As a pediatric nurse at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Katie Lundberg sees some of the country’s sickest children and never ceases to be amazed by their resilience and determination. Her day ends, however, in a manner that’s in stark contrast to that role.
At that time of the day, you’ll find Katie on an athletic field mentoring a crew of healthy, athletic girls in her role as the Foxes’ new head coach of the girls’ lacrosse team.
“I’m a big believer in incorporating lessons learned in the real world to lacrosse and vise versa,” says Coach Lundberg, who has picked up a thing or two about positivity, courage, and overcoming challenges from her patients and their families, and also from her own life experiences. “Sometimes after an especially tough day, I’ll tell the girls, ‘There are so many others who would give anything to have your opportunities and you never know what’s to come, so you need to give it all you’ve got.’”
She adds, “What I want to do as a coach is teach my players that in order to overcome adversity and get where they want to be in sports and in life, they need to work hard and as a team, have accountability, and be disciplined. My ultimate goal is to help them achieve the highest level of success that their ability allows, and to grow and develop as athletes and individuals each day.”
These are ideologies Coach Lundberg abided by herself, first as a youth athlete playing soccer, basketball, and lacrosse, and then as a star-athlete at Mount Hebron High School in Ellicott City, Maryland, where she earned county and region postseason honors in lacrosse, and was an Under Armour All-American. She was instrumental in leading her team to four county, region, and state gold medals, and her squad was ranked as the best in the country all four of her high school years.
Then known as Katie Rekart, she was recruited by many colleges, but decided on Duquesne University. Her choice was made largely because of the hefty scholarship offer and because it was one of only two NCAA Division I colleges where athletes were permitted to play a varsity sport and major in nursing, a difficult and time-intensive course of study. Besides, her twin sister, also a great athlete, decided to attend the other school that permitted both disciplines, Boston College, and Katie wanted to enter the next phase of her life independently.
Her parlay into college sports, however, was met with more adversity. She suffered her second ACL injury during preseason of her freshman year, and shortly thereafter underwent unexpected brain surgery. After overcoming what probably seemed hopeless odds at the time, Coach Lundberg came back strong as a sophomore. From that point on, she accumulated many honors, including first team all-conference and rookie of week and offensive player of the week multiple times. She was a two-year captain and remains among the school’s top-10 all-time players in goals, assists, and points.
“I love the speed and athleticism needed to play lacrosse,” explains the board member of the Pittsburgh chapter of US Lacrosse. “To me, it’s such a fundamental game and I love the skilled, fast-paced nature of it.”
Drawing from the past
Prior to heading the Foxes’ team, Coach Lundberg headed a number of premier clubs in Maryland, a hotspot for lacrosse, and had players who became members of national championship teams. She brought that know-how to Fox Chapel Area High School a few years ago as an assistant to former coach Jen McCrady and says, “Jen was a big influence and asset in guiding me to do different things and get more involved in Pittsburgh’s lacrosse community.”
As with all successful people, there are many individuals whose influence shaped her life, both athletically and professionally.
“I have always looked up to my parents and tried to emulate them,” remarks the former player whose coaching style can best be described as insightful, dedicated, encouraging, and firm but fun. “They taught me important lessons and gave me my competitive spirit. They also expected 100 percent commitment if we decided to do something, and taught us that you don’t quit – you work hard and finish what you start.
“From a coaching perspective, I’ve always admired my high school basketball coach. He was not only the best Xs and Os coach I ever had – and I’ve had a lot of them – he was incredible at getting us to play at our full potential by encouraging us and upholding and instilling values that still served me so well in life.”
She aspires to be that kind of coach. Her job should be made easier this season by a team laden with talent and players who have a lot of experience playing together. Seven returning starters and young talent that can make a big impact will definitely help.
“I think this team has the potential to be very successful against all different styles of play,” says Coach Lundberg. “A key to that will be consistency, confidence, and the ability to play as a team. This year our motto is ‘We are FC.’ I think it’s a statement of their pride, the fact that they want to control their own destiny, and that first and foremost, they need to stick together as a team.”
If early signs are any indication of what’s ahead, it’s going to be a very, very good season. Just recently, in a non-section game, the girls beat Peters Township High School, 14-13. It was the first time in school history the Foxes beat that team.