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Great Tate Donaldson: Discovering lacrosse early made Kettle Run sophomore a star

Tuesday, May. 27 | By Grant Thomas
Kettle Run sophomore midfielder Tate Donaldson made an immediate impact as as freshman with 40 goals, and he has 26 midway through this year. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
*Editor's note: This story originally ran May 16*

Tate Donaldson’s long journey to his breakout freshman season for the Kettle Run High boys lacrosse team began when he was five.

Donaldson was first introduced to lacrosse by his babysitter, then a lacrosse player for the Fauquier Falcons. An early inspiration to Tate, the Falcon gave Donaldson his first stick and encouraged him to try out for his local youth team.

Donaldson quickly learned the game from his youth team coach, Bill Simmith, and made an impact.

Last year as a freshman he accumulated 40 goals, 11 assists and 17 ground balls. As a sophomore this year he has 26. Donaldson's older brother Adam is also a Cougar standout who scored 38 goals as a freshman and is now a junior.

“Bill pretty much taught me the game,” Tate Donaldson said. “He also gave me many life lessons. He was a great coach.”

Donaldson helped lead his youth team, the Fauquier Talons, also coached by Simmith, to a championship in his sixth year on the field with the team.

Donaldson’s current high school coach, Scott Begley, took note of Tate’s potential from his play with the Talons.

“I’ve seen Tate play for a long time. He had played with my younger son Matthew in youth lacrosse,” Begley said. “He also played summer ball with us (for Kettle Run) as a rising freshman and showed even greater potential.”

Donaldson’s father, Scott Donaldson, was also a large presence in Tate’s early lacrosse years. A football player at Hobart College in upstate New York, Tate's dad played and watched lacrosse and learned to love the sport.

When Tate’s then 6-year-old brother Adam joined the Talons, Scott decided to help coach the team. Eager to learn about the game, 5-year-old Tate tagged along to every practice, even though he wasn’t old enough to play.

“You could tell that Tate was always enthusiastic about the game. He has always wanted to grow up to be a great player, and his work ethic and love of the game helped him achieve that goal,” said Scott Donaldson.

Thanks, mom and dad

Support for Tate and Adam’s love for lacrosse has always been present.

“We have provided him with many opportunities outside high school lacrosse to expand his game,” said mother Dawn. “We attend all games and tournaments, and encourage him to play his best.”

Tate has appreciated this love and support and used to it improve. In fact, he even slept with his stick as a youngster.

“My family is the best. I don't know where I'd be without them,” Donaldson said. “My parents and my grandparents are always there for me, and they always support my decisions. They go out of their way to get my brother and I anything we need to be successful in our sports.”

As each brother improved steadily, a small statistical rivalry began to emerge. In his freshman year, Adam, now a junior, scored 38 goals. Two years later, in his own freshman season, Tate stuck 40 goals in the back of the net.

“Adam and I are always trying to be better than one another,” Donaldson said. “But it's all for the love of game.”

With the high expectations for the dynamic duo this year, it was a big blow for many, especially Tate, when Adam suffered a sprained knee just two minutes into the season's first game, forcing him Adam off the field for more than a month.

“Watching my brother go down in the first game of the season and being out for six weeks definitely threw me off," said Donaldson. “I hate to see a team member, let alone a family member, go down.”

Adam’s injury forced Tate to take a bigger role on the team.

“Tate has had to step up and bring more to the team with his brother out. He has a great work ethic that has definitely helped him with athletics,” said Dawn Donaldson.

Those who see him every day say the increased role has brought out many good qualities in Tate as a player and a person.

“As a lacrosse player, Tate is a hard worker with a great lacrosse IQ," said coach Begley. "He has good stick skills and is a tricky shooter. He also understands his teammates' strengths and weaknesses and has the ability to capitalize on their strengths.”

Begley wants to see Tate continue to thrive and be a leader.

“As far as things to work on for lacrosse as a rising junior, he needs find his niche role as a leader and role model for the younger kids. That is what I will be looking for from him for next year,” Begley said.

After scoring a whopping 40 goals as a freshman, Tate has made a conscious effort to improve his passing and vision of the field as a sophomore.

Donaldson accumulated 26 goals, 27 assists and 11 ground balls in his first 10 games this season, a progression from his freshman line of 40, 11, and 17 in 14 games.

The Cougars’ record has also improved dramatically, from a 7-7 record in 2013 to 8-3. Kettle Run lost a heartbreaker to rival Fauquier earlier this week,m 11-10, in a game that saw Adam score four goals, but the Cougars remain on pace for a playoff run.

The future looks bright

Tate’s statement season is helping the Cougars' succeed.

“Many coaches have told me that I have great vision of the field. I always know where and where not to throw the ball, and I'm always in the right spot whether it's a good or a bad play,” Donaldson said.

Tate and his coach believe that his energy and charisma have also helped him. “I’d like to think I'm a super happy person. I always try to stay positive and make people laugh. I hate seeing people sad,” Donaldson said.

Begley agrees.

“Tate’s best qualities off the field are definitely his outgoing personality and positive approach to whatever he is doing,” Begley said. “His positive attitude and overall cheerfulness help him keep the team motivated. He is also a good listener who is always open to constructive criticism.”

Those long summer days of young Tate practicing in his backyard for hours at a time haven’t gone away. Donaldson spends most of the offseason doing just that.

“I'm always spending time out in the yard shooting,” Donaldson said. “The offseason is a big time for me. I'm constantly playing wall ball and working on my shot out in the yard.

“Also, my dad has just recently set up a fantastic field in the backyard so I can go outside and improve my game whenever I want,” Donaldson continued.

It's no stretch to think that Tate, who has his junior and senior years ahead of him, will continue to blossom and eventually play in college.

In fact, it's part of his master plan.

“Playing at the college level is a big dream of mine,” Tate said. “I would love the opportunity.”

- - - - -

The Tate Donaldson File

Height/weight: 5-foot-7, 148 pounds.

Family: Father Scott and mother Dawn are both entrepreneurs. They own The Inn At Vint Hill, an event and wedding venue. Brother Adam, 17, also plays lacrosse at KRHS with Tate.

Favorite place: “Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia. My family and I love going there and just to relax. It’s a good escape from reality.”

Favorite food: “Anyone that knows me knows that I love food. I love anything my Dad cooks, but my favorite is probably his homemade gumbo.”

Favorite music: “I like anything besides country music, but I mostly listen to rap.”

Favorite team: “Washington Redskins. I have to support my home team! I also love watching UNC men’s college lacrosse.”

Hobbies: “I don’t have any hobbies; but like anyone, I just love hanging out with my friends. In the future, aside from lacrosse, I would really like to go to school to become a dentist.”

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