has concluded that the current times necessitate action. If you’re not active and pushing in the other direction, he said, then you’re complicit. 

“The more that we unify, the more that we challenge each other, the more we won’t let this be just a single moment but an active movement to make change,” Bates said. 

Sims was encouraged by the support of his team and friends alike. Moving forward, he’s excited for the opportunity the lacrosse community has to come together and be pioneers in advancing the discussion about race in America. He’d like to continue serving as a role model for the next generation the way Harrison was for him and show younger players that you can achieve academically while still excelling on the lacrosse field.  

Sims cited the PLL’s announcement that outlines six steps to promote anti-racism and equality within the organization as a step in the right direction. 

"As long as this conversation continues and as long as you make some form of concrete plan going forward, that is beneficial," Sims said. "It's like when you're practicing a sport. If you're not practicing, you're getting worse and everyone around you is getting better. There's no absolute right way to practice, but as long as you're doing something, you're going to get a little bit better every day."

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