Jake Wilcox plays through struggles

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 “He has a natural talent and work ethic that not a lot of others have, that’s what makes him a great lacrosse player,” West boys lacrosse coach Jay Hertzler said.

 Hertzler refers to sophomore Jake Wilcox, a varsity starter this season who has a new outlook on the sport.

 Wilcox said that he owes his success and growth as a player to his new, healthy lifestyle, sparked by lacrosse.

 Last summer, Wilcox began a rigorous and extensive diet and workout routine pushing himself to go to the gym six days a week and continue to keep a balanced diet.

 “I remember wanting to turn my lifestyle around and wanting to make an effort to lead a healthier life. I was ready to be better,” Wilcox said. That was May of 2020.

 “Exercising really affects my mentality. I’ll be down, having a bad day, and after I go to the gym and work out I’m a completely different person in the best way,” he said. Wilcox sees lacrosse as an escape from everyday struggles, and uses it to better himself.

 “Personally, I’m proud of my work ethic and never allowing myself to quit. I just knew that it would pay off when it came time,” Wilcox said.

 And pay off it did. This season he is starting varsity as a midfielder, sometimes playing attack. As a sophomore, this is his first season playing for West, after five years playing the sport.

 In the beginning, Wilcox did not have his sights set on being a star lacrosse player. He was originally introduced to the sport in sixth grade, but with no interest in playing the sport seriously. He signed up due to his lack of interest in baseball, looking for something new to try.

 “When I first started, it was a challenge for sure. Lacrosse is difficult to learn but I happened to take to it naturally. It was a great feeling to be good at a sport and I was very confident,” he said.

 As the years went by, Wilcox continued to have success and played for club team United. He was set to play his first season for the school last year, but was pushed back due to COVID.

 Weeks prior to the start of his shift toward a healthy lifestyle, Wilcox said he experienced a low period, which according to him, was a rare occurrence at that time.

 “I’m always open about my emotions but last summer I was feeling low and really depressed with the absence of lacrosse in my life. I had no motivation, and not many people knew about it except for my parents and a couple of close friends,” Wilcox said.

 In this time of mental struggle, he decided to use it as fuel to come back to his next lacrosse season better than ever.

 Junior Stephen Bush, a teammate of Wilcox, said that his progress paid off, and it was very noticeable once they hit the weight room prior to the start of their 2021 season.

 “Once we got to the gym I was shocked. He had improved so much since the last time we lifted together, and I was really proud of him,” Bush said.

 Some life difficulties helped to also strengthen and push Wilcox as he coped with deaths in his family. In September 2017, Wilcox’s aunt passed away after losing a long battle with epilepsy. He said they were very close and he was caught off guard by the sudden loss. During the months following her death, Wilcox learned how to cope as it was his first time dealing with the pain of losing a family member.

 Then nearly a year later, he lost his grandfather to cancer. “It was a tough time for my family and I, of course. I had never lost anyone I was close to and to have it happen to close together was really hard to handle,” Wilcox said.

 Wilcox said that he channeled that pain into his motivation for a healthier lifestyle last summer. It gave him something to build on and look back on when he needed inspiration for progress.

 e also found new motivation in his religion and relationship with God on his journey to continued success.

 “I was raised Catholic, and it’s important to me to stay close to my faith when things get rough, it is a big part of who I am as a person,” Wilcox said.

 According to Wilcox, prayer and maintaining his values helped push him to achieve his goals and stay hungry for the success he was craving.

 “Without my low points and determination to build on the positives in my life, I wouldn’t be the athlete I am today,” he said.

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