The Climb: Lacrosse Parents Serve Meals, Advice

  • Heather Roberts makes sandwiches for the team on May 26, 2017 at her home in Lebanon, N.H. Her daughter Lexie watches the as her mother finishes salad wrap. She is a member of the Lebanon girls lacrosse team. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Lebanon girls lacrosse parents Laura Flashman, left, Heather Roberts with her daughter Sam Roberts volunteer at a bake sale to raise funds for WISE on May19, 2017 in Lebanon, N.H. Sam Roberts a Lebanon High School graduate played on the lacrosse team. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/14/2017 11:44:40 PM
Modified: 6/14/2017 11:44:40 PM

Lebanon — Lexie Roberts was an unhappy Lebanon High lacrosse player during the first few weeks of the team’s game schedule this spring. A junior and a varsity returnee, she had hopes of starting the entire season, but was hampered by an injury and faced stiff competition to break into the defense’s first unit.

By the third game, Roberts’ expressions and body language clearly relayed her emotions. She was sulking, and everyone within a 100-yard radius of the bench could tell. After a lopsided loss at Laconia, Roberts walked to the bleachers on the opposite side of the field and was wrapped in a long hug by her paternal grandmother, Donna Roberts.

This would sometimes be a cue for the player’s parents to become involved. Why isn’t my daughter playing? Can’t you see her chances for future success are being harmed? Except that Lexie’s parents, Steve and Heather Roberts, had no intention of acting in that manner.

“It’s varsity sports and you earn your time, and if you don’t like it, work harder,” Steve Roberts said, not unsympathetically. “I’ve written Lexie notes and sent her texts about being a good teammate. Just because you don’t play doesn’t mean you can’t be important. We’ve been very positive with her, but it’s not all about playing time.”

Said Heather Roberts: “I get her being upset, and you feel bad for her. But at this level, the goal is to win games. And you know (coach Sara Ecker) cares for the girls so much that she’s not purposely not going to play someone.”

The Roberts family has built this understanding not just during six years with daughters in the Raiders program, but with three children who have played sports throughout their youth. Samantha, the oldest, competed in field hockey, ice hockey and lacrosse at Lebanon and is a member of the University of New Hampshire’s women’s ice hockey club team.

Lexie Roberts plays field hockey and used to play ice hockey. Her brother, Joe, is a rising ninth-grader at Cardigan Mountain School, where he plays soccer, ice hockey and baseball. Their parents made it clear that after-school activities of some sort were required, and they are grateful for the lessons sports have conveyed.

“Respect, commitment, structure: It’s a whole process, and it trickles down to all aspects of their lives, hopefully,” Steve Roberts said.

Lexie Roberts played more as the season progressed. She also became better at maintaining a stiff upper lip when she didn’t start or came off for a substitute.

“It’s easier to let everyone know you’re not happy than telling them,” she said later in the spring. “I’ve tried to work on it so I don’t bring people down. At game time, it’s like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m so unhappy I’m not playing.’ But then at practice, you’re having so much fun and you’re wondering what you thought to act that way before.”

Throughout those ups and downs, Lexie and Heather did work behind the scenes that gave the Raiders program a homey feel. For each of the team’s seven road games, they assembled and distributed meals for the girls to eat on the bus rides home. Sometimes that meant 15 varsity players; sometimes, with the junior varsity included, there were as many as 26 mouths to feed.

Ecker said the tradition started roughly 10 years ago with a desire not to stop at fast-food restaurants and to give the players healthier replacement calories after burning so many on the field. The Roberts family sent out an order form during the preseason, with options for sandwiches and wraps in turkey or ham, along with various toppings, snacks and drinks. Gatorade, apples, gummy chews and chips were often on the menu. The meals were paid for by players’ parents in advance.

When a junior varsity game followed a varsity contest, Lexie Roberts often would board the bus and lay out her teammates’ meals on their specific seats. If not, she stood at the front of the vehicle and lobbed foil-wrapped consumables over the rows. There was a den-mother aspect to the distribution, as players would shout for specific drink flavors or try to haggle for two gummy snacks instead of an apple.

“I think she enjoys the responsibility, to think that she’s providing something they want,” Heather Roberts said of her daughter.

Teamwork, it turns out, is a learned behavior.

Tris Wykes can be reached at or 603-727-3227.

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