At a Lacrosse Road: New sport brings new culture

by Cory Collins

A young Terry Justice didn’t go looking for lacrosse. It just kind of hit him.

On a field at the Lexington School, he saw it. A group of guys, a flurry of movement, sticks and bodies crashing. It drew him in. He played.

And someone knocked him on his back. In that moment, he knew it; he loved this sport.

“That’s the day I got hit with the bug,” Justice said.

The rest is history. In 1979, he started the University of Kentucky Lacrosse Club when no one else was playing in the state. Then the sport grew, and he grew with it. He’d go on to win three state championships coaching at the Lexington School. From 2004-2011, he led Lexington Catholic’s program to new heights. Everywhere he journeyed, doubts were silenced, expectations were shattered.

Coach Justice faces those same doubts at Transylvania. He leads a team in its infant stage; the face of a sport still surrounded by questions. But he isn’t worried. He’s done this all his life.

“I’m one of those guys that always has high expectations,” Justice said.

And he lives up to them.

The Athletic Director at the Lexington School said he’d get throttled by out-of-state and established programs. They went 8-3 in their first season. At Lexington Catholic, his team made the playoffs in his first year – the championship by his third. Success is not something he waits on.

But Justice also recognizes the huge challenges facing Transy’s first lacrosse team. For one, they’re young: sixteen names on the roster belong to first-years.

“It’s scary,” he said. “We’re going to play teams that are already established.”

And Justice knows the challenge goes beyond the field. Four games take the Pioneers over 300 miles from campus. At an academic institution, those miles, that time, adds up. The workload increases; pressure mounts.

“I’m very conscious about not taking these kids out of school,” he said, speaking to the importance of a healthy balance between sports and academics. “That’s what we preach.”

But if Justice is worried, you wouldn’t know it. Despite their inexperience, he sees promise in his players. He sees them as being much more than the words not so subtly whispered across campus –“lax bros”.

“We hate that term,” he said. “They’ll combat it by being very active on this campus…Lacrosse players will integrate themselves into Transy’s culture.”

When Justice looks at these guys, he doesn’t see stereotypes. He sees future leaders. He sees character. He sees athletes that were willing to commit to an upstart program, an unsure beginning and a tough school.

“They wanted that challenge,” Justice said.

That challenge begins with the first practice. On Sept. 24, the Pioneers hit the field. Transy’s newest sport will commence. But the team Justice is so proud of is not yet complete.

“I have 20 outstanding men,” he said, while explaining that there is room for ten more. “I would invite them,” said Justice. “I’ve been very successful in teaching this game.”

It’s a game he hopes to pass on to his players –a passion he hopes to pass to its fans. And despite initial doubts, Justice believes students will embrace its excitement.

“It’s going to bring a ‘wow’,” Justice said. “Fans are going to see a lot of scoring and action… hitting… a physical game… I think it’s going to add a lot to our athletic community.”

It’s a new sport, a new culture. And it’s the latest chance for Justice to shatter expectations –to make others swallow their doubts.


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