Q&A with lacrosse national champion Sam Wyatt
By Joe Wilson, For the Williamson Herald
The fastest game on two feet, better known as lacrosse, is also becoming the fastest growing sport in America.
According to data from the National Federation of State High School Associations, from 2007 to 2012 a total of 750 schools added boys teams and 638 schools added girls teams. Those figures represent a 47-percent increase in the number of boys programs and 43-percent increase in the number of girls programs, easily outdistancing bowling which is the second-fastest growing sport with an 18-percent growth rate for boys and a 22-percent growth rate for girls, stated 2012 US Lacrosse Participation Report.
It would figure with this type of growth of the game on the national scale, lacrosse in Williamson County, although often overlooked, is growing and producing more talented players year in and year out. Lo and behold, this year a Brentwood native was playing for a national championship.
Sam Wyatt, a midfielder at Stevenson University in Owing Mills, Md. and a Brentwood High School graduate, won the 2013 NCAA Division III Men’s Lacrosse National Championship.
The sophomore faceoff specialist took some time to sit down with The Williamson Herald, and discuss his come-up from Tennessee lacrosse and into big time college game.
Williamson Herald: First off Sam, what got you into the sport of lacrosse?
Sam Wyatt: I started playing lacrosse when I was about 8 years old, living in Annapolis, MD. My older brother started playing and of course anything he would do, I wanted to do and I just fell in love with the game. Then when my family moved here, my parents told me there wasn’t much lacrosse, so that got me more pumped up to engage people in the sport and make them try something new.
WH: What has motivated you throughout high school and into college? How did you get to where you are today as a national champion?
SW: Some coaches in the Northeast have this mindset that “Oh, this is just a Southerner, he doesn’t know anything about the sport” but I love that. I love being from Brentwood and showing coaches that there are kids from the South who can do big things for big schools. That’s the motivation and chip on my shoulder that I carry.
WH: What would be the one word to describe this past year for you?
SW: At Stevenson this past year the one word was always ‘family’. I think ‘family’ is the No. 1 word. If you have family, whether you’re blood related or not, I think that that really pulls a team together. If you’re really close and you bond well, I believe that brings in the discipline and the team mentality and any other one-word adjectives you’d use to describe a year.
WH: So you run camps and coach younger players during the summer. What advice do you give to younger players from this area?
SW: I think it starts with inspiration. I had inspiration while watching the Powell brothers growing up. I just tell my kids go watch the best players on YouTube, see how they do certain things. Then go practice your stick skills as much as you can, stay focused and go to as many camps as you can. You’ll meet a lot of coaches, you may not like them all, but you’ll learn a lot from all of them. Always ask the coaches the questions, what can I do better, how can I improve.
WH: Could you explain the best way for high school lacrosse players in this area to get recruited?
SW: I was really fortunate with my recruiting process. I was able to play on Team Georgia and have a coach that wanted to get his players’ names out there. So I had looks from Navy, Syracuse, Salisbury and Stevenson and my first choice was Navy but things went awry with my paperwork and I landed at Stevenson. So yeah, younger guys in this area should find a good travel or summer team to play on with a coach that has their best interests in mind, get to camps and get noticed.
WH: What was it that landed you at Stevenson?
SW: Since it’s a sports article, I’ll save you the academic reasons. Seriously though, the head coach, Paul Cantabene, was the biggest reason athletically. I fell in love with the way he coaches. He lets the players play and make the decisions on the field and he trusts us. That was the way Chuck Catterton at Brentwood was, he let us make the decisions, trusted us and let us know you can still have fun with the game. So I think that made a true connection for me.
WH: You took the opening faceoff on the biggest stage, in the biggest game of lacrosse. How nervous were you and what was it like playing in an NFL stadium?
SW: It was incredible, surreal really. But I jumped the whistle early the first two times and I got reamed out by the coaches pretty good. Luckily, I have a great back up and he played well. I didn’t go back in until the third quarter so I was pretty cold by then.
It was nerve racking to say the least. I’m a sophomore starting in the national championship. You have 23,000 fans surrounding you, and we were told just keep everything at eye-level. It was hard, because you’re so into wanting to show the fans what you can do. I don’t think I really got that chance to do so, but it’s a team thing and we still won so I can’t complain much.
WH: Now that you’ve reached the pinnacle of Division III lacrosse, what’s next? Where do you go from here?
SW: Well, I’ve still got two years of college lacrosse, so I hope to stay at that apex. One day I hope to coach a lacrosse team after college. So that’s the tentative plan the next few years.
WH: Finally Sam, any word of encouragement or advice to future lacrosse stars in Williamson County?
SW: My advice for kids is to keep working hard and enjoy the game.
WH: Thanks for the time Sam. Congratulations and good luck next year.
SW: No problem and thank you.
Posted on: 6/12/2013