This Is The End: A Lacrosse Parent’s Journey

Brothers Jake (#4) and J.P (#6) Southren are having an outstanding season playing together on the Randolph lacrosse team. Credits: Jill Southren
JP and Jake Southren chat onfield Credits: Lee Southren
5 year old Southren twins practicing for their lacrosse future Credits: Lee Southren

Editor’s Note: The following is a narrative written by Lee Southren, containing his personal perspective on a parents feelings of a child approaching the end of an era.  Lee is the father of  RHS Senior JP Southren, and Sophomore Jake Southren, who play together on the same attack line for the lacrosse team.  Lee has two younger sons, twin 5 year olds who are already in a lacrosse little stix program.  The boys high school Varsity Lacrosse Senior night is this Saturday May 10, and Lee is the Emcee

RANDOLPH, NJ- Last week, I was going through some old pictures and I found one from 2004, when my current senior and his group of friends were in second grade. They were playing in their first lacrosse scrimmage against another town. This coming Saturday night, as is usual this time of year in my town of Randolph, New Jersey, I will be the emcee… for the lacrosse program’s senior night.

But unlike in years past, I will be one of the senior parents acknowledging the achievements of my eldest son (whom I lovingly refer to as 1/4. I have four sons. He was first!). Since 2004 1/4 has worn Randolph on his chest, but in approximately 2 weeks, he will wear it for the last time. And I may be struggling with this more than he is. At this point in my life, I can admit that.

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I am now sharing my example as a case study for thousands of parents from all over the country who will be feeling the same emotions. It’s human nature to reflect on the past. For some, this first child may have been the “test” child, where some of the mistakes we made were done out of just not knowing. It’s tough, but we’ve got other kids to push through the pipeline. For others, this is the only child they have in this scenario, and all of a sudden, it is about to end. Either way, it can be hard. How do you keep perspective on all of this?

Last year I wrote an article called The Lacrosse Parent’s End Game… and that was an initial prelude to this, although I’m not sure I knew it at the time.

It took me a while to realize that this was my son’s experience to have, and not mine. I volunteered, I drove all over, and offered support and opinions to just about anyone who would listen. But it was still his thing. I have said before that my path is not necessarily the one I would advise every parent to take, but the more I think about it, I may have been a little hard on myself.

Now, there are often things in our life that we wish we could take back, or at least do differently, but in the end and during this reflection period, I can confidently say I wouldn’t have changed a thing when it comes to my son’s lacrosse experience. This was my path as a lax parent who wanted to help, and it grew the old me into the new me of today. Although 1/4 bore the brunt of my inexperience, he took one for the benefit of his 3 brothers (2, 3, & 4/4), and it made him stronger as the oldest. I wasn’t perfect, but I also wasn’t bad. It’s refreshing to realize this! My care may have actually paid off, even if I did it in my own way, and made some mistakes along the path.

Next Saturday, I will stand in this wonderful environment that my family and I have become a part of. I will give my verbose and longer-than-needed opening monologue in front of hundreds of our youth players and their parents, sitting there in their jerseys, cheering on our HS team. I will introduce the night and say a few things about the weather, and how nice it is to see all the future Randolph laxers and their fresh-faced parents, likely thinking exactly what I thought when I was in their position.

From there I will move into thanking our stellar core of youth volunteer coaches, who have all remained consistent in our program for many years, as well as our excellent high school staff (which has a few of these guys on it as well). All of the volunteer moms and dads over the last 11 years will also get their due, even as some have come and gone, but their effort will be justly recognized.

The youth players will come onto the turf stadium field and make 2 lines. One by one, I will announce the Varsity team and give a brief snippet on each player as they run through the line to the other side. While everyone will be cheering and clapping, I know that my mind will be racing on memories with each passing name on the list. I can easily predict that tears will be rolling down my face by the end (even though my two sons’ names are early as they have low numbered jerseys).

Don’t get me wrong. This is a happy day. A happy time. A time to enjoy the success of the boys that got to this point. As we know, there are so many factors from when they are little that could preclude them from continuing to play. It’s a time to appreciate what has been done already, and what can be done moving forward.

For some, or even for most, this is their last dance. This will be the last time they will ever wear Randolph on their chests as players. As the night goes on, we senior parents get announced and take a picture to add to our collection of pictures… I will prologue and thank everyone for coming. I will remind these boys that wherever they go, whatever they do, whomever they become, they will always have a home with Randolph lacrosse and will always be a Ram.

That strong feeling of community allows me to move on more easily, no matter what happens in the future.

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