As a freshman at Notre Dame High School, Amelia Shaw wanted to try something new — she’d played soccer most of her childhood. So she tried field hockey in the fall and lacrosse in the spring.
It was the second year for the school’s lacrossse program so freshmen played on the varsity level. At first, Shaw was a fielder.
“But I wasn’t that good on the field because I couldn’t really throw the ball,” Shaw said.
Her coach at the time, Natalie Fischer, suggested that her aggressivness would work well for a goalie.
“They just threw me in there,” Shaw recalled. “I was scared at first having a bunch of hard balls flying at me. It was a little intimidating too because I was a freshman and it was a really important position.”
Shaw made it work, practicing hard under the tutelage of then-volunteer goalie coach J.C. Dillon, a St. Louis Lacrosse Hall of Fame member from his days at CBC and Ursuline. Now a senior and co-captain of the team, she’s been a starter since the second game of her freshman year. Dillon, now the head coach, said Shaw filled a need, allowing a senior to play in her preferred position. It was Shaw’s “Christian approach to life” that prompted her to be the first to step up and try the goalie position for the greater good of the team and for her senior teammate, Dillon said. “She’s always the first to give a helping hand, to console people or to wait with people who need a ride home.”
She represents the Notre Dame mission statement, which educates young women to become confident, compassionate Christian leaders, using their gifts to make a difference in the world around them, Shaw noted. “It’s that ‘servant-as-leader’ approach,” he said.
Shaw became one of the best goalies in the state through hard work and positive attitude, Dillon said, getting playing time and practicing outside the season in order to help her Notre Dame team.
The results are impressive. In 2018, Shaw had a .631 save percentage, which was third in the state. She accepted a scholarship to play lacrosse at Missouri Baptist University. In a game April 23 vs. Parkway South, Shaw stopped 11 shots and showed off sharp reflexes and good positioning in a 7-2 win for Notre Dame, the team’s sixth win in a row and seventh overall.
Notre Dame’s program has grown, now with a junior varsity, and Shaw points out that “we have people who really want to play and work outside of practice. It’s just really cool to see the love of the game that each member of the team has.”
She’s proud to be part of the team and praises the camaraderie that has developed. She and the other co-captain, Maggie Sise, “really emphasize positivity and not getting down on ourselves or other teammates,” Shaw said. “We learn from Coach Dillon, because that’s his number-one thing, going out there being positive to each other and the other teams. That’s what’s going to make us a better team in the long run.”
This is the first year her team is in a conference, so last year “we played against really big, good schools when we should have been playing smaller schools,” Shaw said. “We played Francis Howell, a really big school, and it was one of the best games that we played. We ended up beating them by one goal. It was just awesome the effort everyone put in. At the end of the game, the whole team just tackled me, we were so incredibly happy.”
Shaw is mentoring a sophomore, Megan Lumsden, who serves as a backup goalie. “She’s becoming such a great goalie,” Shaw said.
The team prays the Hail Mary or Glory Be before every game. “We just remind each other of who we are playing for in the long run and what it’s all about,” Shaw said. “We give thanks and ask for help in playing to the best of our abilities.”
Shaw leads her St. Francis of Assisi Life Teen group, what she calls her faith family. A few of her lacrosse teammates take part in the group as well. “They’re definitely my go-to whenever I need anything, if I’m upset and need prayers or if I’m joyful I can share that with them,” she said.
She’s a Kairos Retreat leader and Luke 18 core team leader, school ambassador and student council member. Shaw lists many qualities she enjoys about Notre Dame, including its emphasis on faith and availability of a variety extracurricular activities.
Coaching as ministry
For J.C. Dillon, coach of the Notre Dame lacrosse team, the most important thing to teach players is a love of the game.
only have them for a few months, so if you instill a love of the game,
they get far better on their own. We can teach them technique and so on,
but they get better just by doing it.”
Dillon, a member of St.
Clement Parish, coached extensively on the high school level and also in
the Catholic Youth Apostolate’s CYC sports program. It was the CYC’s
approach to reinforcing a positive approach to coaching that helped him
change his “old-school” approach. “What opened my eyes during that
training was that they viewed coaching as a ministry,” Dillon said.
“Just that thought of coaching as ministry was such a cool idea to me.”
He also sees a need to boost the confidence of players who seem to lack it. They then “become real members of a team,” he said.