My W&L: Lindsey Purpura ’15
“A large part of my personal growth has stemmed from my involvement with W&L athletics.”
I remember my introduction to field hockey clearly. We were at my grandparents’ house, a home situated on a lagoon with a gravel yard and concrete driveway. There was little room for non-water-related sports, yet my big sister and two cousins made their best effort to practice field hockey on the paved cul-de-sac in front of the house. I watched them, confused as to why they wanted to stand on the black tar when the pool was only ten feet away, and offended that those strange wooden sticks could keep their attention better than I could. I went to my first field hockey camp the following summer. Maybe it was a classic case of copy-my-big-sister, maybe I wanted to master the sport that took their attention from me and the pool that summer day — I’ll never know exactly what drove me to pick up field hockey, but given the experiences and opportunities that my involvement with the sport has afforded me, I’ll never regret that decision.
After almost ten years of playing field hockey, I knew it would influence my college decision. I aimed to attend a school that would allow me to continue playing the sport I love while pursuing my academic interests in a rigorous setting. I was introduced to W&L when my sister started at VMI, and decided to take a tour when I visited for family weekend because… why not?
I had virtually no background knowledge of the university, but knew when I saw a student drop his backpack in Canaan Green and continue walking without a second thought that I wanted to attend W&L. Fast-forward five years, and I know that I made the correct decision for my future when I decided to come here. What I love most about W&L is our sense of community and the investment that every community member puts into each other. I credit the people I have met along the way for the personal growth I have experienced in the last four years.
I couldn’t list all of the people who have made my experience at W&L what it has been, but a large part of my personal growth has stemmed from my involvement with W&L athletics. I owe much of this growth to my coach, Wendy Orrison, who pushed me to be a more vocal leader and take more responsibility for my actions on the field. This lesson is one that has readily transferred to my life off the field. Outside of field hockey, my involvement with the Generals Leadership Academy helped prepare me to be a captain as well as a more effective communicator, team member and group contributor. Being involved with GLA allowed me to interact with leaders across all of our teams on campus and build relationships with other coaches, namely Coach Abell and Coach Diamond O’Brien, who never forgot to wish us luck in our games or ask how they went. This was a very unique athletic experience that allowed for growth beyond my team affiliation, and one that I will carry into my future after college athletics.
My involvement with W&L athletics also led to the relationships that many athletes cherish — our relationships with the men behind the scenes who give selflessly to our programs, namely Baner, Tommy and Eddie. All three of these men have shown me the true meaning of dedication and the importance of building relationships with the people who are the foundation of a program. Any athlete can recall a preseason speech from Baner and knows how passionate he is about his family here at W&L. This mentality is one that Baner has instilled in me, and I will never forget. Graduating from W&L is bittersweet. I know I am prepared for the next phase of my life, but will miss being able to walk across campus and see the faces of people who have helped me grow into the person I am today — the people who have come to be my W&L family.
My field hockey career, then, starts and ends with family. It started with my sister and two cousins on a hot summer day, and ends here in Lexington with a much larger and non-biological family. I believe that almost every Washington and Lee student has a comparable experience in which their involvement on campus helps to build their W&L family. Talk to any student and I’m sure they can tell you where their W&L family stems from. Mine stems from athletics, and for that, I am grateful to those strange wooden sticks that stole the attention that summer day.