By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For men's lacrosse redshirt junior Mike Aronow, his road back to the field following a season-ending injury last year has been both long and frustrating, but worth it.
Watching his team's success from the sideline last year, Aronow has now gained a different kind of perspective on the game he loves as well as what it means to be a good teammate.
"Now that I sat out, I realized what matters the most is my teammates and just being fully engaged in everything I'm doing," Aronow said. "Whether it's in practice and being in a live drill or being on the sideline and talking to my teammates about the drill."
Being given the opportunity to step back from playing, the defenseman was able to become a support system and a resource for his teammates off the field.
When it came time for the team to vote for captains, it seemed clear who one of the best choices was to lead the program into the 2018 season.
"You would think that people vote for the best player on the field or someone who has a presence on the field and the fact that people voted for me when I wasn't playing at all, it means a lot to me," Aronow said. "It showed me I'm not only a leader on the field but I can also be there for people off the field when they need me."
Overcoming an injury not only made Aronow a better teammate, but has also given him a new outlook on his final two seasons as a Nittany Lion. Now, the New York native is ready to make the most out of the 2018 campaign, appreciating every second of his time on the field along the way.
"Being captain I hope that I can bring an edge every day, where people say 'wow he's going really hard, he's living in the moment, he's not taking anything for granted.'" Aronow said.
However, getting back into the swing of things hasn't come without its challenges. Following two surgeries, Aronow was ready to go in August but was then out again until October with a broken thumb.
After the long road of recovery and physical rehab, Aronow has had to work harder than his teammates to get back to where he was before the injury. Even more difficult than the physical struggle though, has been the mental adjustment.
"It was really hard at first, I think it's more of a mental battle rather than physical," Aronow said. "The hardest part was actually keeping a positive mindset and just getting my confidence back."
With two scrimmages under his belt, both Aronow and Tambroni feel the worst of the mental conditioning is behind them, with only room for improvement from here on out.
"That memory of him being on the sideline has actually helped him in my opinion," head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "I think he goes about his business day in and day out without taking it for granted."
Heading into the start of the regular season, the Nittany Lions will face a tough opponent in Villanova. Among the leaders of the Penn State defense, Aronow and the Nittany Lions will have to maintain focus."[Villanova] is going to go directly to the goal if you give them an opening," Tambroni said. "If you take a step back or lose focus in either end of the field they really do a nice job of taking advantage and can score quickly."