Monday, April 19, 2010

The Flood of 1972 Introduced Me To Lacrosse


The 1984 Washington College lacrosse team Rick Sowell (front row, second from the right).

Fred Opie: In this segment guest blogger Rick Sowell, college All American, Stony Brook Head Coach, and US Team Assistant Coach, continues the story of how he started playing lacrosse in New York's Western tier region in the 1970s. Rick and I are similar in age and we played against each other in Junior College (early 80s) and with each other on Maryland Lacrosse Club (early 90s). We grew up in the same state but hundreds of miles apart., yet I am struck by the similarities of our small town lacrosse experience and the the racial politics of growing up black in a white suburbs (see my earlier post on this topic).

Rick Sowell: In 1972, thanks to a flood that wiped out the city of Elmira and crippled it for many years, that all changed. Many homes were destroyed, including ours and to avoid experiencing something like this in the future, my parents moved to us to a suburban community called Horseheads where high school Math Teacher and Coach Tom Moffitt would years later introduce me to lacrosse. Few African Americans lived there before the flood, and just a few moved there after the flood. My family was one of the very few African Americans to move to Horseheads in 1973. Growing up in Horseheads was certainly much different than Elmira particularly in regards to size of the communities black population. Of the 520 students in my high school senior graduation class, three were African Americans. So, it was a much different world then what I was used to living in Elmira. Overall, I experienced a wonderful childhood, but it wasn’t always easy. For example, dating was very difficult; some parents just did not want me dating their daughter. Other times, I would catch grief from the opposing team, because in most cases, I was the only African American on the field. These things made it tough, but it certainly could have been much, much worse.

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