By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 3/19/20
Grant Ament has a message for everyone who is sad that their sports lives are on hold: “Just because you are not on the field practicing with other guys, that doesn’t mean you can’t be competing.
“I see a lot of guys on Twitter posting a bunch of film, trying to find an edge anywhere. Just because you’re not necessarily playing doesn’t mean you can’t get better. My mentality is: continue to try to find that edge.”
The Penn State fifth-year senior from The Haverford School spoke to Phillylacrosse.com about the loss of the second half of his senior season on a team that last year reached the NCAA Final Four and this season was ranked among the top 5 in the nation all year.
Ament’s Nittany Lions, along with the rest of the NCAA sports teams, were shocked to learn last Thursday the season had to be cancelled due to the spread of the Coronavirus. Ament, a Tewaaraton Award Finalist and record-setting attackman last year, was second in the nation in assists per game and third in points per game when Penn State’s 5-2 season ended.
Ament – who already had 13 goals and 31 assists – had strong hopes of returning to Philly for the Final Four with the Lions. He was on target to contend for the Tewaaraton. Now, he is home, trying to stay positive and determine what his next move is – graduate and go to the pros, if there is a season, or get a fifth year of eligibility, since the NCAA has announced it will grant all athletes an extra year to compete.
Q: What was your reaction when you heard the NCAA was calling off the rest of the season on March 12?
GA: “We were on the bus ride home from South Carolina (following a 22-7 win over Furman two days earlier) when the news broke. The bus went quiet quickly. To be honest once the Ivy League cancelled we kind of knew it was coming. But everybody was speechless, including myself. There is no protocol to how to react to that, but it was pretty quiet the last 4 hours of the ride.”
Q: How did coach Jeff Tambroni address the sudden end to the season?
GA: “We hopped off at a rest stop and coach Tambroni spoke to the seniors. There was a lot of emotion. At that time everyone thought their careers were over; my head has still not wrapped around it completely. We were going to play Maryland under the lights in two weeks and that’s always a big game. But one thing that continues to come back to me more than just missing games is that, day to day, I found myself without anything to do. That sounds funny, but when your schedule is full and it revolves on lacrosse,it really messes with your life. I miss that team camaraderie and I really think our team was starting to roll. We had lost two games, but I think we were ready to peak at the right time because of what we learned from those losses.”
Q: You are graduating with a degree in Economics this spring. What are your plans for the future? Are you considering taking another year to play college lacrosse, or will you try to play professional lacrosse?
GA: “I am trying to figure it out. Most seniors are in a tough position; there is a lot to think about. I am talking to my family and we’ll see what the best path is for me.”
Q: Did you think, when you were younger, you would reach this status as a player and have the ability as a smaller attackman to set an NCAA record for assists (96 last year) and become a Tewaaraton finalist?
GA: “I always was extremely motivated and wanted that. I grew up watching (Lower Merion’s) Jordan Wolf and (Penn Charter’s) Joey Sankey and those two guys gave me hope. I always believed in myself a lot and tried to bet on myself. I also had a lot of pretty good guys to play with (he was a member of Haverford School’s 2015 undefeated National championship team) and some pretty good guys have coached me.
“It’s a combination of a lot of things; being coached at Penn State by one of the best ever and having the culture coach has built. Everyone here is driven toward that mission and Coach Tambroni and the staff have given us the confidence to reach this level. I always thought I could be great; I always wanted to be the best. I really think the combination of coaches and players I have played with have allowed me to separate.”
Q: How does it feel to know you have helped Penn State become a top-tier lacrosse program?
GA: “I would say we’re incredibly proud; I am just hoping that it continues, regardless of what happens next year because this blueprint of how to go to work every day creates a cycle.”
Q: You have always been a successful table-setter. How has your role as the “quarterback” of the offense changed in your career at Penn State?
GA: “My role has evolved as I have evolved since my time at Haverford. I always said that I wanted to get my teammates involved; one of the hardest things to do in any sport is to make those around you better. I want to be that person. At the same time, I have been lucky to play with phenomenal finishers. I have been the beneficiary of playing with one of the best scorers (Mac O’Keefe) in college lacrosse history, and many other great players. And Coach Tambroni has changed his offense and evolved. You saw in college lacrosse a lot of teams trying to adopt our method. That’s a testament to his coaching ability. Some coaches stick to their script and expect the players to adapt to his style; Coach does the opposite. He allows his offense to evolve around the players.”
Q: How are young dealing with being at home and reflecting on what has occurred?
GA: “I don’t have any regret with how I did stuff. I know I laid everything I had out for my teams. I made sure I could be the best player I could be at this point in time. Honestly, now I have to figure out what to do with myself. I am home with my parents, and we’re just trying to figure it out. This is a much bigger issue than just sports.”
Q: What advice do you have for high school or any athlete that is dealing with the loss of their season?
GA: “I would say just because you are not on the field practicing with other guys, that doesn’t mean you can’t be competing. You can still work on your shooting, working out to be in your best shape possible. I see a lot of guys on Twitter posting a bunch of film, trying to find an edge anywhere. Just because you’re not necessarily playing doesn’t mean you can’t get better. My mentality is: continue to try to find that edge; you never know who your biggest competitor is or who is working harder. Don’t give anyone an excuse to beat you.”