By LAUREN TRUE
As the global pandemic of COVID-19 forces the world to adapt to new ways of communicating and interacting, virtual platforms have become the standard. But the Ocean City High School girls lacrosse program is taking a different approach to staying connected – pen and paper.
This season, the first for varsity Head Coach Lesley Graham, was filled with much anticipation and excitement. Although all spring sports are currently postponed amid the pandemic, Graham still wanted to keep the team spirit alive.
The OCHS girls lacrosse program had a few fun events planned with the local youth lacrosse program, Warriors Lacrosse. The Warriors youth program provides lacrosse opportunities for both boys and girls grades 1-8 in the Ocean City and Upper Township areas.
“We wanted to use the season to help build the relationship between the high school players and the youth in the area. So with the season on hold, we still wanted to come up with a way to honor and grow that relationship – and that’s where the pen pal idea stemmed from,” Graham explained.
Ray Clark is vice president on the board with the Warriors Program and was keen to help get the logistics worked out. Clark is also a coach in the program. He has two daughters, Faelyn in fifth grade and Lyla in fourth, who compete with the Warriors.
“The majority of the OCHS girls lacrosse team played for Warriors at some point. It’s nice that they are able to give back to the program they were a part of and especially nice for the current Warriors to have mentors,” Clark said in an interview.
“Right now everything in our world is very digital. We Zoom, we FaceTime, we watch TV. What an incredible experience to see the excitement on my girls’ faces when they received a piece of mail – something they could physically put their hands on – and find a connection through words,” Clark added.
Faelyn Clark loved that her pen pal included some lacrosse stick tricks for her to try.
“Although I miss hanging out with my friends, it was cool to get a letter from someone going through the same stuff I was, and she gave me an idea of some fun new things to try,” Faelyn said.
Meg Vanesko knows the importance of building and teaching camaraderie right now. Both her daughters, Olivia, now a sophomore on the varsity team, and Atlee, a sixth grader at the Ocean City Intermediate School, are lacrosse players.
“The importance of such a simple act is twofold. It teaches my older daughter accountability, leadership and mentorship and it gives my younger, more impressionable daughter, something to work towards and validates what she is doing now, to someday be like the high school varsity girls she sees,” Vanesko said.
Olivia echoed her mom’s sentiment. “It’s important to reach out to the future generations of Ocean City lacrosse and make sure they don’t take this unfortunate time as an excuse to not play or be upset since we can be someone they look up to,” she said.
Both Clark and Graham are hopeful the pen pals relationships will continue well after everyone is back into a normal routine and lacrosse resumes play on the field.
“Although the situation hasn’t been ideal, knowing that these young girls are able to connect with one another brings a sense of togetherness, even when we are apart,” Graham said.
Senior lacrosse team captain Molly Reardon put it best. “Even without a global pandemic, it’s important for the younger players that look up to our program, one that they may soon be a part of, to feel connected and excited for their lacrosse experience to come. It’s reassuring to know that everyone is in this hard time together,” Molly said.