Editor's note: This is the first installment of a new monthly feature
titled "Beyond the X," where writers, photographers and videographers
from MaxPreps will report on stories that go beyond the playing field.
TEMECULA, Calif. – Like a guard at Buckingham Palace, Chandler Smith stands tall and stoic, protecting his own sacred ground: The crease of his team’s junior varsity lacrosse goal.
The eyes of the Chaparral (Temecula, Calif.) sophomore pierce through a large protective mask. His heavily padded gloves wield a 50-inch alloy stick, with the right hand gripped tightly at the top near the netting and the left squeezing three-quarters down.
When action flurries at the other end, he twirls the rod like a golfer spinning a club between shots. When opponents attack, Smith crouches slightly, moves his feet and extends the stick. He looks fierce, like a middle linebacker waiting for a ballcarrier to break through the line.
This is Smith’s domain, his home away from home.
moment I played lacrosse I fell in love with it,” he said. “I love all
sports, but there’s something about lacrosse that really gets my
“I don’t know. I just think I was born to be an athlete.”
That’s quite a statement and perspective from a 16-year-old born with a rare birth defect that left him without a right leg.
came into the world with proximal femoral focal deficiency, a
non-hereditary bone deficiency that caused absence of a tibia, deformity
of the right foot and underdevelopment of his femur. His leg
was amputated at 18 months, when he received his first above-the-knee
titanium prosthetic. He’s been fitted for new ones almost annually ever
Along the way, supported by encouraging parents Richard and
Jennifer Smith, and sole sibling 14-year-old sister Courtney Smith, plus a large cast of teammates in various sports, Chandler hasn’t missed
an athletic step.
Video shot by Craig Johnson
He played T-Ball at age 5, soccer at 6 and golf soon after. He tried basketball in the eighth grade and wrestled last year, but gave it up because it conflicted with lacrosse, a sport he picked up the year before.
“I have to play a sport,” he said. “I feel like I’m not doing anything if I’m not doing one. I need to be active.
“I just don’t want to be the one kid sitting on the couch all day playing video games. I want to be out here running, throwing, catching, sprinting, jumping. All that.”
He does all that and a lot more, said Chaparral first-year junior varsity coach Tim Mann, a former college lacrosse goalie. Chandler isn’t by any means the Pumas' top player – he’s still learning the game and splits time at goalie – but he adds an element of spirit, hustle and a competitive edge that is immeasurable.
“He raises everything up for this team,” he said. “They look at the joy he brings to the game. The seriousness he brings to the game. Just his overall determination to be better, regardless of what’s going on in his life at the time. The team feeds off that a lot.”
Even one of the top players on the varsity team.
Sophomore Michael Kay has been playing the game six years and his dad Brent is the varsity head coach.
“The kid’s got heart, man,” Kay said. “I’ve never seen someone with so little give and do so much. I mean when the ball is loose, he can really run. He really gets going.
“I don’t know. When I watch him I just feel real gifted and real thankful just being here. I feel real whole. Real solid. Real lucky.”
Remarkably, so does Chandler.