Shelby Fredericks was a star on two stages.
Most days, she shined on the lacrosse field, lining up as one of the top draw specialists and attackers in the country. On a Saturday in April, she finished with nine assists and nine draw controls against Rutgers, on her way to setting the all-time Northwestern record for career draw controls.
Two days later, she took the literal stage, sitting on a chair with just a microphone and a guitar, performing two original songs for the first time at an open-mic night at Kafein, a coffee shop in Evanston.
To understand Fredericks, it’s necessary to consider what each stage allowed her to do: one let her give to something bigger than herself, and the other enabled her to be herself, she said.
“It’s two definitely different feelings,” she said. “On the field, I feel a lot more killer-instinct, and when I’m on stage, it more so feels like you’re being vulnerable, and just connecting with the crowd. That’s something that is completely different than lacrosse.”
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Fredericks said the person she is today is completely different than the freshman who arrived on campus in fall 2014 as a highly-touted recruit from Babylon, New York.
“You don’t know how to really take each day at a time and really be grateful for every day (as a freshman) because it’s coming at you like a whirlwind,” Fredericks said. “You’re really just caught up in everything that’s going on. Now, I’m a lot more laid back and a lot more confident in myself.”
Despite battling injuries that kept her out for her freshman and much of senior seasons at Babylon, she finished with 368 career points and 225 goals. Fredericks committed to Northwestern when she was in ninth grade, but said she’d dreamed of joining the program since attending one of coach Kelly Amonte Hiller’s summer camps in middle school.
Shannon Smith (Weinberg ’12), the program’s all-time leading goal scorer, coached Fredericks on the Long Island Top Guns summer club team. Smith noticed Fredericks’ competitive drive early.
“It takes a special person to have an extreme work ethic like that,” Smith said. “(She’s) someone that’s going to go above and beyond to make sure that they can be successful in what they want to do individually, but more importantly, for the team.”
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Fredericks said her focus on taking the draw didn’t begin until she arrived at Northwestern. She took the draw occasionally in high school, but also played on the circle and behind the line; once she joined the Wildcats, she worked with Amonte Hiller and former assistant coach Danielle Spencer to develop the skills she has today.
“That’s been a marquee of our program since the beginning — we’ve had great draw people — and Shelby is obviously one of the best,” Amonte Hiller said earlier this season. “She’s got so much experience and knowledge in her game … so we count on her a lot and she just brings it every game.”
The attacker tallied 496 total draw controls, 108 assists and 166 points, setting additional records for most draw controls in a season (165 during her junior year) and the third-most career assists. Fredericks averaged the third-most assists (2.94) and tied for the fifth-most draw controls per game (8.0) in the country her senior season.
She noted that one of the most important aspects of the draw doesn’t even involve hands or height or even the stick, but rather the mind.
“The mental side of it is really just taking it one at a time,” Fredericks said. “My favorite part of taking (the draw) is just the pressure of it. It’s really fun to be in that position to dictate momentum.”
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How does music fit into this story?
Fredericks said she has always loved to sing. When she was a sophomore, she decided to start playing the guitar. She did most of her learning from YouTube, and said that former Northwestern players Spring Sanders and Lauren Murray, who both graduated in 2016, were her main inspiration behind “creating something” and not just “doing (music) to do it.”
She started accompanying Murray to open-mic nights at Kafein before Murray graduated, but never performed herself. That changed on April 23, two days after her stellar performance against Rutgers, when Fredericks made what she called a spur-of-the-moment decision, took her guitar and headed to Kafein to perform solo for the first time.
“It was just a cool way to share something that you make,” Fredericks said of the experience, during which she sang two original songs called “Still Be Me” and “Long Enough.”
“It’s hard to share that, (because) it’s your own words, and it’s kind of like reading from a diary, but it was a really freeing feeling,” she said.
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Fredericks said Northwestern’s program has shown her that she loves to give to things that are more than herself, and even more than lacrosse. That spirit is evident when she talks about her future, and her dream to become a head coach someday.
At the same time, she said Northwestern lacrosse has also taught her to be her full self: not just Shelby Fredericks the lacrosse player and not just Shelby Fredericks the open-mic performer, but both.
“Something I’ve learned here is that you don’t need to be one person,” Fredericks said. “Sometimes when you play a sport like this, you feel like you have to take on this really hard exterior and (that) you can’t play guitar, you can’t sing songs like that, because you have to hold this tough image on social media … but I think that’s one thing that I’ve learned: that you can be all of the things that you are.”
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