By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/16/16
Ally McLaughlin believes student-athletes can benefit by playing more than one sport for many reasons.
“I don’t think anyone should be specialized on one single sport – especially in high school,” said the Harriton High alum and recent Pomona College (CA) graduate. “I think playing multiple sports is important in terms of your overall fitness by having different muscle groups engaged all the time.
“It prevents ACL tears and other injuries and also keeps you in shape and happy to by having diversity in your life. I don’t think the single-mindedness that society forces on people is important. I had a job all four years in college and ran cross country and played lacrosse and still did outdoorsy things. That’s one of the advantages of Division 3. You shouldn’t have to limit yourself.”
McLaughlin clearly did not limit herself at Pomona College, located in Claremont, Calif., just east of Los Angeles. Her list of athletic and academic accomplishments is rare in this day of the one-sport athlete.
McLaughlin, a midfield defender, led the Pomona-Pitzer lacrosse team (the colleges of Pomona and Pitzer form one team) to the NCAA Division III Round of 16 in each of the past two years and recently was named a Division III Third Team All-American. She was named First Team All-West three years and also earned Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Defensive Athlete of the Year three times.
McLaughlin also excelled on the Sagehens cross country team. She was a second-team All-Conference pick, was named All-Region and earned NCAA Division II All-Academic honors.
The Sagehens lacrosse team went 16-4 and was 47-13 the past three years. Amazingly, when McLaughlin got there the team had 12 players, no goalie and was coming off a 7-10 season.
“I was not worried about lacrosse or cross country when I picked the school,” she said. “I was looking at academics. Pomona-Pitzer is a great school – it was voted No. 1 by Forbes and everything about the school is great. When I got there the lacrosse team was average, but I was more more interested in playing as a freshman.”
Thanks to McLaughlin, who collected an amazing 87 goals, 49 assists, 273 groundballs, 202 draw controls, and 170 caused turnovers in her four years as a starter, the Sagehens were much more than average.
“It was lucky that soon had an awesome lacrosse team,” she said. “We had a huge class coming in when I got there and my class over the years got way better. The year before I got there we had just 12 players and the coach had to send an e-mail out to the student body asking if anybody wanted to play goalie.
“My first year was definitely a building year. But the class above us was a big part of the core and we all helped change the program around.”
McLaughlin said running cross country helped her stay in shape and also to stay fresh for lacrosse.
“Cross country keeps you in shape all year round and prevents injuries,” she said. “I never got shin splints.”
And how did she balance two sports and a demanding academic program in Linguistics? That was easy for McLaughlin.
“In high school I actually played four sports so this was a step down to play only two sports in college,” she said, without cracking a smile. “I had so much free time I had to go get a job.’
McLaughlin had a refreshing attitude on choosing the right college in the age of freshman commits.
“I think that the main purpose of going to college is to get the best education you can,” said McLaughlin, who also got to spend a semester abroad in Salamanca, an ancient Celtic city in northwestern Spain. “You can use lacrosse if you want to get into a school, but you shouldn’t go to school just because of the lacrosse team. That was my thought process. You go because you like the school.
“It ended up working out great because my team was amazing and and almost all my best friends were on the team with me.”
Now McLaughlin is back home coaching 7th grade for Quaker City Lacrosse and preparing for a year as a Kindergarten Teacher at a charter school in the Bronx. She plans to return to graduate school and begin studying to be a speech pathologist.
How did McLaughlin enjoy going to school in Southern California?
“It’s very different,” she said. “The weather is obviously completely different. For cross country it was nicer; I never minded playing lacrosse in the cold weather. But it was 105 degrees in the summers so I had to do some adjusting. During the season it was never cold – you never needed a long-sleeved shirt. It was awesome!”