Kevin Nguyen never wants to look back on his life and regret not taking advantage of an opportunity.
When his plans for fall break changed at the last minute, the men’s club lacrosse president saw it as an opportunity and set off on his own to explore San Francisco, spending time at an art museum and a music festival in the same day, all because he had “nothing else to do that night.”
“I saw the Saturday times (for Breakaway Music Festival) were from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. and I was like ‘It’s 3:30 p.m.,'” said Nguyen. “Wouldn’t it be funny to send it and go to a music festival in California by myself?”
A self-described middle school “band nerd,” he traded in his saxophone for a lacrosse stick his freshman year of high school. Believing it was his last opportunity to try a physical sport, Nguyen, “too skinny to play football,” decided to try out for his school’s lacrosse team.
Now, in his final year of college, he is preparing to lead the men’s lacrosse team, which is fighting for a third national championship in a row. His main goals while he approaches the spring lacrosse season are to work hard, regret nothing and win a “three-peat.”
He explains his drive simply, “I don’t want myself five years from now to regret anything.”
The people closest to Nguyen see this drive too, but explain he is much more than just driven. They describe him as “honest,” “welcoming,” “genuine,” “intelligent” and a “brother.”
“He’s a good human being. That’s the easiest way to describe it. He’s just a genuinely good person,” said Peter Candela, men’s club lacrosse head coach. “I texted the entire group chat and needed someone to help me move. The only person who responded was Kevin, and he showed up 10 minutes later and helped me move my entire house.”
Nguyen calls helping the coach he’s known since his first year on campus “a little thing.”
Not only does Nguyen receive praise off the field, but his teammates recognize that his best qualities also show on the field. In the 2022 season, Nguyen’s teammates and coaches almost unanimously voted him teammate of the year.
The men’s club lacrosse team has won the past two MCLA D1 National Championships, excluding 2020 and 2021 when schools in this division didn’t compete because of the pandemic. Despite the team’s success, they do not have the same staff support as a varsity team, leaving many of the responsibilities to Nguyen.
“I handle all the operations. I figure out where we should stay, what bus we should take, what flight we should get,” Nguyen said.
Along with planning the team’s trips, he also takes on the responsibilities of organizing field time with the school (club sports all share the same field) and securing sponsors since the team does not receive funding like varsity teams at the university.
Nguyen doesn’t let the difference between club and varsity sports slow him down. Justin Furlough, sport programs coordinator, fondly remembers Nguyen leading a presentation to university administrators asking for more funding for all club sports, not just lacrosse.
“He received almost double the funding (from the previous year),” Furlough said.
While the team’s main goal going into the spring season is to win a third national championship, Nguyen doesn’t want to stop there. He is determined to set the team up for the future by continuing to build the team’s brand and gaining additional sponsors.
Nguyen is not exclusively a leader on the lacrosse field. Andrew Smith, a graduate computer science student, describes Nguyen as mature for his age and self-confident.
“He’s a really disciplined guy. He spends a lot of time practicing with the lacrosse team,” Smith said. “He’s made a lot of sacrifices this semester because his degree is so hard. He pretty much practices with the lacrosse team and then goes home to work.”
“I look up to him even though he’s younger than me. And in lots of ways,” Smith continued.
Nguyen, not only disciplined and mature, also believes himself to be a “go with the flow” kind of person. After winning the club lacrosse national championship last season, Nguyen and 10 of his teammates decided they had to get tattoos to commemorate the experience. On his left leg, Nguyen has a tattoo of Cocky holding a lacrosse stick wearing a Carolina 22 lacrosse jersey.
“My first tattoo, it has to be something memorable. So, this is a super memorable one to me,” Nguyen said.
But still, what stands out most about Nguyen is his drive for his life.
“I always challenge myself and drive myself to be better. I just want to be able to look at myself five years from now and know I tried my best to make myself better,” Nguyen said.
Editor's note: This article was written for a journalism class prior to being published in The Daily Gamecock.