By Kevin Collins
Carrboro Commons Co-Editor
It’s springtime in the Piedmont yet again, and the feeling of newness is palpable. For Carrboro High School’s varsity men’s lacrosse team, spring marks the start of a new season, and with a new coaching staff in place and a program on the rise, there’s a very new energy surrounding the Jaguars these days.
“The atmosphere has changed at this school,” senior midfielder Wes Bartek said. “We used to be looked at as a school that’s small. We’re an arts school; we’re not competitive. But as each senior class has gone through, they’ve built more and more of a mentality of a winning team.”
For a program in only its fifth year of existence, that mentality has been brought up through the hard work and dedication of those who were willing to build something, and the team has gotten better every year. But starting this past offseason, the building process got a serious jump-start with the hiring of head coach Chris Mann, whose big personality and positive coaching philosophy has united the team.
“Coach Mann and the new coaching staff brought a new life to our team, and it felt like from day one we were more of a team than we were before,” senior attacker and co-captain Zack Pruitt said. “The past couple of years, it was more of a group of individuals, and now it’s more like a united group, like a family, and it’s all about having the other guys’ backs.”
Mann has experience coaching high school and college football, and he’s applying the motivational techniques he learned to the game that’s number one in his heart, lacrosse. The teambuilding activities Mann has instituted, like offseason training and mandatory team meals, have gone a long way, and he’s proud of the new atmosphere of camaraderie around his players.
“I’m excited, especially for the seniors who have been here for four years and have seen both sides of things, and I’m also excited for the underclassmen, that they get a whole new feel,” Mann said.
So far the new mentality is paying dividends. After dropping the first two games of their season, the Jaguars have rattled off a five-game winning streak, and with Mann’s in-game philosophy now firmly entrenched, optimism around the team is at an all-time high.
“We’re definitely a more respected team, we’re a worthy opponent,” Bartek said. “We’re going up against East and Chapel Hill, and I think we have a shot at beating them, and they know it. That’s kind of a first.
“Usually East would look at us and say, ‘We’re going to put up 20 points on them easily.’ Not this year,” he shook his head.
The new attitude is a breath of fresh air for everyone involved with the team. Jaguar parents have noticed the changes under the new coach, and they welcome them with open arms. Chris Snyder’s son Jack is a senior on the team, and he’s glad to see his son’s four years of hard work paying off in an encouraging environment.
“They’re really making a great effort to be inclusive and to build a positive base, and it’s too bad the seniors couldn’t start out in that kind of environment,” Snyder said. “It’s a whole different perspective. Kids are happy to be out there playing; everybody’s happy to be a part of the team.”
And for the seniors on this team who have been with it since Carrboro High’s second year of existence, lacrosse represents their way to leave a mark on their young school. They relish the chance to help establish the school’s identity and to blaze a trail of achievement that will last far beyond their graduation.
“It definitely adds something to our school,” Pruitt said. “Our lacrosse team being good is us leaving our mark and leaving some kind of tradition. That’s the most important thing. I feel like it’s better to be a person who started a program rather than being a part of a program that was already built.”