A little bit of stubbornness went a long way for W.T. Woodson High School lacrosse player Brian Beatson.
A career forward in hockey and attacker in lacrosse, the Essex Community College recruit's decision to follow his passion has made local lacrosse history.
"I wanted to play goalie in hockey, but my dad wouldn't let me. He thought I was wasting my skills [if I played goalie]," he said. "So when it came to lacrosse, I decided to play whatever I wanted."
In his sophomore year at Woodson, Beatson recognized a team need and picked up the goalie stick. After patiently waiting behind other players for a starting slot, Beatson led his team to its first-ever Patriot District lacrosse title in 2010.
At a recent college commitment ceremony, Woodson lacrosse coach Jon Fitzgerald broke the news that Beatson's hard work had resulted in a groundbreaking honor.
"Brian is the first African-American goalie to be named to the Northern Region first team," Fitzgerald said to a loud round of applause. "I reflected back and could not remember an African-American goalie ever making first team all-region. I consulted with other coaches and no one could remember it happening."
Beatson smiled as he listened to Fitzgerald's comments, but he was eager to sit down with his friends and get out of the spotlight. He knew about the honor, but bragging isn't his style.
"[Fitzgerald] told me about it after practice one day and it was pretty exciting news," Beatson said. "It made me feel special, knowing I'm the first of something. It never crossed my mind that it could happen."
Lacrosse is often stereotyped as a sport for rich white kids, Fitzgerald said, and Beatson's accomplishments could help make the sport more inclusive.
"[The honor] is significant," Fitzgerald said. "It's my 23rd season at Woodson and I've always been frustrated because African-American athletes could be excellent lacrosse players, but they won't pick up the game."
Beatson started playing lacrosse when he was in the fifth grade, joining various teams from Falls Church and Annandale. But his interest in the sport peaked while he played for local ice hockey teams.
"When I started playing hockey, a lot of hockey kids were making the transition to lacrosse," he said.
Beatson said he knew about the sport's stereotypes, but "it's a lot different now than it was. It's more accepted."
Beatson's grandfather said stereotypes about lacrosse never held his grandson back.
"Brian has never been treated any different," said 65-year-old Brian Beatson Sr. "He's a good athlete. I guess people like and respect that and have accepted him for what he is and encouraged him."
The younger Beatson said he fell in love with lacrosse's faced-paced action and physicality. While his athleticism pegged him as a natural for the high-energy attack position, Woodson's need for goalies sparked an interest.
"I knew we had Davis Mayberry, who was an awesome attacker," Beatson said. "If I kept playing attack, I'd be behind him. We had some good goalies about to graduate, so I decided to make the move."
Beatson tried to start in as many games as he could, but often ended up on the bench behind more experienced goaltenders.
"My first year was kind of rough," he said. "But after that I had good coaching and it went much smoother."
Fitzgerald recognized Beatson's talent in net and groomed him for a starting role in his senior season.
"He had potential to be a very good goaltender," he said. "He's been the man in the goal for us. He's just got a lot of zeal and enthusiasm for the position."
Beatson said his favorite moment of the 2010 season wasn't just the Patriot District championship win against Annandale, but a rare meeting with private school lacrosse power Landon, a 10-4 loss for the Cavaliers.
"I got to see how I stacked up against the best players," he said. "I had 16 saves in the game and it was just exciting to face shots from big-time players who are going to big places."
Beatson's career will continue at Essex Community College in Baltimore, where he'll work on his grades and play for the school's lacrosse team. He received attention from Ferrum University and other Division III schools, but his goal is to play at Essex and transfer to a school with a larger lacrosse program.
"I want to play there because it has a rich lacrosse tradition," he said. "Lots of kids go to big places after they play there."
While the Northern Region has seen other black lacrosse stars, such as former Westfield lacrosse player and current Penn State football running back Evan Royster, Fitzgerald said he hopes Beatson's accomplishments will spark interest in the sport for everyone.
"He might serve as an inspiration and as a role model for all players, not just African-Americans," Fitzgerald said.