Jaecee Munger, founding member and captain of the female lacrosse team at College of Idaho, is using her experience with the team to fuel her future.
At age 4, Munger lit the fire of her passion for sports with wrestling and soccer. She fanned the flame with softball at age five, pursued football by age 7 and let her passion burn for all sports when she added basketball at age 7.
By junior high, although she had a long list of sports that she already participated in, Munger decided to add track and field to the list. As she entered high school, though, she chose to primarily focus on basketball and softball.
When Munger began college, she was not playing any sports and focused only on her major, physical education, and her three minors. She felt like she was going crazy without sports. After realizing that the College of Idaho had lacked a female lacrosse team for over five years, Munger and a group of girls initiated the process of creating a team in 2015.
Cassidy Leslie: What motivated you to major in physical education, while minoring in criminal justice, coaching and psychology?
Jaecee Munger: I majored in physical education because of the way sports had impacted me while growing up. I want to teach young people about sports and ways to be healthy. My dream job is to be in law enforcement, which led to a criminal justice minor.
I chose a coaching minor to further my dream of physical education, but also because the coaches I had growing up helped inspire and push me to the next level. I want to be able to do that for kids. My Psychology minor will help the way I coach, teach and handle duties as an officer.
CL: How long have you been playing lacrosse?
JM: This is the most recent sport I have begun playing. Starting about two years ago, I found it surprisingly easy to transition into playing lacrosse from my experience in other sports. A volunteer coach helped the team for a weekend, and when he discussed the fundamentals, I was able to reflect back to basketball and soccer fundamentals, which made the transition easier.
CL: How did you get involved in starting a lacrosse team at your school?
JM: I was walking around at my college’s club fair, and this girl from one of my classes gave me information on it. A few other girls and I hassled the men’s coach about what we needed to do to become a team, or at least a more rounded club sport. He helped get us the coach we had in fall 2015 and fall 2016, along with developing a budget for the team.
CL: What were the first steps of starting the lacrosse team?
JM: The first step was finding twelve to fifteen girls who would be committed to playing and getting a coach with knowledge of the sport. In finding equipment, we got lucky because the local lacrosse store gave us discounts. We also had to create a budget, get it passed by the college’s senate and find a decent field to practice on.
CL: What was it like trying to get enough players?
JM: It was incredibly hard because many girls don’t know how to play, so they get discouraged easily. Out of a team of 13, only five had played lacrosse before. The ones that did stick around found joy in being a part of a sport.
Having the ups and downs that we have faced has made it a challenge to keep players around. It’s nice to see that there is commitment from a lot of the girls on the team. I try to make practices fun and understanding, so they don’t get discouraged.
CL: What struggles did you personally face in the team’s beginning?
JM: I knew that being captain of the team would mean that I needed to be at practices, even on days that I didn’t want to. It also meant that there would be the added stress of creating and running practices.
I knew I didn’t want the team to think that because practices are player-ran, it meant I wouldn’t be putting in the same amount of effort, so that also added stress. Part of me struggled with the thought of, “Am I good enough to be in this position?” I didn’t expect to be put in a captain spot so quickly, let alone coach practices.
CL: What struggles do you face now?
JM: Honestly, sometimes I want to give up because we have gone through many ups and downs, but I really want to see this team and sport succeed at a higher level. I’ve seen where we started and the progress we’ve made, which motivates me to stay and keep pushing.
CL: What struggles did the team face in the beginning?
JM: We didn’t face many struggles. When we first started, we only had about six hours of practice before our first tournament. We had a big upset against Boise State University, which discouraged a lot of us.
It has also given us motivation to become better, though. We didn’t have a coach at the time, which meant practices were player-ran, and that was a struggle because many players didn’t know how to play.
CL: What struggles is the team facing now?
JM: We are currently looking for a coach again. The team sometimes struggles with commitment from players, and we are unsure if we will have enough players to fill a team next fall when we become a school-sanctioned sport. In a way, we’re back to step one, which is discouraging, and it’s hard for us to be taken seriously by other teams and faculty.
CL: By being a part of the development of this team, what have you learned?
JM: Patience. When things get rough, you can’t give up. You never know how much work a coach puts into a sport until you’re the coach. I have gained more appreciation for my past and future coaches.
CL: What have you learned from this experience that you want to teach to others?
JM: I want to teach kids that when they are truly passionate about a sport, or any subject, things will be rough. If you really care for it, you’ll put your all into it, even when you feel you can’t or don’t want to. You have to be the one to make it happen; no one else can make your dreams come true.
CL: What has been the most important lesson for you and your team?
JM: Patience is key. You have to adapt to situations, no matter what they are. Creating a team with little knowledge of the sport is hard, but I’m learning something new each time I step out onto the field.
We have grown, both as individuals and as a team. Seeing this team succeed is a goal of mine, and I’m not going to quit. If you truly care or are passionate about developing a team from the bottom up, you need to know to never give up and always believe it’ll happen.