Sep 4, 2013
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NOTRE DAME, Ind. - When the Notre Dame men's lacrosse team held its first official meeting of the 2013-14 campaign last week, the focus wasn't on the field, rather it was to reemphasize what the program could offer the student-athletes off the field.
"Our mission statement as a program is `We want to provide the best experience in college athletics'", head coach Kevin Corrigan told the assembled players inside Club Naimoli at Purcell Pavilion.
Part of that experience involves surrounding the student-athletes with a support staff that assists them on many levels during their college careers. Several of those individuals were on hand to discuss how they could best prepare the players for the classroom, competition and their post-college professional lives.
Duke Preston and Stephanie Mola from the Student Welfare and Development office spoke to the team as did Steve Sollmann from Academic Services for Student-Athletes. The players also heard from their athletic trainer Mandy Merritt and strength and conditioning coach Glenn Clarke. The mission for all of those individuals is to help maximize the players' performance and experience while at Notre Dame.
"It's a team approach," Corrigan said. "We have an expert in every field that we're working in. Anything that's done at Notre Dame is done with the utmost professionalism and with people who really care not just about what they're doing, but they care about the people they're working with and their overall development. When everybody has that approach within the system and you have that much expert guidance along with the advice and support, it's all part of us fulfilling the promise that we make to the kids when they come here.
"On the academic side, it's giving a young man the best advice to make the best decisions that he can and having the support to know he can meet the challenges there."
The resources provided to the student-athletes may seem like lip service before they get to campus, but it soon becomes evident once they arrive at Notre Dame and see it on a daily basis.
"It's one of the things that I don't think you understand until you get here and see how many people get put in front of you," senior defenseman Stephen O'Hara said. "You're covered from every angle whether it's academics, nutrition, weight room and the coaches. We all know that everyone is here to help and we just have to utilize them."
The meeting's theme continued once Corrigan returned to the front of the room and announced the team will travel to Italy next summer. This will be the latest foreign adventure for the program, which has journeyed to Japan (2010), Czech Republic (2005), England/Ireland/Wales (2001) and Ireland (1995). These trips include playing games and conducting lacrosse clinics and the overall experience is one more example of how Corrigan and his staff try to provide the student-athletes with an enriching career at Notre Dame.
While the foreign trips can take place just once every four years, the program has established an annual trek that also is quite beneficial for the student-athletes. Corrigan and the team's upperclassmen travel to New York City during the University's fall break to explore networking opportunities. The group meets with Notre Dame alumni and others who work at key companies in the city.
"The promise of Notre Dame when you come here is that you can, in some sense, have it all," Corrigan said. "We certainly want to try and provide as many opportunities in as many different areas as we can over the course of a student's four years here because we have the resources to do that. It's part of the commitment of Notre Dame and the mission of Notre Dame to do that. "Every player that comes here isn't going to be an All-American or have the opportunity to accomplish what they want on the field, but these other things are things we can do for every single athlete that's a part of our program. In my way of thinking it's part of us leveraging the power of the athletic brand and the athletic experience and create a better experience than I think a kid could get any other way."
Of course a major part of that experience is the sweat and sacrifice it takes to be a Division I student-athlete. The Fighting Irish will begin fall practice Sept. 15, but the preparation for next season already is underway with weightlifting sessions directed by Clarke.
"I think all of us are looking forward to working out with 50 people again," O'Hara said. "When you workout by yourself or with one or two guys (during the summer) it's just not the same energy and definitely not in the Gug (Guglielmino Athletics Complex). None of the facilities can compare to that. It's the energy and atmosphere that I'm looking forward to."
The Fighting Irish posted an 11-5 record last season and earned the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Championship. Notre Dame defeated five top-10 teams and concluded the regular season with the nation's top RPI before advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals for the fourth straight season.
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