Friday, August 14, 2015

Back to School and Lacrosse

Herkimer General Fred Opie Covering Hobart's Rick Vacion in 1983
I played junior college lacrosse at Herkimer County Community College before earning admissions and a scholarship to Syracuse University (SU). In the process I gained a great education at an afforable price with in state tutition as a community college (but that's another story i will turn to later). The summer before the start of my first semester at Syracuse University I set my mind on earning a position as starting defensemen during fall ball. I somehow got in my head that a division 1 defensemen had to bigger and stronger than I was at the time—6’ 1’’180 pounds. That summer I ate like a champ and lifted like a chump and ballooned to 205 pounds! Please don't use the strategy I employed. Today I would be small by division one standards where the average defensemen are taller than me and over two hundred pounds; today players are also faster and stronger than during my era. My advice is speed and great footwork and stick skills can never be underrated. On offense size is not as critical as speed and stick skills. Few be understand that NFL Hall of Famer Deon Sanders was not big, but lightening fast!

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Monday, August 3, 2015

One Big Reason Why Syracuse Recruited Me

Tim Nelson against Army at West Point, 1985 
Perhaps the person that the Lord used the most to turn the attention of the Syracuse Lacrosse coaching staff was the big 6' 2" 200 pound attackman Tim Nelson (Yorktown High School). Our high schools played against each other back in Westchester in Section 1. We also played together on a Manhasset summer league team in the old Freeport Summer League after my first year in college. As a result of our shared history, Tim (Nellie) knew my game and knew it well. When I went to Herkimer as a virtual unknown player, he went as a highly recruited two-time high school All American who had played in two New York State title games to NC State. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Wolfpack had a great lacrosse program that included Tim’s older brother Scott. At the end of his first year, State dropped their program and Syracuse offered him a scholarship. In his first season at Syracuse, SU won its first national championship in 1983, Nellie earned first team All American honors and he won the Turnbull Award as the best attackman in the country that year. During that championship season, I visited SU and ran into Nellie. He told me about the teams need for defensemen and then lobbied the coaching staff to recruit me based on what he knew of me as a high school player and my summer league performance. That’s the story of how I became a Syracuse Lacrosse recruit when most other programs and coaches showed no interest. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Recruiting and Lacrosse Networking

Hopkins Hall of famer John Detomasso covering SU Hall famer Tim Nelson in the 1983 Championship game  
You never know who is watching you so give your best effort during practice, at camps, summer league games, and tournaments. Coaches use their networks of friends, players, and alum to evaluate a player. As in my own case, many players that have come through Syracuse over the years were spotted obscure venues and recruited in non-traditional way by members of the Syracuse network that like most universities is extensive. Coaches generally trust the recommendation of alum because they have come through the system and know what it will take to play at a Syracuse. There is a place in college for most people play including some great Club teams.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Dedication or Stupidity?

I remember the time I returned from a Spanish language immersion program in Mexico for an amatuer lacrosse game.  Now that was dedication or stupidity! I returned back to states to play in the 1992 club championship for Maryland Lacrosse Club (MLC) against the New York Athletic Club (New York AC). MLC player manager assured me that the club would cover my travel cost. I later learned that he made this promise in post semi-final celebration as our team upset a very good Mount Washington Lacrosse Club to make it into the finals. Mount Washington’s club that year included Butch Marino, Toddy Curry, now John Hopkins Head Coach Dave Pietralmala, Ronny Claussen, Mac Ford, and other all club players at the top of their game back then. Our team included Larry Quinn in goal, The Kelley Brothers—Frank, David, and Brian Kelley, Glen Norris, Joe Gold, Jeff Greenburg (who came out of a long retirement to play that year) Aaron Jones, Ricky Sowell, and again allot of other very talented players that I don’t remember. 

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Five Principles I've Learned From Athletic Competition

Chris Burt 33, Fred Opie 34, Mike O'Donnell 31, Syracuse Hopkins 1985 Title Game at Brown University
Visualize the desired outcome you want and situations you need to avoid like the plaque. This is something professional pilots do on a regular basis in flight simulators. I do this as a writer and teacher but I started back when I played.  Visualize executing the prepared game plan, and adapting it to the circumstances. Second, give your best efforts so that win, lose, or draw you would have nothing to regret. I played in two national championships and lost both but because I gave my best effort I've never looked back. The same was true when I won and loss club championships and when I won a world championship as a member of the 1990 U. S. National Team. My college coach Syracuse University, Hall of Famer Roy Simmons Jr. had a mantra that is so important: head, heart, and hustle.  Coach would say the difference between winning and losing often is who would hustle the most and get the most ground balls. My own mantras is ground balls wins games and do all the little things right because they bring about big results! Finally, never forget that someone's always watching. What kind of influence are you having on those around you? 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Why Lacrosse Has Not Taken off in Black and Latino Communities

Courtesy of the Hamption Lacrosse Facebook Page 

by José Olivero

In the article on Hampton University fielding a Division 1 (Div 1) program next year (see the link below), there are a lot of key points and bits of information buried within.  I agree on all the contributing factors stagnating the growth of minorities in lacrosse, especially the cost.  But, I would add another important reason why lacrosse has not taken off in the Black and Latino communities; there is no viable professional league.  Where's the magnet?  A viable professional league is one where a player can make an excellent living and live the life of luxury.  Comparable to lacrosse, basketball, football, baseball provide that for professional athletes. For most, lacrosse is played as a hobby and for love of the game than as a profession.  Professional sports have always been looked as the ticket out of poverty and instant socio-economic improvement. As a sport we're not there yet.  Will we make it, I hope so Regardless, it is good to see Hampton joining the Div 1 ranks and I wish them luck. 

José Olivero
Former All American Goalie, West Point

Will Hampton University Improve Lacrosse’s Diversity Problem?:

Fred Opie on José Olivero’s: [Watch Now 3 min 29 sec]

Monday, June 22, 2015

My Summer with Steve

The Lacrosse Field at Lakeland Middle School 
The summer before I entered 9th or 10th grade Steve Mabus’ family moved on my street.  At the time Steve played college lacrosse at Kutz Town State in Pennsylvania. I don’t remember how it started, but before I knew it, Steve and I started playing catch, shooting on goal, and playing one on one in his yard. Steve played in a college summer league at the Lakeland middle school field and started taking me along his game. I remember watching Scott Finlay (Yorktown, West Point), Scott Nelson (Yorktown, North Carolina State) and Bill Simunek (Walter Panas, St. Lawrence), Greg Rivers (Yorktown, Delaware) and Clay Johnson (Croton, Maryland) play. These guys were terrific athletes, with great sticks, and lacrosse intellect. Watching them provided a visual image of how the game should be played. Graduate school advisors once told me that I should apply to the best possible Ph.D. programs. She explained, “You will rise to the occasion in an atmosphere of very bright people and become a much more polished scholar.” The same is true with the summer lacrosse you watch and the leagues you play in.