Paige Sutton is a regular, everyday freshman at Belmont secondary.
Well, that’s not exactly true. Not every 15-year-old girl has a 4.0 GPA, scholarships to play field lacrosse internationally, and has both Stanford and Princeton universities on their short list of schools they’re considering attending under a full-ride athletic scholarship once they graduate.
Sutton first got a lacrosse stick in her hand when she was four, the same age her father held his first one a generation before, beginning a lifelong – and now intergenerational – love of the game.
“I coached my first team when I was 12,” her father Dean says. “Lacrosse has always been in my family. As a dad, you always want your kids to play the sport you play, because you already have a love for it.”
When Paige “took off” with lacrosse, Dean says, she became more and more competitive and wanted to play at increasingly higher levels.
She’d heard of people going to play lacrosse in other places at a more competitive level, so she looked into it. She caught on with the Seattle Starz, an elite training program that forms teams to play against some of the best in that country.
Her family travelled to Washington state every weekend for practice, and gives special thanks to Saunders Subaru for helping with costs for those trips in the form of a scholarship.
“It was exhausting,” Paige says, “but I loved it, because I just love playing lacrosse and want to play at the highest level I can.”
This year she pursued and was offered a spot on XTeam, based in New York State. The development program works largely online, gathering statistics and doing performance tracking, while providing players with training modules, video submissions and teleconferencing. Team members then meet up to play tournaments on the East Coast.
Paige made the squad through a series of interviews, sending videos of herself playing in both game situations and practice sessions, and based on recommendations from coaches and others.
She has to regularly enter her practice schedule and the results of timed runs so XTeam staff knows she’s keeping up with the program and performing to the high expectations of the curriculum.
Players on this squad come from all over the world – one girl recently taken on hails from Saudi Arabia – and only 20 are accepted per team, so it’s clear this is an exclusive club.
Lacrosse is a different from other sports in that being a top-level player isn’t necessarily enough to get into a good school under scholarship, Paige says. Players also need to impress recruiters with academics, which she intends on continuing to do.
While she hasn’t decided what she’d like to study after graduation, she knows she wants a job that requires post-secondary education. And she hopes lacrosse will be her vehicle to gain entry into a university program.
“Her coaches have always been very good at saying that lacrosse is a means of getting an education,” says her mother, Tracy. “For girls, they’ll never get to play professionally, so this is a way to get a scholarship to get a really good education and do something you love at the same time.”
So what are her chances of getting into a top-tier school to play the sport she loves?
“Well, I literally watched the recruiter from Princeton write her name and number down on his notepad at a tournament,” Dean says, beaming with pride, so they think she’s got a good chance of going places.
They’ll find out for sure once the college coaches can actually contact her without it being a recruiting violation, which is in her junior year of high school (Grade 11).
Until then, she just needs to keep updating them with emails telling them where she’s going to be playing so they can come watch, and hope they like what they see when they do.