Bringing lax back
Eric Haavind-Berman ’15 and James Hayward ’16 founded a club lacrosse team to continue playing the sport they love
In 2012, when Eric Haavind-Berman ’15 and James Hayward ’16 arrived on campus, Haavind-Berman as a transfer and Hayward as a first- year, they were disappointed to find that their favorite sport, lacrosse, did not have a club team. Haavind-Berman and Hayward both played lacrosse in high school and wished to continue in college. Hoping to find a few players to join them on the field, they put up flyers around campus.
Even though they were aware of club lacrosse’s patchy history of activity, they were optimistic about creating a successful team. By fall 2013, they had gathered enough support to charter an official club and received about $16,000 for the year in funding from the Allocations Board.
“It was not easy to get people to come and play but at the end of the fall semester we had a couple of guys who would go throw around,” Haavind-Berman said. “We became a club last year and it’s mostly been just throwing.” Now they are starting to play in a league that offers them the opportunity to play in some games.
According to the co-captains, it was really difficult to gain support at first. However, with the help of the dedicated alumni, the boys are hopeful that the club can become a success.
The lacrosse team has had a rocky history. The club was originally founded in the late 1980s, but did not last very long and slowly faded out in the early ’90’s. The club later re-formed in the mid-2000s but disappeared yet again by 2009.
Despite its shaky history, the club does have a lot of support from lacrosse team alumni. “We have a really big alumni network,” Haavind-Berman said. “So far, they’ve donated some money and have given us advice as far as how to get people and keep them coming.” They have received approximately $1,000 from alumni. Additionally, some of the alumni are possible coaches for the up and coming club team.
“The alumni offer support, motivation, all the way to even talking with university administration and lending financial support,” Hayward added. “There really are no parameters in which we define our alumni, but they do fulfill things in certain areas, which is important.”
“The alumni have had experiences and are able to provide seasoned advice, which is definitely critical to the success of a club and a team,” Hayward added.
“We were extremely close like a family. 25 years later, we still keep in touch and get together on occasion,” lacrosse team alum Dr. Alex Tepper ’88 said in an email to the Justice. “Without a doubt my best Brandeis memories are lacrosse ones. We’ve all grown up to become doctors, lawyers, bankers, and entrepreneurs but will never forget Brandeis lacrosse.”
The help from the alumni has been critical to the young club’s success so far. One alumn, Marc Kiredjian ’14, who is now working at the Heller School, gave Hayward some sound advice about practices, saying that they all need to be big events so a lot of people want to come and play.
What does this mean for the team? “We have to use foresight and good judgment to make the calls and say ‘ok, we have to put our chips here because its gonna get us our biggest return’,” Hayward said. In other words, they need to know what to do in order to get more people to come out and play.
This idea is especially important when it comes to participation and getting students to come to practices regularly. To attract more players and encourage them to return, the team put together a plan. “We have jerseys that we give out to players who have come to four or more practices so they can wear them around campus and get everyone to know we exist,” Haavind-Berman explained. “We’re also working with the girls’ team to have a social part of the team and we plan to have a men versus women game which will be really fun and we’re going to heavily publicize,” he added. Other ideas they have considered include fundraisers and creating team T-shirts.
Although the alumni provide exceptional help, Hayward added, “of course that’s not to say that we’re not gonna do things our way.” For example, the team is trying to improve its social experience. “As much as we’re here for school and for extracurricular activities, the whole premise is to learn and that takes place both inside and outside the classroom,” Hayward explained. “This type of experience provides good skills for the real world.”
The club has definitely used and appreciated the support of alumni, but realize that they have to do some work on their own as well.
Attracting guys who have never played lacrosse has been difficult for the founding members but not impossible. “Lacrosse is a very easy sport to pick up and get the hang of ... however, there are a lot of barriers to entry—it requires a lot of gear,” said Hayward. This is very different from some of the other club teams like Men’s Ultimate Frisbee and Men’s Rugby Club that only require soccer cleats.
Despite the fact that these other club teams may have fewer “barriers to entrance,” Haavind-Berman hopes that rather than competing for players, the teams can share. Haavind-Berman himself plays for both the lacrosse club and the rugby club. Despite the fact that other club teams on campus have more players, the captains don’t see it as competition amongst the sports. Rather, they hope to get people from those teams to join and play lacrosse.
Although the club has had a slower start, the co-captains envision a big future for the team. “It is my hope that we can establish a program on the club level that is solid enough to eventually become recognized as a varsity sport,” Hayword explained. “It’s definitely a long term goal— I know I won’t see it in my time here.”
Haavind-Berman agreed, “Who wouldn’t want a varsity team?”