Becca Altman had an interesting summer break last year—the Lawrence High School senior spent last summer in Thailand, teaching young children how to speak English.
Altman, whose dream job has always been in foreign relations, found a program outside of school and within her budget. It allowed her to fulfill her dream of studying abroad while also giving her a once-in-a-lifetime summer job.
The catch was that Altman doesn’t speak a lick of Thai, and she had to break a language barrier with students afraid to learn something so foreign.
“I know what it’s like to be pushed down a little bit,” Altman said. “I have had to voice myself, make my voice louder. I know what it’s like to be shy and quiet, but I’m also an extrovert.”
The Lawrence lacrosse captain and four-year starter self-identifies as a natural leader, and she’s shown an innate instinct for getting the best out of people.
Her teammate and best friend since kindergarten, Julianne Hughes, said she is Altman’s polar opposite—if Altman were to decide to go to Thailand, Hughes would be the one considering air fare and budgets.
“I always think I have a lot going on, but she has like 10 times more and manages to get it all done,” Hughes said.
Altman’s last game with Lawrence was a 9-8 loss to Ewing on May 11, but her career didn’t truly end until the following Monday when the 7-9 Cardinals failed to secure a bid for the state tournament. It was nearly a Cinderella story for the team—after a string of losing seasons and a 2-5 start, the team went on a run this season that included a win over the 11-5 Steinert Spartans.
Altman’s season was more than memorable. She posted 36 goals, three of which came against Steinert, and finished her career with 89 total. She converted to midfield after years at attack, becoming the rangy jack-of-all-trades player she’s always had the capacity to be.
She got to play alongside Hughes, and helped lead a group of fresh varsity players to the best record she’s seen while at Lawrence.
But aside from topping Steinert on their field, Altman’s fondest memories of the season are getting ice cream with the team and having a water balloon practice. What saved their season, she said, was the bond they all began to form.
“The little things and the small friendships we made helped it,” Altman said. “It was different groups of friends in past years, but we lost most of our starting lineup from last year. It just took us some time.”
At the core of a shifting program was the steady Altman, a knowledgeable varsity player from the moment coach Heather Phillips met her freshman year.
Altman comes from a lacrosse family—her three older brothers all played. Altman would go to their practices and watch her dad coach them, and then practice with them on her own time. She eventually started playing for the Princeton Lacrosse Club, and her dad would pick at her game afterwards.
It took the family some time to adjust to the traits of girls’ lacrosse and understand how the 5’3” daughter was playing so well.
“My dad always tells me, ‘You’re so small. How can you play lacrosse?’,” Altman said. “I always tell him I’ll be fine.”
She was a tomboy, shaped by playing with her older brothers. Phillips called her style of play “feisty,” and Altman doesn’t deny it. The main difference between the gendered lacrosse rules is aggression, Altman said.
“Boys can do much more with checking and everything,” Altman said. “As brothers, they’ve made me such a tough little cookie. I have aspects of all of them in my personality.”
She also inherited a go-getter mentality from her siblings and parents. Hughes called the Altmans a family of “Energizer bunnies” who all know what they want out of life.
In high school, Altman began playing for the Garden State Elite, a travel lacrosse club, in the summers. She experienced tournaments in the south where referees were “a little slow to blow the whistle,” and her aggressive style carried over. She’s still had to compensate for her small size, though.
“I had to push myself more, move my feet more on defense,” Altman said. “On attack it was easier to maneuver through the defense and make quick cuts.”
She also worked with Phillips to perfect her positioning on defense. To compensate against bigger opponents, Altman also focused on being more vocal in games.
“When you’re talking more, it makes you bigger,” Altman said.
When Phillips told her she’d be making a permanent switch to midfield for her last season, Altman was surprisingly excited—and her teammates were likely relieved. Midfield meant Altman would be more involved in every facet of play. Hughes, a defender, said Altman was her go-to outlet in a tough situation.
“She’s just a playmaker,” Hughes said. “She really impresses me when she can drive to the goal with three defenders on her. She can switch really well, going from right-left-right-left and still get the goal. Her confidence and control of the ball on the field relaxes everyone else.”
Phillips said that it was typical for Altman to have two or three goals in games Lawrence was in control of.
“My midfielders really worked well together,” Phillips said. “The three of them set the tempo of the game. When we’re in control, it’s because they work off each other.”
For as much animation and effort Altman shows in her play, she feels peace of mind. Lacrosse has been a form of therapy for the ambitious honor student.
“For Becca, lacrosse is that place where you don’t think about what’s going on in the rest of her life,” Hughes said.
Though she had offers from schools to continue playing lacrosse in college, Altman will be pursuing an international relations degree at Dickinson College this fall. She’s interested in walking onto the college’s team in the spring, though.
Altman has a propensity for new challenges and experiences, but she can’t deny that lacrosse is in her blood.
“What I really like remembering—not even the game that much—was just walking off the field and feeling proud of myself and of the team,” Altman said. “It’s different to anything in the world, to be on a sports team. It’s a family. There’s not much in the world that feels like when you win, or you just have a good game.”