You would never know it today, but Eleni Bedard and the sport of lacrosse did not get off to the most auspicious start.
She had just entered fourth grade at a new school, and Eleni’s mother Maria suggested she try out for the lacrosse team as a way to make some friends.
“She was like, ‘you know what Eleni, you should try out, it will be good for you.’ And I was like, ‘mom, I don’t just want to do it,’” Eleni says. “Those goggles look so weird. I think it will be so uncomfortable.”
She tried out anyway, made the team, but wasn’t, she admits, very good. At least not right away. But there must have been some strange chemistry brewing between Eleni and lacrosse, because by fifth grade, she couldn’t imagine life without the sport.
“I realized, I really love this sport. I am starting to get good at it,” she says. “I don’t want anyone to ever take this away from me.”
Today, at 18, Eleni is a leader on the varsity girls’ lacrosse team at Saint John’s Catholic College Preparatory High School where she is a senior, and has committed to playing lacrosse at Post University, in Connecticut, when she starts there as a freshman in the fall.
It’s a dream come true for Eleni, but it hasn’t been easy getting there.
“I had to work a lot harder to where I was compared to other girls who were natural athletes,” she says. “I am naturally very strong, and I am a very competitive person, but running wise and trying to get my stick skills, I think I did have to work a lot harder.”
Eleni credits her intrinsic strength and competitive spirit for her sticking with lacrosse long enough to develop her skills and love for the game. And it was her love for the game that helped take things to the next level, guiding all her subsequent decisions: Eleni knew what she wanted to do in life rather early. In the seventh grade in fact.
“It was at the end of season picnic and she came to me and said, Mom, I know I want to play in college. That’s what I want to do and I need to be stronger and faster. So, I need a trainer. Can you help me find that person?’” Maria says. “She set her mind to it and she was not going to come off it.”
And so, Eleni hit the gym with a personal trainer, but didn’t quite find what she was looking for.
That’s when she found Players Fitness and Performance, in Frederick, and found it was a perfect fit.
“They are the most amazing people,” Eleni says. “They motivate me every day and they give me the best advice and they love me — I cannot appreciate them more.”
Eleni had her natural strength and tenacity, but “My speed was short of what it could have been and I really needed to work on that,” she says. “My balance — I was very lopsided when I ran, I was falling all the time.”
Eleni worked hard to learn how to run and build explosiveness during nearly four years at PFP, working out two to three times a week. She’s shored up those weaknesses while enhancing her strengths, aided by her competitive spirit and tenacity.
“I like being strong. I like to weight lift and I like to push weights. Almost like a meathead,” she says with a laugh. “It’s never been a chore to me: I love being at PFP and having the opportunity to get stronger.”
Even for a gym like PFP with reputation for helping athletes excel while keeping things both fun and challenging, Eleni’s affinity for hitting the weights made an impression, according to PFP coach Travis Bewley.
“With her strength and her ability to turn it on and get after it, she carried herself like an older athlete,” he says.
Eleni quickly hit her physical goals, and then surpassed them — after a competition with another female athlete, she’s currently tied on the PFP leaderboard for most reps of bench press with 95 pounds. But in many ways, Bewley says, it’s been Eleni’s growth in channeling that competitive drive that has been her most impressive achievement.
“I think the big jump was how she carried herself with regards to others and her leadership skills,” Bewley says. “She’s so bold and competitive, she’s found how to be approachable.”
“She could intimidate people,” Maria adds. “I think she’s learned she can turn it on and off.”
Eleni can still make her physical presence known on the lacrosse field, all while rallying her teammates with her. A flowering of strength of character in conjunction with strength of muscle — she is really relishing her role as a varsity team captain.
“I love being a leader of the team, I love girls coming to me and I love inspiring others,” she says. “I can be a role model for them, which is incredible.”
Eleni’s work ethic and leadership skills have also lead to her being named PFP’s March Athlete of the Month, an honor bestowed on her with perfect timing.
“It was really awesome. I was going through a really tough week that week and in my mind, I was like, you know what? This is karma for all the bad stuff,” she says. “It definitely made the rest of my week.”
But Eleni is a goal-oriented person, and she’s already looking to the future. After her final lacrosse season at St. John’s is starting, there will be her first season at Post University.
“I am super excited about that as well,” she says. “I’ve already created my goals and my first is to be rookie of the year on the lacrosse team.”
Eleni hopes to double major in business law and sports management before attending law school — she wants to be a sports agent — but that doesn’t mean she’ll be any less active herself.
“I definitely want to get into weight lifting and CrossFit,” she says. “I want to perform to the best of my ability and grow my confidence in order to inspire others.”
That’s Eleni Bedard’s why. What’s your why?