It’s back. The embarrassing sports moments I bring you are back. Losing in soccer, tennis, and swimming were not quite enough. I decided to take on the face off lacrosse Master Jr. Takoda Denhof in his own sport. I rolled into the parking lot and was already nervous.
For the newest edition of Jake vs. WO, I decided to participate and barely compete in the sport of lacrosse with Denhof. Unlike the rest of my challenges, I started by doing several tasks to test my skills. I worked on passing, catching, shooting, cradling, and my worst area, but sadly Denhof’s best: faceoffs.
Before we started, he went inside his house to grab me a lacrosse stick and I was astonished. He rummaged through a pile of sticks while murmuring words of the sticks’ different uses. As he tossed them to the side, all I saw was a pile of the same lacrosse sticks. I already knew that I was in over my head. I completely thought he was joking with me, it seemed too crazy and funny for it to be true, but he was dead serious.
Up first in my many challenges: passing and catching. To my surprise, I was pretty good at catching. All this skill took was simple hand-eye coordination and some cushioning. Baseball, one of the three sports I actually play, is also a hand-eye coordination drill, so this provided me with the necessary skills. Passing, on the other hand, was tricky. The first ball he lightly tossed to me was an easy catch so I decided to try and show off, which resulted in the ball being thrown about two feet. I learned quickly that passing was tricky. “You really sucked at passing,” said Denhof. I knew my problem, but it was hard to fix. I was releasing the ball too late, resulting in the ball being thrown about two feet. Not making me feel any better, Denhof bent over laughing. I grew angry and wanted to keep working on it. Over the next five throws, I adjusted the stick’s movement and was able to understand how to give the ball “air” and throw it a good distance towards Denhof.
Once I mastered those two areas as best as I thought I could, I moved onto a quick session of cradling. He had me show him what I knew, which was close to nothing. He gave me a quick lesson: wherever my feet move the stick needs to move with them. However, this would not keep the ball in my stick all the time. He told me to keep my top finger loose and act like I was in the weight room curling. Well obviously, I figured this would be a simple task because if you’ve seen me, you know I do a lot of curls. Surprisingly though, this was a very challenging task. I was constantly flinging the ball out of the stick on accident. I started out doing it very quickly but realized I was not yet experienced enough to do so. So as I jogged around in the grass, I started off very slowly. Sadly, this was also not the way to go. So once again, I picked up the speed and focused on spinning the stick back and forth. Even though I got better at cradling, I was still not good. Eventually, I got frustrated, and we moved on to the next task.
Next was the part I was most looking forward to: I finally got to throw the ball as hard as possible at an inanimate object. I started by just throwing the ball at the net. As if that was not hard enough, Denhof told me that in order for it to have any chance of it going in you need to put it within six inches of the pole all the way around the net. This made the task much harder, and nearly impossible for me. I worked a few times just standing there and aiming, but when I saw Denhof sprinting around and juking I knew that I needed to try that. I worked at this, always putting it in the net but rarely putting it within six inches of the post. I would start on one side or the goal and sprint across trying to shoot on the run. This was fun for the first few times, but then Denhof had to make the task even harder and ruin my fun. He explained how when I am on the right side of the net the stick should be on the right side but when I am on the left side the stick and my hands need to switch over to the left side. This made the task much harder and made me slow down and think about it a lot more. I completed a few more shots, even missing the net completely one time, and decided it was best to move on.
Finally, the main event. This was my worst category and Denhof’s best: faceoffs. When I received news that he was on varsity and was known for his faceoffs skills, I grew a little worried. I had no idea what I was in for, other than the fact that I would be embarrassed. As if I wasn’t nervous enough, he brought out a stick that was made solely for face-offs. This seemed only like something a great face-off player would have. I was correct. He asked me to pull up a countdown for lacrosse on my phone, which I did immediately. He explained to me how a face off works. First, you both set your stick-ups parallel to the ball, and then the second the announcer finishes the countdown is when it comes time to slam down the net of the stick on the ball and try to be the first to get the ball to a teammate. On the first attempt, he killed me; he was up and running before I even knew what was going on. I got back down, grit my teeth and was ready for the second one. This time I was closer, but my stick followed his down and landed on top of his a second too late. This continued five more times, each one about the same. Finally, he got the ball. But as he stood up I was able to hit his stick and knock it out. After the rough day I had, I counted that as a win and called it good for the day. As I was walking to my car Denhof said:“I’ve been on varsity as a freshman because of my face off skills, so don’t feel too bad that I beat you so easily.”
Looking back at this experience, I realize it wasn’t me who was bad, it was the stick he chose for me. He knew that I wouldn’t be able to tell which sticks were bad, so he wanted me to look way worse than him and not show him up. Despite the bad stick that I received, I learned that when it comes to lacrosse there is a combination of athleticism and skill needed in order to master the sport. I know that I have enough athleticism to play the sport, but I do not have the skill. With Denhof as my witness, I lack the most important components of lacrosse. If I compared my other failed sporting events to this one, this was my most successful… even though I still stink. Sadly, another Jake vs. WO and another fail.