Athlete Spotlight: Lee's Homer Winston
With the regular season for spring sports winding to a close, we invited in Lee High School senior Homer Winston, currently in the middle of his final lacrosse season as a Wildcat, into The Eagle offices to chat. Winston also served as the quarterback for the Lee football team in the fall, and as such, Winston's interview ranged from his start in lacrosse, comparing hits in his two favorite sports, his plans for college, plus some introspection.
THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE: Tell me a little bit about your lacrosse backstory; when did you first start playing?
HOMER WINSTON: A few kids came up to me in school when I was in fifth or sixth grade, and they said they were going to start a youth program at Lee. I signed up for the team, I got a stick and a whole set of equipment online, and I just went to the first practice. It was organized by a few parents in town. Our coaches were Peter Newton and Cam Keenan, and a few others, I think. Chief [Jeff] Roosa helped out, people like that. I just kind of fell in love with it, I loved all those tournaments we went to. I fell in love with the sport pretty much then.
EAGLE: What's your first memory from playing? Is there a certain game or tournament that sticks out?
WINSTON: It really was the tournaments. The individual games I don't remember that much, just because they were so long ago. But I remember that, I think it was the Somers Tournament [in New York], that's the huge one with like 20 teams at it. It's at this huge campus and it's beautiful, and you play 20-minute length games, and you get to hang out in between them and spend time with your friends, then you get to play lacrosse. It's just an incredible opportunity for kids at that age. It's a great atmosphere to be in. It makes you not only fall in love with the game itself, but also with your coaches and teammates and stuff like that, and you really come closer together - which is why I think the solidification of our youth program is one of the most important things we can do, and we are really working on that in our town. It's gotten a lot better over the years.
EAGLE: When you're playing now, what's your favorite aspect of the game? Is there a certain phase of the game you like more than others?
WINSTON: My favorite part of lacrosse has always been clearing the ball. I'm not a great shooter — I get a few goals here and there because I work for them, but I'm not a talented shooter like Tag Roosa and stuff like that, I don't have that — so where I like to shine is carrying the ball down the field and getting it to my attackman. It's really exciting when you make a pass and another player finishes off. It's almost more exciting than you yourself scoring the goal. Or when a goalie makes an incredible save or something like that, it's those moments in the game that just kind of can turn the momentum, those tend to be my favorite parts.
EAGLE: Did you play when the Lee co-op was at Monument?
WINSTON: Yes. I was a freshman. I started at midfielder, at center mid. I liked it there, too, I liked my coach, I liked everything. It was a great experience, as well - it was the same kids.
EAGLE: What was it like having all those changes [in the co-op] throughout?
WINSTON: We were always fighting for it to be at Lee, even when we didn't have the most players from Lee on the team. I think it's been staying at Lee recently because we've taken ownership of it. It hasn't been as difficult as some other co-op programs have been, from what I've heard. In the youth program, we play with Monument and Lenox, we are co-opted with them in the youth program anyways, so it's the same kids, so you're already friends with them, you don't have to worry about any of that. You have to worry sometimes if you can come together on the field, but off the field we tend to be very united. It hasn't been an issue in many years, in any of the years I've played.
EAGLE: What's it like with both of your main sports being co-ops? What's it like trying to form those bonds with kids that you don't seen on a day-to-day basis.
WINSTON: During football, one of the best things that helps out with that is the team dinners. We don't have many kids from Lenox co-op [in football] — I think it was two or three this year — but those opportunities, they really help you help immerse them in the football atmosphere. You actually end up getting just as close with them as you do with the kids from Lee on your team. Maybe breaking the ice is harder, but in a few weeks or by the end of the year, especially that two-week long camp aspect of football, that really brings everyone together as a team. It hasn't been an issue on the football team. Then, in lacrosse, we try as hard as we can. It's difficult because you don't have a game every Friday night, so team dinners get more difficult to have. But we try to get together as much as we can, and we've played with all of them in the youth program.
EAGLE: Comparing sports again, what hurts more; when you get trucked by a defensive lineman in football, or when somebody blindsides you with a check in lacrosse?
WINSTON: During football, which is one of the most surprising things ever, I've never actually taken a hit that hurt that bad. There was one game my junior year against Amherst where one of the kids was kind of targeting me, and it sucked, but getting blindsided in lacrosse is by far more painful. There have been multiple experiences where I've come limping off the field. I get back in the game and everything, but during football, it's a much cleaner hit, where as lacrosse people can hit you in a way, and you aren't wearing as much padding, it hurts a lot more.
EAGLE: Shifting to football a bit, your guys' season ended in heartbreaking fashion. Do you still think much about how the season ended? What are your lasting memories from your senior football season?
WINSTON: All-in-all, we had a really good season. Obviously, that Western Mass. Game was heartbreaking, it was very difficult to cope with at the time, even now, it's hard to look back on. Obviously there are a lot of opportunities I look back on, and wish I had done differently - a lot of mistakes that I made, that maybe if I haven't we won the game. But you have to move on from stuff like that. Our team had a great season, and I try not to ruin that by thinking about all the mistakes we made in the Western Mass. Game, because all in all, it was a great season. We came together when we were really struggling from last season to come together, because we had a really cohesive unit last season. One of the worries coming into this year for football was whether we were going to be able to stay united throughout the season. It was incredible that we were, and that we came together so strongly and won the games we did. There were so many great memories. I try not to think too much about the one game we kind of messed up on.
EAGLE: What does it mean to be a Lee athlete? I mean that in the sense that it's a small school, but it's rich in sports tradition.
WINSTON: Like you said, Lee is a very small town, and it's one of the smallest towns in Massachusetts to even hold a football team, stuff like that. But from my experiences in both lacrosse and football, what I've noticed is that maybe we aren't always the most talented players out there, but we are always the toughest. We'll battle until we can't anymore, we lay everything out on the field. That's what our coaches have always taught us. We don't have the numbers and don't have the size, but we go out and compete with schools a lot bigger than us. We do our best in whatever possible way we can, and that's what I've taken away. I know one of the most influential quotes I've heard during football is by Vince Lombardi: "The difference between a successful person and others, is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will," and I think that really sums up the Lee sports atmosphere really well.
EAGLE: What have your thoughts been on the lacrosse season so far, and what are you guys hoping that you still might be able to accomplish this year?
WINSTON: We are looking for a strong run in the playoffs, I think that we'll be able to accomplish it, especially with the energy we'll be able to pick up going into the playoffs. I think Lee lacrosse is taking a turn,a nd I think the youth program has helped out with that as well as our coaching staff. I think that they are trying to play more lacrosse. In previous years, we've kind of been looked at as football players trying to play lacrosse, but I think we are moving more into actually playing the sport, transitioning into better player, cleaner play. It's great to see. I think in the next few years, the program will only continue to grow and get better.
EAGLE: In terms of school, what's it like being done with classes now?
WINSTON: It's actually more difficult than I would have expected it to be. I really like getting into routines, and breaking that is kind of difficult. I liked going to school for six hours then going right to practice. Coming off of that, it's been weird, especially on game days just sitting at home and doing nothing. I've had essays to write and stuff like that, so I've been filling time, but not the way I normally do. It's been weird coming off the couch and going to play a sport. Throughout my whole high school, middle school, elementary school experience, I really liked school and sports together, I think that it's been very beneficial to my upbringing and everybody else around me, as well. It's just the routine, it gets you in that kind of order of things and gets you in the right mental state to go play a game.
EAGLE: What's next for you?
WINSTON: I'm planning on going to Williams College. My plan, as of right now, is I'm going to try double majoring in English and pre-law. I'm not looking to play sports my first year, but maybe in my second year when I get more comfortable with the academics, I'm going to maybe try to play some intramurals, maybe walk on, see what I can do.
EAGLE: What are your thoughts on staying in the county for college?
WINSTON: During the college process, I applied to a bunch of different schools, mainly in the northeast. I wanted to go somewhat far, but not too far away. I wanted to stay in the Northeast, and then when I got older kind of transfer out. I always imagined, that coming from a town with 350 people in my middle school and high school combined, it might be difficult to transfer to ab ig school in a new area. I thought going to a school somewhere close, but not too far away, that maybe that process would become a little bit easier for me. I was applying for colleges looking for my education, I wasn't looking at the sports part of it. So I applied to as many schools as I could, that I even thought I'd have the chance to get into. So I wasn't looking at location or area, I was looking at what I thought would best suit me, and what I wanted to pursue.
EAGLE: What were your favorite subjects in high school?
WINSTON: My favorite subject was English, by far. I really liked my English teachers I had at lee. Definitely my favorite subject was English, then probably math.
EAGLE: What's your favorite book you've ever read?
WINSTON: One of my favorite books, I just read "Beloved" [by Toni Morrison] for my AP Literature class. That was one of my favorite books that I've read recently, at least. I also like John Steinbeck. I really liked "East of Eden," I know people always praise "Grapes of Wrath," but I thought "East of Eden" was more entertaining to read.
EAGLE: When you look back, now that you can, what have been one or two of your memories that stick out the most from Lee?
WINSTON: When I originally moved to Lee, half of my family was from around here, but I wasn't a Lee person. A lot of people look at small towns and the community aspect of that small town as sometimes being a negative thing, but from my high school experience and all of my other experiences, there is something truly special about Lee's community, that I don't think I could find anywhere else. I've been given so many opportunities here that I don't think I would be able to at other schools. For example, I'm able to play lacrosse and football, as well as do whatever other clubs and organizations I want to partake in, because of my small school size and because teachers support you in whatever you do. Obviously, school has been a big thing for me, and I think teachers at Lee care about the children, and want them to succeed in everything I do. I can't think of a specific memory, but there are a million things I could bring up to talk about that.
EAGLE: What's one app on your phone that you couldn't live without?
WINSTON: I wouldn't care if lost Instagram or Snapchat, I don't use them that much. To be completely honest, I don't watch TV that much, but I really love Hulu, because you can watch whatever episode comes out right at the moment. I'd be sad if someone deleted that from my phone, for sure.
EAGLE: Who is your biggest role model in life?
WINSTON: I don't think I could pick just one, I have a few. It's never a celebrity or anything, it has to be people I see in real life. Obviously, Coach [Keith] Thomson [football coach at Lee], he's been a very influential figure in my life. He's somebody who just, you listen to. Everything that he says, he always says for your benefit or for someone's benefit around you. Playing for him for four years has been an incredible experience. He knows what to say, he's an incredible coach, and he's always there for you no matter what. Another person that I really look up to is my mother. She does everything that she can for me. She works in Pittsfield every day, and still managers to come to all of my lacrosse games. She'll be putting me and my siblings through school by herself. She's a very strong person, and I will always look up to her.
This interview was conducted, edited and condensed by Geoff Smith.
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