One-on-one with George Christopher '20
The men’s lacrosse team has won just one game this season thus far, but its freshman goalkeeper George Christopher ’20 has been a relative bright spot. A touted prospect who played at Washington, D.C.’s Gonzaga College High School, Christopher was recruited by former Big Green coach Andy Towers but now plays under head coach Brendan Callahan, a fellow Gonzaga alumnus.
After beating out Griffin Miller ’19 for the starting job, the Bethesda, Maryland native has started all eight games and has Dartmouth ranking third in the league in save percentage. Despite sitting in last place in the conference, with a 1-7 overall record and a 0-2 Ivy League record, Christopher and the team are looking to improve with five games remaining.
How has the transition been from high school to Division I lacrosse?
GC: There is definitely some growing that needs to be done. It’s not easy. It’s a whole other level. It’s all the best players in high school, and they are all on one team. There’s definitely a transition, but the coaches have been great and so have the older guys — they help you get there as fast as possible. School is definitely hard, and it’s not easy to miss classes. Balancing school with a sport is challenging, but we are able to do it with the help and resources that we have here. It’s awesome though. You automatically have a family, and that family is one of the best. I can’t describe what it’s like to be on this team, I love all the guys and all of the coaches — it’s amazing.
How have the team and coaches helped ease your transition?
GC: The older goalies on the team will give me tips and tricks on how to play certain shots, certain things that I didn’t see at the high school level. Coach Callahan, specifically, has been really helpful — going in and watching extra film with him. Just approaching the position a little bit differently than in high school is what is required at this level.
What kind of connection do you feel with Callahan, considering that you both graduated from the same high school?
GC: I think it’s nice to have a coach that identifies with the D.C. area. There aren’t too many kids on the team from D.C.; there are a couple in the freshman class, so it was really nice. It was nice to have a coach who went to the same high school because you could just talk about things. It’s a good way to get to know each other better, especially in the beginning when I first met him, but it’s not anything too special. There is a bond that you have with your high school alumni. It’s a nice starting point, but our relationship has gone a lot further than that at this point.
How has Dartmouth stripped down its men’s lacrosse program this season?
GC: That was a very difficult decision, but it is what the coaches felt was best moving the program forward. As a player, I realized that the decision wasn’t easy for the coaches, but it was one that they thought was necessary. We had a couple of running tests. We run “beep” tests and the “how far can you run in eight minutes” test, where the goal is usually around a mile and a half, then we have some stick work tests. If you look at the roster’s numbers, we lost around nine kids.
Have the cuts to the roster motivated you to improve your game?
GC: I’m not really motivated by that. Our team isn’t motivated out of fear. It’s more motivated out of love for the game and getting better. We all motivate each other every day because we want to be good for each other. We also want to be good people and leaders at the school, so we really work to improve all aspects for the program.
How would you describe the character of the team?
GC: We believe better people make better lacrosse players. It really goes hand in hand. Character is a mark that we have on all of us. When people think of the lacrosse team, they are going to base it off of the one interaction they had with one lacrosse kid. We all try to bring our best. I love all of my teammates, and we all love each other, and we try to show who we are to the school, meaning stepping outward and being our best selves all the time. That way, we will just be better overall.
What is it like playing under a different coach than the one who recruited you?
GC: Very luckily for me, they came from similar backgrounds so that’s been pretty helpful. I’ve enjoyed it, and it’s worked out for me. I’ve really liked this team and the coaching staff, and I’m really happy with the situation. A lot of the values that we share in the program were very similar to the ones in my high school program. Obviously there are tweaks, and it’s a whole other level, but the core values for the most part were very similar.
How would you describe the team’s performance thus far?
GC: I’ve been very happy with our mentality. We never back down to teams. We are always fighting, and we have had some close games. We are getting ourselves into positions to win games, and while we haven’t won as many as we have wanted, it’s not because of a lack of character or a lack of drive or a lack of fight, which are really hard things to have in a program. It’s just small details, which we are focusing on. Right now, we are working on being a little crisper on our stick work and playing with a little more poise.
What can we expect out of the Big Green heading into the homestretch?
GC: You can expect us to always show up and give our best. We are never going to back down from anyone regardless of who we are playing that day. If it’s an Ivy League opponent or some out-of-conference game, we are always going to show up with the same mentality because that was what the coaches have drilled into us.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.