Young Caitlyn McFadden regularly sat quietly and obediently in class, one elementary school teacher observed. Just once, though, she wanted to see her student, a future Maryland lacrosse star, let loose.
“I remember something her fourth-grade teacher said to me once,” said McFadden's mother, Mary Clare “M.C.” McFadden. “‘I wish she would just get up and run down the hall screaming!'”
But that sort of behavior never has been in McFadden's character. As the midfielder makes her second Federation of International Lacrosse World Cup appearance with Team USA when it opens play Thursday against England in Oshawa, Ontario, McFadden's coaches from her decorated career say subtlety is her most notable trait.
“She's always been very mentally even-keeled,” said Maryland coach Cathy Reese, who arrived at College Park the same year McFadden stepped on campus as a quiet freshman. “She doesn't really get herself frazzled or out of control. She just stays in the moment, and that's something that makes her really special.”
Said United States coach Ricky Fried, a Columbia resident: “She's one of the most competitive people I've coached with or against, and [she has] this sense of calm that you don't usually get with competitive people.”
McFadden, 25, is one of 10 players returning from the U.S. team that won the 2009 championship in the Czech Republic. She was the second-youngest member on the roster that year.
This year, she says, her role has changed slightly.
“I think I've been more vocal,” she said last week after a team practice at UMBC. “Just having that experience, kind of knowing what goes into it, I think I've helped guide the younger ones and encourage them to let them know they can play at the highest level.”
McFadden, who led the Terps to the 2010 NCAA championship and won the Tewaaraton Award as a senior, said she wants to be like the teammates she had in 2009.
“It's all about breathing life into each other and keeping each other going and staying confident,” McFadden said.
Newcomer Katie Schwarzmann (Century), a freshman at Maryland during McFadden's senior season, is the youngest player on this year's team. After two seasons as an assistant coach at Florida, McFadden joined Reese's staff last summer as an assistant during Schwarzmann's Tewaaraton-winning senior campaign.
“It's a level of comfort because I know she'll always be there if I ever need anything,” Schwarzmann said. “I looked up to her and I still look up to her.”
Fried said he planned on playing both former Terps in the same rotation.
“I think coaching has helped her find her voice a little bit more,” Fried said of McFadden. “She was a little bit quiet in '09, [but] now you see her pulling in teammates, directing people around a little more.”
Little about McFadden's play has changed, though, said Fried, who recruited her to play at Georgetown when she was a standout at Notre Dame Prep.
“What you saw back in those days was just pure competitive nature,” he said. “There was a loose ball, and she was going to go kill somebody for it. It didn't matter if it was a real game, a camp pickup game or playing in the backyard.”
The backyard in her home in Phoenix had a goal set up for pickup games between her and her parents, both of whom played lacrosse in college, and for the rest of the lacrosse-playing family.
McFadden said she was “born into lacrosse,” and she means it almost literally. Her mother gave birth to her the day after coaching an all-star game at John Hopkins. She went on to eagerly follow her mom to practices at Maryvale, where she coached. McFadden balanced lacrosse, basketball and soccer throughout high school.
“She just puts her nose down to the grindstone and gets done what she needs to get done,” M.C. McFadden said.
Over the past four years, Caitlyn McFadden has been able to look down at her shoelaces and the metallic USA clips that players on the 2009 team received.
“Even if you're by yourself, when you look down, you remember that you're a part of this special group,” she said.
As Reese arrives at her office around 8a.m., she's found McFadden in the middle of workout routines at Maryland facilities.
“Just to watch her continue to have the passion she has for the game and to continue to go on and train hard and be the best that she can be, it's been great,” Reese said.
McFadden said she wants to be a head coach someday. But for now, she's still in the moment. She's still the player going after loose balls, as she did during a scrimmage in practice last week. She tore downfield for one and popped back up after crashing into the back netting.
“Right now, I love where I am,” she said, “and I'm still learning a ton.”
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