We'll Always Have Paris: Brown, Team USA Standout Waterman a Rising Star
by Clare Lochary | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff
|Brown senior captain Paris Waterman is an intense defender, but she's recently worked to improve her offensive game. She scored 33 goals in 2010.|
Paris Waterman is 5'3" and compactly built. Strong, but tiny. She often gets a slightly backhanded compliment from people who see her play.
You play a lot bigger than you are.
"Against whomever I play, I never feel small," said the Brown senior.
Waterman's athleticism, bravado and ambition have been the key to her meteoric rise in the lacrosse world. An All-Ivy League player last season and a team captain as a senior, she also made the cut for the U.S. team this summer. Not bad for a girl who couldn't even switch hands four years ago.
"She's very tough to get by defensively," Brown head coach Keely McDonald said. "Good luck to kids trying to get by her."
Waterman's first love was basketball. Her father, Stanley, is the head men's basketball coach at the Sanford (Del.) School, and Waterman was on the court year-round, playing for AAU programs and travel teams. Lacrosse was something she did for fun. She never joined a lacrosse club team, and sending out lacrosse recruiting film during winter of her senior year was something of an afterthought.
But when McDonald saw the small, speedy girl who had no left but still left her opponents in the dust, she knew she had something.
"The second I popped the DVD in, I went and got my assistant Meg [Decker] and said, 'Look at this kid,'" McDonald said.
So Waterman entered Brown as a freshman, intending to be a full-time laxer. But around November, she started getting the basketball itch again. With McDonald's blessing, she tried out for the Bears' varsity basketball team, made the cut and even cracked the starting lineup. She was no slouch on the lacrosse field either, starting in 15 of 16 games as a rookie.
After freshman year, though, McDonald and Waterman had a sit-down. McDonald thought that Waterman was selling herself short as a laxer by splitting her attention between two teams.
"I said, 'Look, you're going to start every game and you're going to be the best one on the field for us. But don't you want to see how far you can go?'" McDonald said.
Waterman thought it over, and decided it was better to try to become great at one thing than to be good at two. Lacrosse was relatively unchartered territory for her, and she had no idea what her ceiling was.
"You've got to challenge yourself and take risks, because you never know what you can do," Waterman said. "I wanted to be in a spot where I wasn't comfortable. Uncomfortable situations are where you're going to grow. You can't surround yourself with what you're used to."
So Waterman started logging hours of wall ball and played offseason lacrosse for the first time in her life. She perfected her left hand, and developed a better game sense. She played boldly, never hesitating to mark the best player on the other team or take a shot when she saw an opening. Her role expanded from a pure defender to a defensively minded midfielder. In 2010, she was the team leader in ground balls (33) and second on draw controls (24). As it turned out, she's a pretty good shot too — she had 33 goals, second-most on the team.
As McDonald watched Waterman's exponential improvement, she knew her star player was capable of more. So she suggested that she take the next step — the U.S. national team. Waterman was game, and headed to UMBC in May for the first round of tryouts.
It's a tricky thing, trying out for Team USA. Some players, even very good ones, freak out in the face of intense competition versus the stars they grew up watching. Others are so focused on avoiding mistakes that they blend into the scenery.
While she marveled at a team so stacked with talent, she held onto her competitive edge.
"I don't depend on anyone else to make mistakes. I take risks," she said.
Waterman is a do-it-all middie for the Bears, but she returned to her roots during national team tryouts and concentrated on landing a spot as a pure defender. She bodied up on veteran World Cup attackers like Caitlyn McFadden and Katie Rowan like it was another day at the office.
"She was aggressive overall, had really good footwork and just played fearless," said Team USA defensive coordinator and Stanford head coach Amy Bokker. "She went after everything hard, and that really paid off."
When the final roster went up in August, Waterman scanned the list looking for her number. When her eyes fell upon number 156, she had to double-check her penny, even though she'd been wearing the same number since tryout started in May. It was true. She'd done it.
"I was ecstatic," Waterman said. "I was so proud to know I'm among 36 of the best women in the country. They have such a contagious energy and enthusiasm for lacrosse."
Waterman's next step will be playing for Team USA in the Champion Challenge and leading Brown into in the 2011 NCAA season. The Bears finished 7-8 last year, losing four games by two goals or less. In 2011, they aim to turn those heartbreaker games into Ws. Seeing their best player take risks and push herself infused the team with a can-do, dream-big attitude.
"She's a huge inspiration to the entire team," freshman Lindsay Minges said. "What she did this summer really made us examine ourselves and think individually, 'What is our next level?'"
Waterman's eager to pass on what she learns by playing against better competition with Team USA. She's already learned one really extraordinary thing from the experience.
"In high school, I liked to play lacrosse — it was fun," Waterman said. "But now I've learned to love it."