Take a quick look at the most recent men’s lacrosse team photo, and you’ll be sure to spot their latest draftee – Parker Langenback, a bubbly 7-year-old boy who is currently a first grader at Williamstown Elementary School.
Born with spina bifida, a birth defect marked by the incomplete development of the spinal cord, Parker became the newest member of the team through an organization known as Team IMPACT. Founded in 2011 by a team of seven people, the intercollegiate nonprofit partners kids dealing with life-threatening and chronic illnesses with collegiate athletic programs that suit the child’s needs. The team becomes a nurturing support network for the child, while the child teaches the team valuable lessons of resilience and perspective, serving as a source of unparalleled inspiration.
Men’s lacrosse Head Coach George McCormack first heard about this initiative through softball Head Coach Kris Herman, a co-founder of Team IMPACT. Since then he has been submitting a Team IMPACT application each year with the hopes of recruiting a child. Fortunately, Parker was matched with the men’s lacrosse team after his school physical therapist approached his parents, Melissa and Rob Langenback, about this exciting opportunity.
“When Parker’s school physical therapist contacted me and asked if we might be interested, we thought it sounded like a really good program,” Melissa Langenback said.
To celebrate the arrival of its newest team member, the team held a press conference and drafting ceremony in late February, during which Parker and his family signed a letter of intent. Melissa described the event as “amazing,” and the family was taken aback by the team’s enthusiasm and warmth. Parker would go on to receive his very own locker in the locker room, a lacrosse stick and a white No. 41 jersey with “Parker” emblazoned across the back.
“We didn’t expect that at all. It was so cute and we did not know it was going to be a really big deal like that,” Melissa said. “The team is so much more than I expected it to be — the whole team is so warm and welcoming.
“I don’t want to make them sound all mushy gushy, but they’ve all been welcoming and that was the biggest surprise — that people, really strangers to you, could take you in so openly.”
This warmth and compassion goes beyond the lacrosse field. Since the process is entirely student-driven, several team members make an effort to reach out to Parker on a daily basis. From joining him for recess at his elementary school to sending him daily emails to even playing Mario Kart with him at his house, it is clear that Parker’s teammates have become his extended family and new best friends.
“He’s a motivation to us in how he keeps a smile on his face through adversity,” Cameron Brown ’19 said. “It’s been awesome spending time with him, and we’re psyched to have him on our team.”
Meanwhile, his fierce display of courage and resilience on the field during practice never fails to inspire his teammates and coach. In fact, Parker regularly says a few words of encouragement before the start of each home game and can sometimes be found rolling across the field during halftime to offer some motivation.
“His energy and his toughness always inspires our guys to put things in perspective as far as their problems.” McCormack said. “When we talk about being strong, we talk about being Parker strong and that’s really the best strength you can have. Every day, he gets up and he’s got a smile on his face and he brings energy to everything he gets involved with.”
Today, when he is not playing Mario Kart with teammates or dancing to his favorite songs in the locker room, you can probably catch Parker at lacrosse practices working on his throw.
“I’m pretty sure Parker is hands down the coach’s favorite player,” Kevin Stump ’20 joked.
When asked about his predictions for the team, Parker proudly responded, “Yeah, they’re strong enough to win.”