Bethesda to Boston: How lacrosse shaped Pat Myers

BY JONATHAN SIGAL

Pat Myers can be characterized in many ways.

In one regard, he’s the oldest of five siblings and a son to Greg and Barbara Ann. On the other hand, he’s lived on the same Bethesda, Maryland street his entire life, and a big move once meant shifting three doors down. The 21 year old is also Irish Catholic, goes to church on Sundays, values community service and makes sure his siblings walk the dogs when he’s not home, according to his parents.

Myers also grew up a fan of the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and Washington Wizards, with an added emphasis on the latter. His phone case has their star point guard, John Wall, adorning the back, and his love for basketball is perhaps best illustrated by the jersey, poster and t-shirt he has of NBA legend Vince Carter.

However, that’s just a sampling of Myers, as his make-up is neither singular nor cut and dry. He shies away from defining himself in one way, and his father backed that up, saying that his son is “comfortable in his own skin and doesn’t take himself too seriously.” Yet, on Saturdays in the spring, the Myers puts aside his finance and accounting homework and takes on the identity he’s always known best: student-athlete.

He’s currently a junior on the Boston University men’s lacrosse team, and a vital cog to boot. He has 36 career points to his name and has swapped between attack and midfield. While Myers credits his role to “51 of the best friends I could ever ask for and great coaches to help guide me along the way,” this facet is etched in the history books.

BU is a third-year program, and its first goal and first hat trick will always belong to Pat Myers. Inside Lacrosse even touted him as the 14th best freshman in the nation in 2014, and a broken wrist and concussion haven’t stopped him from helping guide BU’s ascension up the national rankings.

None of that has been lost on his head coach, either.

“Pat’s been a cornerstone of our program,” Ryan Polley said. “He came in as one of our highly touted recruits and was doing a great job his freshman year and then unfortunately got injured. He’s just a great student-athlete, so Pat kind of exemplifies what we want from a hard work standpoint, being a student first and athlete second and doing a great job with it all.”

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PHOTO BY ETHAN CAPPELLO/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

As Polley laid out, Myers balances the academic demands of BU’s Questrom School of Business and Division I lacrosse. It’s not always an enviable lot, as he scored two goals at Duke University on May 3, 2015, only to have final exams awaiting his return to campus. Even a more recent mid-February win over High Point University embodied Myers’ student-athlete experience, as Polley said, “We’re traveling back, and guys have 8 a.m.s the next day.”

However, those sorts of challenges are ones Myers has known his whole life. For as long as he can remember, sports have shaped him, causing his mom to describe his involvement as “a shotgun approach.”

Myers’ childhood was spent swimming at Bethesda’s Kenwood Golf and Country Club, and there were also countless hours spent on the links and tennis court. He even tried his hand at baseball, soccer and basketball, and he didn’t begin lacrosse until he started clinics in second grade.

“Inside and outside of school, I was always doing something on the weekend, always playing in season when I was in middle school and probably going to a basketball or lacrosse tournament every other weekend, at least,” Myers said.

That caricature is common across youth sports in the United States, and Robert Weinberg, a Miami University professor who specializes in sports psychology, said they can accordingly have a formative impact.

He added that it becomes a two-sided coin in which the wrong environment can be detrimental. And the right one, as holds true in Myers’ case, can be transformative.

“Youngsters can learn discipline, they can learn responsibility, they can make friends,” Weinberg said. “Certainly, sports can have a huge impact on developing who kids are and what’s important to them and some of the skills that hopefully will help them as they enter later stages of life.”

Richard Halgin, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who is actively involved with the school’s men’s hockey team, reinforced Weinberg’s sentiment that a measured approach is key.

“The story changes somewhat in terms of how preoccupied they are with their sport,” Halgin said. “A guy like Pat Myers can see his sport as a sport. It’s something he’s doing, it’s fun, it’s rewarding and it really enriches his college career, but it’s not everything.”

Lacrosse may not define Myers, but his dad affirmed it has “shaped why he’s like he is today.” The game has left its mark, and the roots start with the Mater Dei School and Gonzaga College High School. Myers attended the former from sixth to eighth grade and the latter from ninth to 12th grade.

When Myers was at Mater Dei, basketball was his game of choice, and an undefeated season was spent alongside several kids who now play Division I basketball. Myers also said he got further into lacrosse while at Mater Dei because everyone was “getting serious about it, and I kind of fell in love with it.”

That translated to Gonzaga, as he helped the lacrosse team win back-to-back Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championships his junior and senior year. Myers totaled 100 points across those two seasons, but it’s the friendships and Gonzaga’s motto of “Men for Others” he cherishes most.

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PHOTO BY ELLEN CLOUSE/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

“We only had one field and had to wait till 4 o’clock to get out there,” Myers said. “Some of my best memories were, then, the conversations we had in our little locker room. We had a great group of seniors, I think 18 or so, and it was one of the best feelings I ever had being there with my best friends and going out on top. You just can’t manufacture that.”

Those are the roots, and Myers’ tendency to value his teammates first and foremost surfaced when his college search picked up steam. He could have gone to a program that’s perennially atop its conference, he could have played under a coach with a storied reputation and he could have been challenging for a national title during his freshman season.

However, he had a different path in mind.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Myers was spotted by Polley at a tournament in Baltimore and was enticed by the challenge laid out before him. He could be a figurehead of BU’s first ever class, could bring the program up from “literally nothing” and could write history every time he stepped foot on Nickerson Field. He would also attend school in Boston and earn a top-notch degree.

I’d just say that sports have been a huge part of my life and have taught me so much. How to win, how to lose, how to go through adversity, it’s really something that you can’t teach.
PAT MYERS, BU MEN’S LACROSSE PLAYER

Through those aspects, Myers was sold. He said he knew it wasn’t going to be easy, especially since the Patriot League boasts several national contenders and BU holds its students to a high academic standard, but that didn’t matter.

“I don’t take this chance for granted at all,” Myers said. “It’s a privilege, not a right, and everyone realizes here that we have a great opportunity ahead of us. We’ve earned it, and you can’t take it for granted for one second.”

Through insights such as those, it’s evident that Myers’ understanding of his time at BU is balanced. He knows he’s not a lacrosse player who goes to class on the side, and he said if he’s not getting his work done, then he’s letting his peers down.

The whole student-athlete experience isn’t lost on Polley either.

“This place is a little bit different from other universities,” the third-year head coach said. “Athletics provide an opportunity for people to grow in so many ways, to be held accountable, to have tough situations come about and have to overcome them and deal with failures and successes. Our athletic department is so supportive, so you put those two together and it creates an unbelievable student-athlete experience.”

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PHOTO COURTESY BARBARA ANN MYERS

Admittedly, the first two years at BU were marked by growing pains, and Myers’ parents said those were expected. The team accumulated a combined 8-20 record across that span, and Myers missed out on nearly 45 percent of the contests. However, come 2016, both fortunes have reversed drastically.

BU has peaked at No. 16 in the national rankings, knocked off two ranked opponents and set a program record for wins. As for Myers, he’s started five of the team’s 10 games and accrued eight points, including two goals against a then-ranked Harvard University side. But much like his time at Mater Dei and Gonzaga, it’s the relationships that he said he cherishes the most.

He fondly recalled a snow-filled 18-11 upset over a then-ranked Colgate University side on March 7, 2015. Myers snagged an assist, two shots and a ground ball that day, but those benchmarks are fleeting. The bus ride back full of music, karaoke and celebrations? Those are what he said he’ll remember for years to come.

“We’ve fostered a group of guys — a great core of guys — that really love this program and love each other and are a family,” Myers said. “We’ve been through a ton of stuff together.”

And while his parents don’t make it out to every game, they agreed in saying that BU has been nothing short of a phenomenal experience for their son. Lessons in hard work and time management have followed suit and, as Myers’ father put it, “Any kid who can survive Division I athletics and especially if they get on a team with a high academic level, that’s worth its weight in gold.”

He’s lucky. It doesn’t always work out this way, but it’s been a great experience for him.
GREG MYERS, PAT MYERS’ FATHER

Myers’ mother expanded on her husband’s sentiments, adding that Myers has been a role model for his siblings and led the Terriers in unique ways.

“All those experiences on the field, on the team, he’ll be able to use in every aspect of his life going forward,” she said. “A student-athlete, all the student-athletes, it’s not an easy task to balance your athletics and academics, and to have the third part that’s the social side.”

With the scope of Myers’ growth as a student-athlete in mind, what exactly does the future hold? For starters, he’ll graduate in May of 2017 and said he is searching for a summer internship and playing his part in BU’s rapid rise to prominence.

Were Myers a basketball or baseball player, he might be strongly considering a future in the professional ranks. After all, sports tend to define athletes of that mold, and it can be difficult for them to imagine life without practices, games and weekly meetings. This is a phenomenon Halgin cautioned against, and Weinberg echoed the warnings.

“A lot of these athletes are asked, ‘Who are you?’ And they answer, ‘I’m a basketball player, I’m a volleyball player, I’m a baseball player,’” Weinberg said. “And particularly if you’re playing at the college level, you know you’ve been practicing that sport for many years. It’s hard sometimes to let go of that.”

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PHOTO COURTESY BABARA ANN MYERS

That’s not the case for Myers, as he said he understands his past, who he has become and who he wants to be down the road.

“All of us come to BU to get a great education, to get a good starting job and to really set us up for the rest of our lives,” Myers said. “We know college lacrosse isn’t going to lead to a professional career in lacrosse, since not many people can make a living off it. That being said, the end game is a great education and setting ourselves up for the future.”

Polley said those goals are entirely attainable for someone such as Myers, as the game’s intangibles translate into life skills.

“Whether it’s doing stuff in the finance world or doing stuff in the real estate market or sales or engineering, these guys have great futures ahead of them,” Polley said. “A lot of them are going to lean towards a way [in which] they can still have a little bit of competitiveness in their lives. Sports teach you so many great lessons, and I think a lot guys are going to rely on those lessons.”

But none of that is to say lacrosse will disappear from Myers’ life.

He said he envisions himself coaching one day and wants to stay involved in BU’s alumni network. He also said he hopes to stay close with the countless best friends and mentors he has met along the way, and he will eventually be at peace with his playing days coming to a close.

Namely, Myers wants to give back to a sport that has given him so much. And if his parents had to guess, its influence will never truly end.

“To be honest, when I started playing sports, I never thought I was going to stop playing sports,” Myers said. “But I never pictured it to this degree, and it’s just been an awesome ride so far. I’ll see what it has in store in the future, and it’s really just been an honor to be a part of it all.”

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