George White has never shied away from getting his hands dirty.
He carries bags of gravel, does plenty of shoveling and operates machinery on a daily basis as a member of the staff at Kingsdene Nursery & Garden Center in Monkton. Then, when he returns home, he has a regular workout routine that he completes in an effort to keep his bigger goal — college lacrosse — within reach.
But as full as the days may currently seem, for White it’s only a snapshot of what things looked like leading up to this spring.
During the fall and winter months, the senior at Hereford was balancing multiple jobs — ranging from cooking to remodeling to his current occupation at the nursery — while also helping lead offseason workouts that included weightlifting and long runs as he prepared for his role as a defensive midfielder on the lacrosse team.
“It wasn’t as much juggling as it was just having a busy schedule,” White said. “I did a lot — my mom actually helped out a lot with it. She would tell me what I had to do. She’s very organized. … Multiple times, we would have early captains’ practices and I would leave at 6 or 7 in the morning and practice for two hours and go straight to work at 9.
“[I would] work 9 to 5, get off work, go home, do homework and finish whatever I need, and just repeat the next day. It definitely was hard, but it paid off."
For White, the sting of losing the spring season because of the coronavirus pandemic is real. It doesn’t, however, negate the progress and determination he has shown in all aspects of his life over the past 18 months.
Before his junior year, White was nearly cut from the varsity lacrosse team.
He didn’t get a great deal of playing time during his junior season, but instead of letting that serve as a deterrent, he went to work. White spent a lot of time by himself going up to Hereford’s turf field, working on his footwork and stick skills, and doing plenty of running.
“I was the last person after tryouts that he [former Hereford lacrosse coach Sal Picataggi] talked to and he told me, ‘We’re going to keep you. I see that you were putting in work,’ and that was the only thing that kind of kept me motivated and on the team,” White said. “It was a lot of work. My current head coach [Kyle Leppert] saw that this year and that’s why [I became] this leader on the team because he realizes that I will put in that work for anyone that I play for.”
Leppert, who took over for Picataggi after the 2018-19 season, implemented an offseason workout plan for his players that started in July. He asked the seniors who weren’t heading into fall sports to lead the workouts and build a rapport with the younger players.
White jumped at the chance, becoming one of the heads of the program and pulling teammates into the workout regimen.
“He started playing some club ball in the summer, started talking to some coaches and [decided] he really wanted to play in college,” Leppert said. “So then his work ethic in the weight room, getting out on the field shooting with some other guys and working one-on-one with guys who played defense kept picking up through the summer and through the fall. It was like a four-year career that was kind of sped up into eight months for him.”
White credits getting his work ethic from his mother, Jenny Gainter. As a single mother of two sons, Gainter has always worked to try to provide opportunity for her children to pursue their goals. When White was younger, after moving to the Hereford area from Massachusetts, that meant saving enough money for club lacrosse.
As he grew old enough to start working himself, White says, he has taken on the mindset that it’s his turn “to repay her.”
“Hereford is a lovely community, but there are a lot of people in the higher tax bracket and I’m a single mom,” Gainter said. “We definitely struggled and George and his brother [Jack] have stepped up to the plate with being responsible with their own things and trying to participate. They both work very hard. He’s the kind of kid where you just give him a task and he just does it. When it comes to lacrosse, he’s absolutely worked his heart and soul to be in it.”
When White was a child, he was diagnosed with asthma. While he eventually grew out of it, his attitude while making trips to the hospital at a young age was a sign of the individual he would become, according to his mother.
“He’s always been a kid that can go with the flow, adjust very easily to change — we don’t have this, but we have this, ‘OK, that’s fine,’” Gainter said. “Resilient is the best way to describe him. I have two amazing sons who are the lights of my life, and both are incredible in their own way. George has met every challenge with an open heart and an open mind.”
White said he plans on continuing his lacrosse career at Stockton University in New Jersey. And if anyone is capable of staying focused on their goals with sports being put on indefinite hold, Leppert believes White has what it takes.
“I think he’s probably the best suited for it of most guys that I’ve seen because he’s shown that he’s willing to work without the games,” Leppert said. “He doesn’t need a ton of feedback at all times. He doesn’t always have to have a game right in front of him.