By Danielle Achin
Head Coach David Roche has been coaching lacrosse for the past 35 years, and this is his fourth season as head coach for Framingham State joining in the spring of 2017.
The dangers of COVID-19 forced coaches, players, and teammates to distance and brought a halt to playing the games they love.
While he isn’t training the Framingham State team this year, Roche said he is currently working for a club program, Piatelli Lacrosse Club.
“Since this year got canceled, it’s been a good diversion for me to stay involved with the game as much as I can,” he said.
The Club Sports Program at Framingham State University offers four competitive programs –
cheerleading, men’s lacrosse, men’s rugby, and women’s rugby. Not recognized as an NCAA team, the chances of each team being allowed a season were slim.
“After knowing most people weren’t going to be vaccinated and knowing where we stood on the scale of not being recognized, there wasn’t a great chance we were going to have a season this year. I think mentally, it was pretty evident throughout the off season it wasn’t going to happen,” Roche said.
Though they weren’t granted a season, Roche doesn’t take the decision made by the school as a hit against club sports and said the head of club sports, Aynsley Rosenbaum, has been extremely supportive during this time.
“We are supported financially, we have coach buses for away games, we get field space as much as possible, and we have a new field that just got built for us,” Roche said. “But I can understand where we stand in the pecking order isn’t great.”
Roche said he doesn’t feel the disrespect some student athletes have felt these past few months, feeling overlooked by varsity sports explaining club sports here at Framingham State only practice two-to-three days during the week, while varsity sports are more committed practicing about six-to-seven days during the week.
“It’s far from a normal season for the NCAA recognized teams,” Roche said. “I think the time
commitment those kids put in is much greater. They’re also year round and we pretty much don’t start until the end of winter.
“I tend to look at things realistically, and I’m happy those players are getting a season because I know how important it is for the seniors. They lost out on something they can’t get back, and for it to happen two years in a row for those NCAA sports would have been tragic,” he added.
One main issue student athletes cited was the lack of updates from the Athletic Department for each team. Athletes said it was a difficult process scheduling an appointment with staff, or not getting replies to emails.
Roche commented on this miscommunication.
“Everytime I reach out to Aynsley Rosenbaum, he’s responsive to me. But I think it’s different with varsity sports. It was more of a MASCAC decision, where for club sports it’s an individual University decision.
“The fact that we didn’t know until later in the winter, I didn’t take that as a slight. I honestly thought that they were holding out hope to, at the very least, have somewhat of a season.”
Roche added the decision to cancel sports was much easier to make last year than it was this year being more of a “wait and see” type of situation.
“I honestly felt that it was a priority for them to have the NCAA level teams play,” he said.
The commitment level of varsity student athletes playing on a year-round basis is significantly greater than what club sports experience. Roche pointed out this exact reason is what draws people to join club teams.
“Not that they’re better athletes or better people or anything like that, they just put in a lot more time. It’s not an everyday thing for club teams,” Roche said. “We don’t have to be at every practice or even every game because the commitment level is far less.”
Practice time consists of fundamentals and basics taught in youth levels because the majority of the team has no experience playing.
Roche said, “We have to teach them the game, almost like you’re getting down to the bare bones because a lot of them, probably at least 40% of them, have never played lacrosse before, which I actually love.”
He added he admired how bold enough people are to try something new.
“They’re willing to come out and try something new, and maybe even not be very good at it. But they show up at practice and work hard,” Roche said.
Roche added the main focus of the lacrosse program is working hard, being competitive, and also having fun. Whereas the focus for a varsity sport is directed in a different way.
“Yeah we want to win, but we also want the guys to have a really solid experience and like the program and like the way the team chemistry is, and spend time outside of practices and games and get to know each other,” Roche said.
He added college is all about being a better person and student athlete, while engaging a little more in the community.
Roche said he is grateful for the “good culture” the team has with each other. He emphasized trying to find a role for everyone.
“Maybe somebody may be inexperienced or doesn’t know certain things, but they’re really fast or strong,” he added. “We find certain areas of the team – either offense or defense – they can excel at and can succeed.”
Roche said the biggest impact he sees from his team is the humility – the fact somebody comes in and is learning about the sport while having fun.
“The fact that so many of these kids are humble and for lack of term suck at something as compared to the guy next to him, but [they] are willing to work at it and get better,” he added.
Roche said the main goal for next year’s season is to get back to campus, meet people, and connect with their teammates and other students once again.
Assuming a more normal semester next fall, Roche said he wants to get the word out that the staff wants people to play and will be having in-person meetings this fall.
He said, “It’s important that we turn the page for the next few months, get everybody back on campus in September, and understand how important it is to get vaccinated.”
Roche added he is more than excited for the fall and to get back to normal and do what he and the student athletes of Framingham State love to do – play.
“I wish it was starting tomorrow,” Roche said. “I just can’t wait to be in person, get back in the meeting room, and play lacrosse.”