Worthington Uses Uncle's Battle Off the Field for Inspiration on the Field
April 7, 2011
Photos Courtesy of Mark Campbell
NEWARK, Del. -- When Makenzie Worthington was nine years old, she used to run around and play lacrosse with her 10 cousins, specifically her older cousin Colin.
She found it hard to stay involved as she was the only girl in the group and no one was willing to pass her the ball.
But there was one person who would always see to it that Worthington (at right) felt included. That person was her uncle, Mike Radcliffe.
“He’s the reason why I started playing lacrosse,” said Worthington of her uncle. “He’d throw me the ball and he’d encourage me to keep playing and not get down because the boys didn’t want me to play with them.”
Years later, her Uncle Mike is still the reason she plays goalkeeper for the women’s lacrosse team at the University of Delaware.
In January of 2009, Radcliffe was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, or more commonly, Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. ALS is a fatal disease that progressively degenerates the motor neurons that reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from there to the muscles throughout the body.
“My teammates have realized through many experiences, including this one, that we are extremely lucky women to be playing at this level,” said Worthington. “So at this game with their support, we keep the reasons we play close to heart and we play for those who can't.”
For this Friday’s game between Delaware and Hofstra University, the Blue Hens will sport lime green “Team Radcliffe” T-shirts during warm-ups in support of the battle against ALS.
And when times on the field get rough, all Worthington needs to do is look down at her wrist. Part of her pre-game ritual is to write her uncle’s initials “MR” on the inside of her wrist.
“Every time lacrosse gets hard, you keep in mind why you play," said Worthington, who has played most of this season battling a broken thumb on her left hand. "When it’s a tough game, I just look down, see his initials and think ‘Hey, you’re still playing right?’ He’s one of the reasons I still play.”
Appropriately enough, Worthington selected lime green as the color for her cast (at left).
But Friday’s 7 p.m. game won’t be the only exposure for ALS research Worthington and her teammates will be getting this season.
During University of Delaware Football Fandemonium on April 15, in conjunction with the final Blue Hen spring scrimmage, other Delaware student-athletes will chip in and help run a dunk tank in the fan zone, while Worthington and her team head to Fairfax, Va. to face George Mason. The dunk tank will run between 6 and 7 p.m. and will benefit the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Radcliffe’s influence reaches far beyond Worthington however. Prior to his diagnosis, he coached lacrosse for the Lutherville-Timonium recreation elementary and middle school teams in Maryland, as well as his three sons, Colin, Sean, and Brett. All three played high school lacrosse at powerhouse Boys Latin School of Maryland in Baltimore.
During his time coaching on the sidelines, Radcliffe touched the lives of hundreds of players, including several English players who played for a time in the United States before he took a team overseas to England.
“He was a great coach, the kids really loved him and responded to him,” said Worthington of her own lacrosse influence. ”All the English players still email him and connect through Facebook and ask how he is doing. It’s really great.”
And while her uncle continues to battle the disease, Worthington continues to keep him in mind as the Blue Hens battle on the field.
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