For Tia Drew, sticks are life. As in lacrosse sticks. There’s a net in the driveway of her family’s Olympia home, and the 17-year-old Drew is frequently outside playing “wall ball” or tossing the ball around with her younger sister.
When she is not practicing or playing, Drew is training, usually at a local CrossFit gym.
About to enter her senior season, Drew has been co-captain of the Palm Beach Central High School girls lacrosse team for the past two seasons. She also plays on a travel team during the summer, the Lady Swashbucklers.
Marci Singer has been the lacrosse coach at Palm Beach Central for the last three seasons and marvels at Drew’s commitment.
“Tia is the quintessential team player and captain, always putting lacrosse and team first,” Singer said. “Whenever there is a newer player on the field, Tia always makes an extra effort to get her involved in the game. She is always encouraging both on and off the field. She is one of the most dedicated players on the team, putting in hours of practice even outside of our daily practices. Tia is very intense, and I do believe some of the younger girls were intimidated by her at first, but as the season continued, you could see intimidation giving way to respect and friendship.”
Drew played travel softball for about seven years but put that aside because it became “too repetitive.” She had tried rec lacrosse in seventh grade but didn’t enjoy it. However, two years later, she was a starter at Palm Beach Central.
Although they have been friends for years, it was a chance meeting at the gym between Singer and Drew’s mother, Rosemary, which launched the teen’s lacrosse path. “When Rosemary told me she was interested in lacrosse, I was surprised, but thrilled,” Singer said. “I knew that she was a dedicated athlete. It was just a matter of teaching her the skills of the game and shifting her focus from softball to lacrosse. Tia caught the lacrosse bug immediately, so the transition was seamless.”
And the results prove that Drew made the right decision. She has been recognized as one of the best players in her district and conference by both the Palm Beach Post and the Sun-Sentinel.
Drew believes that the future is bright for Palm Beach Central’s lacrosse team.
“A lot of new girls are coming out,” Drew said. “We’re building the program. More than half our team is playing club ball this summer, so we’ll all be on the same level [defensively].”
The high school girls lacrosse season begins in early January with practice, and the regular season ends the first weekend of April, followed by the playoffs. Girls must wear goggles and a thick headband, but do not wear helmets or pads, making it much less physical and more of a finesse game than the boys game. However, next season the Florida High School Athletic Association has mandated that girls must also wear headgear.
“We practice five days for two hours, unless we have games,” said Drew, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for watching her favorite shows on Netflix, like Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill. “We get some Fridays off. It’s a big commitment. I like games more, but practices are fun because we get to mess around. Sometimes I have to calm my teammates down. I lead by example.”
The travel team schedule is also intense. There are usually practices twice a week for about two hours, so players are expected to do conditioning and train on their own.
Drew plays defense and attacking midfield for the Broncos and defense for the travel team. “I like playing defense a lot,” Drew said. “It’s fun stopping people from scoring.”
The right-hander makes an impact on offense as well, often coming from behind the goal and shooting. She is looking forward to her senior season for the Broncos.
“There will be a lot of seniors, and we’re all role models for the new players and underclassmen,” said Drew, who believes that the Palm Beach Central program is on the upswing, especially if they continue to be as close-knit as they were last season.
“This year, the team really bonded,” she said. “We would go to the fields on the weekends or we stayed after practice and talked. It showed on the field.”
Many athletes are superstitious and follow a routine. Drew isn’t superstitious and doesn’t have a consistent pre-game routine or meal.
“I usually drink a smoothie,” said Drew, who is a regular at Tropical Smoothie where her favorites are Peanut Paradise, Island Green or Chai Banana Boost. “It depends on what I’m feeling.”
On the way to a game, she makes a playlist to listen to in the car.
Singer quickly noticed how Drew was a leader and how the team responded to her.
“Tia is an extremely hard worker, she has high expectations of herself and of those around her,” Singer said. “She takes conditioning and practice just as seriously as she takes the games, and she expects that of her teammates. Although her serious nature can be somewhat intimidating, she actually has a great sense of humor. She just makes you work a bit to get there.”
Drew hopes to continue playing lacrosse in college, preferably in Florida, although she has heard from out-of-state schools and visited several over the summer. She wants to major in either exercise science or physical therapy.
“I’m a one-sport girl, just lacrosse,” Drew said.