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Stonington girls’ lacrosse team reflects on last year's successful helmet trial

Lacrosse has become one of the more popular sports in high school. However, one controversial topic in girls’ lacrosse is the optional decision to wear helmets. Last year, the Stonington High School women’s lacrosse team went to the Class S state championship, but ended up losing to the defending champion: New Fairfield. Stonington head coach Jeff Mederios mentions that one of the reasons for getting so far was with the help of newly implemented helmets that not only enhanced the players’ safety and satisfaction, but also created a team unity.

Medeiros witnessed one of the most frightening injuries he had ever seen from any of his players. This gave him the idea to want to implement new helmets for his team.

“The prior season we had a girl receive a second concussion in as many seasons,” Medeiros said. “That girl was only a sophomore at the time and because of her second concussion she would be forced to wear a helmet for future participation. The concussion that she suffered the second time was life-changing for her and it put the dangers of the game in the forefront. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes an example to start a movement in the right direction.”

Medeiros encouraged the team to adopt helmets in support of their teammate who would be wearing one the next season.

“Although I may have introduced the idea, it was important that the girls agreed to it,” Medeiros continued.

The new helmets were born with the help of team fundraising from parents, including those of the girl whom the team wanted to support.

“Parents were a huge part of the fundraising for the helmets, so getting them on board was a breeze,” Medeiros said. “Her parents were part of the fundraising also.” Unfortunately, she did not return to the team.

These helmets are made in one size that is meant to stretch to accommodate for head size. Attached to them are goggles, a chin strap and an opening for girls to put their hair through.

Although the new adjustment to the helmets became an early struggle, Medieros’ players came to appreciate the new custom added to their team culture.

“Early on I heard complaints,” Medeiros said. “‘It gives me a head ache,’ ‘I can’t see as well as my goggles, taking off and on is a pain.’ After a while, I didn’t hear many complaints at all. I actually heard some girls near the end of the season say to others that they were happy to be wearing them – one girl never took it off. I believe that they were happy to wear them because they felt safer. They really aren’t much worse than the goggles they already wear and this is key; they weren’t alone.”

Despite losing in last year’s Class S State championship game, Medeiros looks back at last season’s helmet experiment as a positive.

“We proved that helmets don’t affect the game negatively at all,” Medeiros said. “We competed at the highest level our State Division allows and played better than we were expected to play throughout the season. I think it’s obvious that wearing helmets didn’t give us any advantage physically. I do believe we had one psychologically. As long as coaches and referees do their jobs enforcing the rules, the game won’t change with the addition of helmets.”

Psychologically, the team made key adjustments.

“There was less flinching, more confidence to take drives to the net especially versus teams known to be a little more physical,” Medeiros continued. “Secondly, the exclusivity of being the only team with them gave us an edge that was not so obvious. But beyond that it gave us a symbol of unity. Every team we played asked questions and anyone on our team had the answers. I’m sure they discussed pros and cons, but in the end the only ones who could relate were their own teammates and because of that it bonded us. That was a bonus.”

Most of all, the helmets kept lacrosse players safe from injury.

Andrew Hubschman is a student at Mitchell College and Times intern.

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