When the nationwide shutdowns put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in sport cancellations throughout the country, Madison McDaniel learned she wouldn’t be playing her final year of lacrosse for James Madison University (JMU) in Virginia. “Because of this, I was able to obtain an extra year of eligibility,” she said. “I definitely saw this as an opportunity to open my options and, in addition to getting to play one more year of lacrosse, pursue my master’s.” This decision led her to USC, where she will be an attacker on the USC lacrosse team and start her studies in USC Annenberg’s master’s of communication management program this Fall.
McDaniel grew up in Annapolis, Maryland, where she started playing lacrosse when she was 6 years old. She continued playing throughout high school and was recruited to JMU where she played in all 21 games as a freshman. In 2018, her sophomore year, the team won the NCAA championship. In her first three seasons at JMU, McDaniel helped the Dukes win three straight Colonial Athletic Association championships. The Dukes “were on track to win our conference this year, as well,” she said. The six-foot-tall draw specialist was team captain at JMU the past two years.
We spoke to McDaniel about being a student-athlete and her journey to USC Annenberg.
In my communication classes, I felt like I was always learning some sort of very important life lesson, whether that was how to market myself or how to communicate more effectively with others. Also, ever since I was in a freshman in high school, I’ve been getting interviewed for local papers and local news about lacrosse, and because of this, I’ve been able to see more the broadcasting side of things. That unique perspective has also driven my desire for a career in communications. I also never wanted to be one of those people who went through college and then found a job and didn’t use anything that I had learned, so this area was something that I was immediately interested in, and I’ve just been in love with ever since.
What drew you to USC?
My family always says that I’m always up for an adventure, so when lacrosse fell through in the spring, and I found out that I could play somewhere else and get my master’s, I really took the time to look around at other schools. I’ve always wanted to work in sports media or entertainment media, and I figured L.A. was one of the most perfect places to learn and be able to do that. What hooked me, though, was having the opportunity to actually learn from people who have this awesome real-world experience and then put myself out there at the same time. Plus, I’ve always wanted to go to California — I’ve actually never even been there. So, I think it will be cool to pursue a master’s and play lacrosse at such a big sports school. At JMU, sports was definitely important, but it wasn’t a big Pac-12 school like USC, so it will be interesting to see the difference.
What do you like about being a student-athlete?
I’ve always loved being a very busy person, and I work pretty well on a schedule, and as a student-athlete, you really do have to do that. So, a typical day would be for me to go and lift weights at seven in the morning, then go to class until the early afternoon and then go to practice until 5 or 6 o’clock. After that I went to the library to study and get my work done and then go home and go to sleep. I love that regimented lifestyle and I think moving to USC, I will be able to keep this going. I do realize that I wouldn’t be here if the coronavirus didn’t happen; for me, it was like, “Everything happens for a reason.” And now I have this amazing opportunity to get my master’s and play lacrosse for the University of Southern California.