Holding Back

By Max Van Bourgondien – January 30, 2011

Growing up I possessed a passionate love for ice hockey, and my father stopped at nothing to make sure that I was able to travel around the country and fulfill my excitement for the game. Unfortunately, New York City is not known for its ability to produce well-rounded hockey players. My father imparted upon me that if I wanted to keep improving and move on to the next level I would have to attend a prep school outside of New York City. After Eighth grade, I decided I was not ready to leave home and would rather stay for ninth grade at Buckley. This decision enabled me to take my time and search for the right boarding school.

I visited roughly twelve schools meeting with the hockey coaches and several of the lacrosse coaches. I was interested in lacrosse at this point, but it was more of a sport that I enjoyed on the side, for it was way more exciting than baseball. In addition, my father, an All American lacrosse player, often liked to immerse me in his expertise. These coaches, all slightly intimidating and suspicious about an athlete from a New York City private school, suggested something I was by no means in favor of adhering to. They felt that it might be in my best interest if I repeated my freshman year of high school and start at boarding school as a repeat ninth grader. It was kind of shocking for me to hear this because I was not failing school or doing poorly on my SSAT’s. I wondered why they wanted me to repeat, and if they doubted my athletic ability. I eventually found out that it was common for athletes to follow that suggestion and start high school over, fresh. It was a way in which to mature a little more physically and mentally. Although I identified this practice to be common, I was still against repeating a year, something kids in schools around the country pray doesn’t happen to them.

I chose to apply to four schools, ultimately choosing to attend The Lawrenceville School, just a few miles down the road from Princeton, NJ. I believed this school to be the best fit for me. It was the most beautiful campus of the group, and boasted a strong tradition in both sports and academics. The school was larger than most of the others, which was also attractive to me due to the fact that I had just spent the previous year in a class with only fourteen other students. I arrived on campus as a freshman, my decision final. As one might expect, I was apprehensive of what I might discover about the other students arriving on campus for the first time. I wasn’t sure if I would fit in socially, since I would be almost a year older than most, which in high school can sometimes feel like way longer than it actually is. It turns out I was not the oldest, it didn’t matter that I was a little older, and I was able to create friendships that I will undoubtedly have forever.

My decision to repeat freshman year of high school was one of the best decisions I ever made. While at Lawrenceville, I was given an extra year to grow and explore what mattered to me. I ended up falling in love with lacrosse, for I was surrounded with so many great players and teammates. It was hard not to. I continued to feel the same about hockey, but I found that lacrosse better suited my college aspirations. The decision to repeat directly affected where I was able to attend college. Without that extra year I would not be at an Ivy institution receiving an extremely competitive education, and all the while continuing a passion of lacrosse at the highest level. I do understand that doing an extra year of high school is not for everyone. Not everyone needs it, but it was great for me.