[Adam Goldner is a senior attacker on the men’s lacrosse team. He is No. 5 on the career goals list (106) and No. 13 all-time at Penn in points (126). Last year, he set the school single-season record in goals (56) and had the third-highest single-season points total in school history (63). From Allentown, Pennsylvania, he is enrolled in the Wharton School. This article originally appeared on the Penn Athletics website.]
Practice was drawing to an end and the seniors were called into a huddle around Coach Murphy.
I remember my first collegiate visit was to the University of Pennsylvania. I initially saw it as a trial run to help me prepare for the others I had scheduled later that summer but was immediately proven wrong. I had always heard of the mythical feeling of “fit” that you were supposed to feel in the recruiting process, that indescribable sensation you got at a place where you thought you belonged. I shrugged off the senses of awe and attachment I felt as merely a result of being on my first collegiate visit. I visited campuses across the country, I considered schools in other conferences, yet I kept coming back to Penn. On my visits to Penn I had sweat through my polo walking through Penn Park in the June heat, I sat through an hour-and-a-half astronomy lecture, and I trudged down Locust Walk in torrential downpour. Yet there was no other place I wanted to be.
“The Ivy League has decided to cancel the season.”
My stomach dropped like a 45-pound plate after losing grip and it felt as if we had just run our 300-shuttle test without any oxygen. The air had been sucked out of that huddle. No one knew what to say.
Penn’s reputation for its distinguished academics and competitive athletics are top of mind for many, but for me it was the people that set it apart. They are some of the most talented and hardworking people in the world, yet there has never been any feeling of arrogance. That humility has trickled down through the entire program as a reflection of Coach Murphy’s leadership. Even as a 14-year-old kid, when I would walk through the locker room or watch one of their practices from the sideline, players from all classes made it a priority to introduce themselves and make me feel at home. They welcomed me into their family where everybody ate from the same table. I can confidently say that while we are competitive, we want everyone to succeed and it is the shared victories that we value the most. One of my favorite memories includes having the opportunity to celebrate a win by jumping into the alumni section of the stands. It is both an honor and a thrill to enjoy moments like that with the guys who had worn that jersey before us, since they are the people who understand the grind the most. The greatest strength of the men’s lacrosse program is its people, and even if they have never stepped on the field with you they will always be your teammate for life.
My eyes looked over Penn’s athletic pantheon trying to memorize its details as if it was my first time seeing it, or the last as a Penn lacrosse player. As I scanned the stadium, my eyes got caught on the horizon where the windows to Coach’s office were, nestled in the corner of Franklin Field just beyond the scoreboard.
I remember sitting in that office as a 14-year-old kid, overlooking that very field where we stood and how I was leaning on the edge of my seat as Coach spoke to me. The most profound quote that resonated with me from our meeting was his advice that later guided me throughout my recruiting process. “The most important facet of this decision is to think of what would be best for the Adam Goldner of 2020.” As an incoming freshman with the chance to request what number I was going to wear, there were not many left, but it was a simple decision for me. It may seem like a simple combination of digits, but I always wanted my number to stand for something greater than that. In high school I donned #2, which stood for the number of hours I spent in the car on a daily basis to attend Malvern Prep. It was my reminder that I would have to work even harder with the 22 hours in a day that I had because those that were around me did not have to make that same commute. For my college career, I saw #20 as a perfect way to remind myself to do what’s best for the Adam Goldner of 2020, so that come my senior year, I would be able to proudly say that I left the program in a better place than when I found it.
That day we originally had a lift scheduled after practice, but Coach asked us how we would like to spend our last day together. My eyes immediately scoured the faces of my teammates and before anyone spoke up, we already knew what we wanted to do. We just wanted to keep playing the game we loved together.
Those were the guys that made me look forward to every day. With them around, the work never felt like work. The heated competitions, the priceless banter, the heartbreaking losses, the exhilarating wins, that’s what it was all about. I miss making the numbing trek down Locust with a pack of bundled up teammates, hours before the sun would start to rise. I miss the energy and enthusiasm that would crescendo throughout the stretching lines much like the guitar chords in the Creedence Clearwater Revival song that would be blasting through our speaker. I miss walking into the training room feeling physically fresh but craving the therapeutic quips and company from both teammates and staff. For me, the miles on the turnpike were no more, but the long days and late nights remained, and I would not have been able to make it through all of that without these guys. For all that they have done, I am deeply thankful for them.
The entire team lined up across the 50-yard line. Throughout the year we talked about how the guys to our left and right were the reasons why we worked so hard and that in times of adversity it was essential to lean on them for support. This concept resonated now more than ever.
Even though the barren bleachers cascaded across the stadium, I couldn’t help but envision it full of all of the people who had helped me get to this point. I saw my family and friends who, for more than a decade, watched countless hours of a game they did not fully understand but always made sure to cheer the loudest in the stands. They stood by former teammates and role models whose comprehensive excellence I strived to emulate. Among the crowd were former teachers and coaches, who taught me humility and fundamentals while instilling a sense of confidence. But on the field in front of me were my teammates. They were what it was all about. For me it was never about statistics. It was never about records. It was only about playing a game that I love, with and for the best people I have ever been around. Every year the banners get taken down, the lockers get cleaned out, but the experiences I shared with the Penn lacrosse program will last forever.