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Sam Assaf ’19, Amherst College Lacrosse

Q: What has been the biggest change going from high-school athletics to NCAA athletics?

The biggest change, in my opinion, is the mentality of the whole team. Everyone is there to compete, and every practice seems as intense as a game. Same with the coaches—their whole job is to win and help you grow as a player and person. Another big change is the speed of the game—it is just so much faster than high-school sports.

Q: What type of animal best describes your style of play?

I would say a dog, but like a big police dog that barks a lot. Dogs are relentless when barking, which is a lot like what a crease defender has to do when on the crease communicating to the whole defense. In my position, you must also be ready to attack (slide) at any moment. Think of a police dog let off a leash—they have a job to do, and it is hard to stop them from doing it.

Q: How do you prepare mentally for an important game? What grounds you?

Days before game day, I watch hours of film. This grounds me as I walk into an important game because I already know the other team/players’ tendencies. Once you study a team enough, things become more natural. Right before the game, I always listen to music. It gets me hyped while at the same time grounding me and letting me really focus on myself, not the other team. I have a lot of game-day traditions, but two quick ones are to visit the trainer to get some heat and chat, and, after throwing and shooting around, I re-tape my stick. Of course, as most athletes do, I have plenty of others as well.

Q: Who inspires you?

My family, coaches and teammates inspire me. My parents inspire me to do what makes me happy, whereas my brothers definitely inspire my competitive edge. No one can get under your skin like four brothers, and it always reminds me how hard I need to compete to make them proud. My high-school coaches, specifically Kevin Johnson and Grady Stevens, both inspired me to just work. They always inspired me to keep pushing and grinding no matter what. 

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