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  • Delaney Ott

Paving My Own Path: From Club to Division 1

At the beginning of my senior year of high school, if you would’ve asked me where I’d be today, the prediction would’ve been a lot different than reality. At that point in my life, I had been verbally committed to play Division 1 lacrosse since I was 15 years old. When it came time to apply to colleges a few months into my senior year, I decided that the decision I had made many years prior was no longer the right one for me and ultimately ended up taking a different path. In the end, this was the best decision I ever made as it paved the way for me to get everything I could’ve ever wanted out of my college experience.


Growing up, I had always dreamed of heading down south to attend a big university that not only prided itself on its numerous athletic programs, especially football, but also allowed me to succeed academically. From the time I had picked up a lacrosse stick, I had also dreamed of continuing my athletic career by playing for a Division 1 program. When it became time to start getting serious about playing lacrosse in college, I knew that my options were severely limited when it came to having both. As a freshman in high school, the rush of the recruiting process, especially coming from an area where playing lacrosse in college was expected, caused me to make a quick decision. I felt the pressure of recruiting and my entire college search shifted to looking for a great lacrosse program, rather than prioritizing everything I had originally valued in a future institution. As my reality set in for what my future had in store and college application time was coming to a close, I decided that where I had originally committed was not actually aligned with what I wanted. Therefore, I decommitted and chose to attend a university with one of the best club lacrosse programs instead, the University of Georgia.


"It takes a lot to not only show up to practice every day, but to simultaneously coach your own teammates, plan travel, handle finances, run practice, and organize every detail for each game of the season."


My four years at UGA were everything I could’ve ever imagined. I got to experience the highs of winning two national championships in football and the rush of trying to make new friends while knowing no one and attending a school many states away from home. While I have numerous incredible experiences that started because of my decision to attend UGA, all of the best ones surround my time on their club lacrosse program. The people that I met through this team are friends that I will truly cherish for the rest of my life. I got extremely lucky to end up with a group of girls that not only had similar aspirations in regards to lacrosse as myself growing up, but also continued to want to work hard in order for our program to be the most competitive and successful as possible. The work ethic of our program is something that I could talk about for days. In club lacrosse, you are given extremely limited resources by the University, even with our program being one of the best in the country and the only lacrosse team at UGA. For the most part, the entire program is self funded and held together by the girls within it. It takes a lot to not only show up to practice every day, but to simultaneously coach your own teammates, plan travel, handle finances, run practice, and organize every detail for each game of the season. Each person within our program had a crucial role in our team’s success and due to the efforts of everyone, we ultimately ended up making it to the national championship game my last two years at UGA.


"At first, I thought he was crazy. I had never heard of anyone going from club to D1."

When my time at Georgia began to come to a close, I truly reflected on my decision to attend school there and couldn’t have been more satisfied. Over the years though, I had wondered what it would’ve been like if I decided to play Division 1, but at that point, I was ready to close out my playing career and hang up my cleats. That was until my dad called me one day to discuss my options. He didn’t know exactly what it would look like or how the process worked, but he encouraged me to use the extra year of COVID eligibility to play at the next level. At first, I thought he was crazy. I had never heard of anyone going from club to D1. The more I thought about it, it didn’t seem like such an impossible idea. I had personally accomplished everything that you could at the club level, winning USA Lacrosse awards in multiple seasons for Player of the Year, Goalie of the Year, and First Team All-American. My save percentage even reached 70% for my junior season. As a result, I decided to reach out to a few programs that I had a strong liking for during my undergraduate recruiting process. When I heard back from Duke, I knew I definitely couldn’t pass up the opportunity. With the perfect combination of athletics and academics, I couldn’t imagine a better place for my first and last year of Division 1 lacrosse.


"I hope that younger athletes looking to play in college can hear my story and realize that even if their journey looks different than everyone else’s, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong."

Now that I’m at Duke and getting to fulfill something I’ve dreamed of doing since I was six years old, I feel that I can properly reflect back on my unique experience that is the past five years. Although my journey was untraditional, I’m so incredibly thankful that everything happened the way that it did. I hope that younger athletes looking to play in college can hear my story and realize that even if their journey looks different than everyone else’s, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. There’s no correct way to write your story. You just have to seize every opportunity life throws at you because with enough drive and dedication, you could achieve everything you had hoped to. Through my experiences, I was able to not only achieve so much, but also to learn and grow much more as a person than I could’ve ever imagined. I learned that it’s okay to go against the grain. Although all of my best friends and teammates at the time were going on to play Division 1 lacrosse in college, I decided to stick with what I thought was best for me moving forward. I learned that some of the best things in life come to those who wait. For me, while I may not have intentionally been waiting for the opportunity to play at Duke, I chose to remain patient. When playing lacrosse in college didn’t work out the way I had originally hoped, I’m so glad I didn’t give up. Lastly, I learned that if you truly work hard enough, you can have both. There’s a quote by Michael Jordan that I think really pertains to my story. It says, “Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion”. Whether playing Division 1 athletics is your childhood dream or not, the commitment to push past limits you thought existed could open the door to something that you didn’t know was possible.


- Delaney Ott

Photo Credits: Delaney Ott & Duke Athletics




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