Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Student Teaching and Coaching

Photo of me in the spring of 1986 as an assistant varsity lacrosse coach at my high school, Croton Harmon warming up the goalies at Croton Harmon. 

I am an avid goal setter. I recall in my senior year at Syracuse University (SU) in 1985, I set my sites on becoming a public school teacher and lacrosse coach in a district where I could have an impact. I was an education major at SU and needed to complete a year of student teaching which I did in my public school district, Croton Harmon district in the fall of 1985. I received mentoring as a student teacher in grades k-12 and I coached each season during my year in Croton. My education courses at SU, coaching and teaching that year in Croton, and three years of full time public school teaching helped me a great deal when I later became a college professor. Unfortunately the average prof, particularly the stars, have had little to no experience teaching before taking their first job nor courses on class management and basic pedagogy. 

The Croton Diner and Croton Point: http://www.foodasalens.com/2009/09/croton-dinner.html

Croton Point Park History: http://brickcollecting.com/croton.htm

Monday, October 26, 2015

Custom Sticks and Cuse Lacrosse Culture

That's Tim Nelson's 1983 season custom head with a classic Yorktown, most likely little brother Tom strung, Brine Superlight II with wide strong  traditional pocket.
Organized lacrosse head dying sessions using a white plastic head, Rit fabric dye, and downing dozens of hot Buffalo chicken wings in the process represented a part of lacrosse experience in the 1980s. There was definitely an unspoken competition over both who could eat the most wings and who could come up with the most aesthetic multi-colored design with your name, number, and somehow fit it all fit on a small surface. A Syracuse 80% of the team loved traditional pockets. The difference was over the size of the holes. Yorktown guys like big holes maybe 5 and West Genee players always used small holes say 8 or more. The island guys at SU, and we didn’t have a lot in those days, were right in the middle. Upstate players used Brine superlight II; about four of us however used STX. 

I grew up on Army lacrosse and coach Dick Edell. As an attackman in high school I patterned a lot of my game and gear after All American attackmen Frank Giordano (Port Washington, Army), Greg Tarbell (LaFayette, Cobleskill, Syracuse) and Mike O’Neill (Massapequa, Hopkins) In fact I wore # 7 after seeing both Tarbell and O’Neill play at West Point. I purchased a STX Barney with a traditional pocket and the same funky gold shaft that O’Neill used in game I saw at the point. I often wondered how many young players emulated my gear and game as they watched me play.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Good Mentor Can Make All the Difference

 Glatfelter Hall, Gettysburg College
Everyone needs a good mentor.  Mike McTighe served as an important mentor in my life who helped me learn the academic ropes. Mike did more than talk he demonstrated his confidence in my intellectual ability by asking me to co-teach my first college course with him—a comparative religious history course on Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. In addition he offered to write letters of support for my application to Ph.D. programs. Shortly after the course started, Mike told me that doctors had diagnosed him with cancer. He asked me to continue teaching the course alone, and assured me that I could handle the class. I was 28 years old at the time and that semester, I served as an interim dean, adjunct professor, and defensive coordinator for the Gettysburg Men’s Lacrosse team. I was reading like crazy to stay ahead of my students plus over preparing because of my internal fear that someone would find out that I was a fake, a guy who struggled to spell basic words and spent twice as much time reading the same material as my students. And as for the lacrosse, as was the case at Croton Harmon, Herkimer, and Syracuse, Gettysburg lacrosse during my tenure was good but nothing like the teams that have made the final four over the last ten years. More on the players I coached during my time there from 1989 to 1992

Lessons from My Graduate School Experience: http://lacrossememoir.blogspot.com/search?q=Graduate+School

Listen to Our Podcasts and More: http://www.fredopie.com/

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My First Semester at Syracuse University

Kevin Sheehan wearing number 65 as high school all star. He must be a sophomore in this photo which also includes a number of standout players such as Brad Kotz 30 and Randy Powers to players to the right of Kotz. 
I spent my first year at Syracuse adjusting to the school, all you could eat food and no dishes in the cafeterias, and, my new teammates. We had a very talented Syracuse team that year. On defense we had big Kevin Sheehan (Baldwinsville, NY) who the team called Sheedog or just dog for short. I called him Chewie because he was so big and thick and had long hair like the star wars character Chewbaka. Kevin’s physical play, ability to dislodge the ball from an opponent’s stick, ground ball ability, and an offensive threat on occasion made him a 3 x All American. Jeff Desko (West Genesee, Camillus, NY is the youngest Desko in the program next to brother John a 79 SU All American and assistant coach during my years, and Dave a 2 x All American midfielder 83, 84) Baby D ran like a gazelle and played tremendous position defense on shifty attackman like Mac Ford (Carolina,Mt Washington,USA) and Tom Carmean (Umass, Boston Blazers, NY Saints). Jeff was a 3 x All-American. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Canadian Connection

Paul and Gary Gait
# 15 Stan Cockerton, far right (and unknown individuals) 

A key to SU's lacrosse success over the years has been the coaching staff's ability to find diamonds in the rough in the most usual places. Certainly the story of how the Hall Fame Gait brothers arrived on campus is an excellent case in point. As the story goes, Coach Simmons received a tip from either a personal friend or Syracuse alum about the Gait brothers. They came from Western Canada which at the time did not have any players of note who had played at any top program or put up the kind of numbers that they did in their career at Syracuse. The Canadians of note that I knew of before the Gaits has been Stan Cockerton at NC State and Dave Huntley at Hopkins in the late 1970s (I would later learn about and play against Canadian Box Hall of Famer and national team player Kevin Alexander). U. S. coaches had not yet become convinced that box players could make the transition to the field game so Canadians went larger overlooked until the Gaits with the exception of Cockerton. How recruiting is done today at the Division I level is quite short sighted in my view because it is gambling on young sophomore and juniors in high school and overlooking seniors, post grads at prep schools, and junior college kid like me. Today Syracuse is one of the few top ranked programs that still makes room on its roster for non-traditional recruits like the Gaits, Native Americans, and junior college players like me. 

Canadian Lacrosse Legend Kevin Alexander: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_0NBMg_A8o

The Gait’s Canadian Box Lacrosse Roots: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWd_SS3gQNU

How Many Goals Did the Gaits Score Right-Handed?: [Watch 8 min 24 sec] http://lacrossememoir.blogspot.com/2012/04/how-many-goals-did-gaits-score-right.html

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Recruiting, Part 1 of 2

Attackman Fred Opie during a home game at Croton Point field my Senior Year 1981

As part of my ongoing recruiting series I want to talk about the experience I had helping a fantastic sleeper complete a grueling recruiting process for him and his family. As sophomore, seniors at his high school received the lion share of playing time thus he went unnoticed until this past season and a great showing this summer. But by June most of the top scholarship and Ivy League lacrosse programs had verbal commitments for his class and had nothing to offer. So the scramble to find a program who wanted to court him started and I got involved the first week in July. The experience proved stressful for the player and parents largely because going through it the first time there are so many blind spots and unexpected turns and twist. One ends up turning in all different directions talking to coaches and visiting schools on speed dial and having one’s hopes raised and dashed in a 24 hour period. I went to high school with this recruits mom. My high school friend said that at times “I felt like we were all over the place talking to coaches, looking at schools [and] jumping from D1 to D3.”She concluded, “At the end of the day, I think a lot of it comes down to luck.  One coach sees you do one good thing on one good day.” More tomorrow on learning from a recruiting experience.

Recruiting Series:

Listen to Our Podcasts and More: http://www.fredopie.com/

Friday, September 11, 2015

Recruiting and High School Pedigree

Me left, covering Yorktown's Rob Hoynes in my senior year of High School. Hoynes would go on to have a great playing career at Army.

My entrance into the Syracuse University (SU) lacrosse community on campus in 1983 happened awkwardly in large part because of my own insecurity as a player void of any noted tradition. The incoming class of 1983 came in with allot of players with loftier credentials then mine. We became acquainted during shoot arounds on the old beat of turf field located next to Manley Field House on south campus peppering each other with questions about our high school programs. My school, Croton Harmon High School in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, only Yorktown players knew about being from the same league. At the time, Croton had only produced Maryland’s Clay Johnson; so what I learned then and understand the better now, is that like many other spaces, the lacrosse world has a rigid hierarchy. For a new unproven recruit, one’s high school opened or closed doors. That has changed with the emergence of club teams and the various All this and that teams. So here I was in 1983 feeling like a marginalized lacrosse player with no creditability until I could prove myself on the field. I was a stepchild and outsider among a group of players from high schools with legendary histories.