Athletes fight for an edge over their opponents on and off the field, but the greatest advantage of all depends on where these battles take place.
BYU rugby and lacrosse combine for 34 games in a three-month season, yet only 12 of those games are at home. Only 35 percent of their seasons is spent in front of a home crowd where the advantage is in the teams’ favor. This is terribly low when compared to the better known sports on campus. Men’s basketball had 53 percent of its games in the Marriott Center this past season, while the football team had an even 50 percent of its games in LaVell Edwards Stadium. Men’s volleyball has had an impressive 61 percent of its season played in Provo.
“We put in a lot of work throughout the year that the BYU community doesn’t get to see,” sophomore lacrosse player Mike Fabrizio said. “They really just don’t know. When we are at home they finally get to see how much work and effort we have been putting in.”
Playing at home is not only a privilege, but an advantage — an advantage the rugby and lacrosse teams don’t often have.
These student athletes have a hard time juggling school, work, sports and, for some, their families. It is incredible to think that on top of these responsibilities they must pay to play the sport they love.
“Academically it is challenging,” TJ Allred, senior rugby player, said. “I guess practice makes perfect. We are so used to being on the road that we just kind of get used to it. I mean, when you don’t receive a scholarship to play you have to work together as a team to succeed.”
The lacrosse team competes in the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Conference, where it has won eight conference championships and four national championships. The rugby team competes in the College Premier Division, where it has won two national championships.
These programs are not sanctioned by the NCAA, but they still dominate the field wherever they go. Between the two teams they have racked up six national championships since 1997. This season they combine for a record of 11–1. Unfortunately, the teams play almost two thirds of their games on the road. With all of these road trips it becomes easy to slack on school work and on homework, but the coaches make sure these athletes are students first.
“It is difficult,” freshmen rugby player Jonathan Linehan said. “We are student-athletes. Student comes first in that sentence, athlete comes second.”
The lacrosse team has adopted a mentoring program where the older, more experienced players help the younger ones with school work. With this program in place, the coaches have high academic expectations for the players.
“It almost feels like you are on vacation,” Fabrizio said. “But it isn’t. These are work trips, and we have to keep up with our school work along with our game preparation. Our coaches are very good at laying out our weeks and giving us specific study time.”
The lacrosse team has produced more than one hundred Academic All-Americans. BYU rugby has produced dozens of All-Americans since 2001 and a has only lost 20 games in 21 years.
Being on the road is one of the BYU lacrosse team’s biggest challenges; but when it comes to home games, the team excels. In the past two years, the rugby and lacrosse teams have not lost a game in front of a home crowd.
“It is all about momentum,” sophomore lacrosse player Zach Jordan said. “Momentum is home field advantage. When you have the home fans behind you, cheering you on, the momentum is right there. Cougar Nation is right there, and then we bring the energy.”