Lacrosse has been one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States, and with that comes media attention. Members of the Lacrosse community have found major online followings with personalities that attract the masses.
One of the main recipients of this attention is Princeton faceoff specialist Tyler Sandoval. He has seen incredible attention on his TikTok and Instagram pages, earning over 500,000 followers spread out between the two.
He has been a catalyst for motivating young athletes not only athletically but academically. With so much attention and a new wave of viewers, many fans wonder how he gained an audience and ended up in a unique position of mentorship and leadership. I had the opportunity to talk to him, and he gave us some insight into his career so far, along with how he plans to continue his positive impact in the future.
Where it All Began
Sandoval’s lacrosse journey started in a way you might not fully expect, as he found distaste for the sport. I asked him about when he first picked up a lacrosse stick, and this is what he told me;
“I would have to say, probably 8 years old or so, and actually, believe it or not, I disliked the sport very much. I ended up quitting lacrosse, mainly because it was in the summer, I was young, and I just wanted to be at the beach.”
However, this did not stop Sandoval from continuing the sport, but it did not play out the way he intended. He went on to say, “I was lucky enough that my parents persuaded me to go back into it, and I was kind of thrown into the close D position, and I didn’t really have a say in where I went.”
As he spoke with coaches during the recruiting process in middle school, he was advised to switch to a faceoff specialist. As we know, he has made a living off of faceoffs, and this was just the beginning. However, when he first made the switch, some teammates and members of his community patronized him. He said it got to such a point that he needed to prove them all wrong. He told me;
“I started facing off every single day because I wanted to prove all these people wrong. I wanted to show that I could be the one that ends up on top, that not everyone needs to do what they’re told, that they could do what they want to do and follow their dreams.”
His transition was in the middle of his 8th-grade year, and progression began immediately. He began working with Greg Gurenlian of the Faceoff Academy, a former professional and college lacrosse superstar. This is where his career began to blossom, and his future was cemented. At 14 years old as a freshman in high school, he committed to Princeton, and his life changed for the better.
His Playing Career (So Far)
Sandoval became an immediate presence in Ivy League lacrosse, seeing genuine playing time as a true freshman in 2020. During the Covid delayed season, he played in 4 of their 5 games. He did not play in their first game against Monmouth but took 4 faceoffs in the next. He only saw increased minutes from then, ending the season going 39-73 from the line at a rate of 53.4%.
After the canceled 2021 season, the future of college lacrosse was rocky. However, Sandoval did not buckle under the pressure and found himself as the main FOGO for the Tigers. His faceoff record for the 2022 season was 202-377, with a 53.6% success rate. This was impressive on its own until you consider the fact that he had one goal, two assists, and 94 ground balls on the year. He proved himself to be the No. 1 faceoff specialist at Princeton, and he is not going anywhere.
The Media Impact
Sandoval began his social media uprise in 2021 when he began posting TikToks at a fairly regular pace. His first post on the TylerSandoval35 TikTok page was on the first of October 2021, where he was putting up some numbers in the weight room.
When speaking on the beginning of his social media takeover, he said, “I really started my TikTok around mid-October 2021 because I was sponsored by C4 Energy. I didn’t want to post on Instagram because I was nervous about it, I didn’t want my friends or family or teammates to see it, so I started on Tiktok.”
His first viral video was posted on October 12th, 2021, and the video now sports over 1 million views. He got to about 4k followers by mid-November, and on November 19th, he posted his very first Lacrosse TikTok.
Sandoval had an uprise of followers leading into March of 2022, where he had 10k followers. However, when he thought things could not have gone any better, the page began to skyrocket. Sandoval states, “It really started exploding for me, the first explosion per se. I went from ten, fifteen thousand followers on Monday, and then that Thursday I was at seventy thousand.”
What really caught the attention of the viewers was his ‘Day in the Life’ videos, where he shows what it is like to be a Division 1 lacrosse player and scholar. As a pre-med student and bio major at an Ivy League school, it was an incredibly unique experience.
How the Engagement Impacts Him
Social media has heavily impacted Sandoval, and he has learned some lessons in the process. He is aware of the changes in his daily life, and he had this to say bout it;
“The first lesson I learned is my skin toughened. I thought I didn’t care about what people thought about me and what they said about me before this. I made an agreement with myself that I wouldn’t let others’ words deter me.”
However, that became difficult when other teams and regular viewers heavily criticized him and came after him. Now, as time has passed, he has learned that the only person that can define his value is himself. Now, the criticism has decreased, and he has found a community that views him positively, and even as a mentor.
He had some final things to say about how social media has affected his life. He told me that the way it has impacted his life the absolute most is how it changed his perspective on how he approaches people. He said, “What you speak carries,” and with a platform, he knows his message can carry weight. Particularly with a young and impressionable audience, and people have and will follow in your footsteps.
Sandoval is not just using his platform for his athletic and academic career, but to benefit those around him. He told me, “I really started gearing more of my content to trying to help people because that’s what I want to do in life. I want to be a surgeon, and I want to help people medically. However, I can’t do that right now as a 21-year-old student, so what I can help them with is academics, athletics, recruiting, lacrosse, discipline, motivation, you name it.”
About 3 months ago, he began focusing more on the academic guidance side of the internet to help benefit those outside of athletics. During this time, he had a majority of followers on TikTok and only about 7k on Instagram. As of the time this article is written, he is at almost 340k. He made study habit and motivational videos during finals in December, which gained him over 150k extra followers on that app in a week.
Tyler Sandoval is not only an elite lacrosse player but a person that wants what is best for those around him. The impact he has on the community, specifically young people that need guidance, has been widespread and impressive.
“I’m extremely grateful for what this social media presence has done for me, in terms of business proposals and sponsorships, and I think the most important part, I can’t stress this enough Tommy, is making a difference in individuals’ lives.”
He goes on to say, “I’ve signed autographs before, and I never imagined that my signature on a 14-year-old’s hat could bring a smile, and I think that is something really special.”
One of the last things that Tyler Sandoval had to say was that all he wants to do is make people smile. He passionately told me, “At the end of the day, I want to leave this world a better place than it was when I first got here. Step by step, I’m only at just over half a million, but I intend to keep on growing and keep on helping people as long as I can because it’s the right thing to do.”