Sports Person of the Week
Shakun’s Eager to Wear the Captain’s Hat
Abby Shakun was recently named a senior captain for next year’s Valley Regional girls’ lacrosse team. An attacker on the lacrosse field, Abby also plays defense for the Warriors’ field hockey squad. (Photo courtesy of Abby Shakun )
Abby Shakun has worked her way into an important role with the Valley Regional girls’ lacrosse team. Abby is an attacker who was recently named a senior captain for next year’s squad. In addition to playing lacrosse, Abby is also a defender on the Warriors’ field hockey team.
Abby has climbed up the ranks with both of her teams, despite the fact that she didn’t have much experience in either sport prior to high school. Abby played her first lacrosse game as a freshman at Valley and quickly learned how to make a positive impact. As for field hockey, aside from some intramural experience at John Winthrop (JW) Middle School, Abby’s experience with the Warriors marked her first competitive foray into the sport.
“I did intramural field hockey at JW, but I never really played until I got to Valley. Freshman year was the first time I had ever played lacrosse,” Abby says. “I liked that I already knew a lot of the lacrosse team through field hockey. My little brother Patrick played lacrosse. I watched his games, and I liked how fast-paced it was.”
Learning to play lacrosse on the fly wasn’t the easiest experience for Abby. However, Abby says that she wouldn’t change a thing about that learning process.
“We didn’t have a JV team when I was a freshman. I was just thrown into varsity games for five minutes here and there, and I was just forced to figure things out. I actually loved that,” says Abby. “It was really challenging at times, but it was just the best way to learn. You’re not taught the easy way of things. You’re just taught how to do it.”
It was a big accomplishment for Abby to be named a captain for the girls’ lacrosse team, especially considering how much she had to learn in just a few years. Abby knows that much of her success stems from the support that she received from her captains as a freshman. Now, she wants to pay that forward to next generation of Valley lacrosse players.
“I’m just super excited to be a role model for the younger players. I know what it’s like to just start out new to the game. I want to help some of those younger players out,” Abby says. “The captains I had when I was a freshman were really encouraging while I was trying to learn. They made me feel welcome. I think that had a huge impact on how I will be a captain. The main thing I want to emphasize is that everyone has a part on the team, no matter how small or how big. Everyone has an impact.”
Valley girls’ lacrosse Head Coach Randy Netsch feels confident that Abby is the perfect choice to lead the Warriors in a captain’s role. Netsch believes that Abby’s rise from an inexperienced player to a steady contributor makes her uniquely qualified to help her teammates succeed.
“Abby had not played lacrosse from a young age, as many of her teammates had. That did not discourage her and, in fact, I believe it made her work all that much harder to gain the skills required to be a competent player,” Netsch says. “Abby always puts the team first. She is very intelligent, perceptive, and will approach players who may be struggling with their play to help them regain confidence. Most people would have to search several lifetimes to find a young woman with the kindness and compassion for others that Abby has. That’s why I know she will be an excellent captain.”
Abby gets a thorough look at both ends of a field by playing different positions in her respective sports. Abby aims to create offensive opportunities for the lacrosse squad, but tries to prevent the opposition from scoring as a member of the field hockey team. Abby feels that these experiences give her important insights on both aspects of play.
“In lacrosse, I usually play attack, but I usually play defense in field hockey, which is interesting. I like getting both perspectives on the field. I feel it helps in both,” says Abby, an Essex resident. “The biggest thing is just learning to maneuver around people. Both sports are really team-oriented. You are working by yourself, but you have your team members there to help, as well. You have to be able to cooperate to be successful.”
When Abby’s on the attack, she uses her ability to quickly change direction to help the Warriors pick apart opposing defenses. As a defender, she has to break up those types of plays. Abby says that executing her maneuvers on offense in lacrosse benefits her when she’s gauging what the opposition will attempt against her on the field hockey turf.
“In lacrosse, I normally focus on cutting. Even if the ball isn’t near me, I still focus on cutting to make room for my teammates, so that they can score,” Abby says. “In field hockey, I try to anticipate where the ball is going to be and try to intercept it. Then I pull around and try to get the ball up the field as fast as I can.”
Abby thinks that being an effective athlete in any sport requires dedication to physical fitness, and that this is especially true in her sports of choice. The nonstop running in either a field hockey or lacrosse game necessitates a lot of training and exercise. Still, Abby says that it takes more than just being fast to get to the right spot at the right time.
“You have to be physically in shape and have good speed to be able to get around people. You can pass all you want, but you will need that speed in many situations to be successful. That’s something I’m always trying to work on and get faster,” says Abby. “During the game, I try to focus on pinpointing where I want to move and figure out how to get there in the least number of steps, while covering the most ground possible.”
Missing out on the 2020 season has been a tough experience for Abby and her teammates, although it has also helped her become more introspective. Abby feels bad for the seniors who didn’t get to play their final campaign at Valley. At the same time, she’s motivated to help the Warriors come back hungry and ready to win next year.
“I feel so disappointed for the seniors, but I think one of the most disappointing things about missing the season is losing the experience of playing in the games. That’s the most beneficial way to learn lacrosse. The in-game experience teaches so much,” Abby says. “I feel like I’ve had a lot of time to think and figure out what’s important. I know what to do and how to prepare myself for next year, so I can finish my high school career strong.”