Thursday, September 23, 2010

Check Out The Archived Stories

I will be posting periodically over the next couple of weeks. I am completing a memoir (which is how this blog started) and there is little lacrosse in the sections related to my time working on a graduate degree history at Syracuse University in the 1990s. I will post on the experience of being a doctoral student while I also preparing for the 1994 US National Men’s Lacrosse team tryouts and the tryouts themselves in the summer of 1993. However, there are many interesting post leading up to that point that you can read in the blog archives (on the rights side of the page). Please share your comments and questions that will generate additional post and I hope you are enjoying my life story through the lens of lacrosse (and food).

Fred Opie

Sunday, September 19, 2010

College Lacrosse Recruiting Series: Part 4 Dealing With The Pressure

That's me with the red gloves on and Herkimer Coach Paul Wehrum Warming up Greg Kaplan at the old Coyne Field before the stadium received a face lift , Syracuse University 1982 

After the recommendation of Tim Nelson, coaches Roy Simmons Jr. and John Desko came to watch me when my junior college, Herkimer County Community College played the Syracuse B team. In those days schools who could afford them had B teams which included their new recruits and walk ons. The structure gave rookies playing time in scrimmages against other B teams and junior colleges in games that would not count against their four years of eligibility. Athletic department budget cuts have done away with most B teams. I remember the game well because we played on Coyne Field on astro-turf at night. That was my first time playing on a synthetic surface. I enjoyed playing on turf because it complemented my game which was based on speed and trick moves in which I would roll, flip, and bounce pass on the turf. I remember covering Frank Lanuto (Sachem) who would later go on to run first midfield as a team at Syracuse with future hall of famers Todd Curry and Brad Kotz (both West Genesee products). Frank was a very strong player who protected his stick extremely well. I apparently held my own defensively against him. More importantly I played my game which was forcing turnovers, getting ground balls, pushing the ball up field, and creating scoring opportunities with my stick skills and field vision as former attackman. I also did not come apart under the pressure of knowing a coach had come to evaluate me.

Friday, September 17, 2010

College Lacrosse Recruiting Series Part 2

Photo of me on attack my senior year at Croton Harmon High School in New York. Little know secret is that I was a high school attackman. I also played man down an on occasion close defense. Like Chris Paul, I was not highly recruited early in my career.

Launched a series yesterday on recruiting. I recall watching Charlie Rose interview NBA all-star guard Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets. I loved Paul story about his recruiting experience as high school player in North Carolina because it parallels somewhat how I earned a lacrosse scholarship to Syracuse University. Like most North Carolinians, Paul wanted to play for the UNC Tar Heels. However the UNC coaching staff, and few other division 1 coaches, showed no interest in Paul until his senior year. Paul never played on the varsity at his high school until he was a junior and he was very tall (still isn’t) as compared to his peers on the court. Paul said the way he caught the attention of coaches at elite programs like UNC is they turned out to see a highly touted guard and Paul was going up against him. Paul scored a bunch of points on his opponent and shut him down offensively. After the game his stock went up including a scholarship offer from UNC. Paul decided instead to attend Wake Forest. Paul’s story makes me think of how many players give up on their dream and how many coaches end up signing players who are pipe dreams. I am amazed of just how short sighted the recruiting process is today in which coaches are asking for verbal commitments from rising sophomores in high school; please someone stop the madness!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Return to Syracuse University

Here's a really old photo me covering Hobart's Mark Moore who sent me this shot. Thanks Mark! This was a Lacrosse Day of Champions game at Jim Brown's Manhasset High School on the Island. SU vs Hobart in the early spring of 1984--it was freezing! Brown was inducted in the Lacrosse Hall of Fame this year and there was a short ceremony at half time. I got a chance to me him (see the story in the blog archive for Feb 20100)

Talking about the time in my life when I spent so much time and money playing lacrosse for free. I was indeed passionate about the game and it showed on my credit card bill. I didn’t need to play that well in the club championship I returned from Mexico to play in because opponents just didn’t take me on very often. I felt terrible that day and I am glad they did not try me. After the game, which we won, I returned from the Spanish Immersion program in Guadalajara that lasted three months. I didn’t gain fluency over those three months but I was on my way. I found that a combination of work habits developed while playing competitive lacrosse along with my knowledge of scripture helped greatly. Principles are parallel; for example, I learned that as an athlete I had to train at least 5 out of 7 days a week and be mentally tough. The same thing was true with learning Spanish. I also surrounded myself with the best players and coaches over my career and that made a difference. In Mexico I made a point of getting to know students who excelled at Spanish and asked them about what worked for them. In addition, I made a point of spending more time with Mexicans who did not speak English which forced me to speak Spanish. At the end of August I returned to Syracuse University to begin work on a doctorate degree in history. I returned with lots of sermons and praise music in Spanish on cassette which I listened to daily then and now. I also audited a Spanish class and made friends with graduate students who were native speakers of Spanish. This all worked to keep me immersed in a Spanish language environment that developed my Spanish language skills. Also, once again, I went in the closet as a lacrosse player even as I prepared for the 1993 National Team tryouts a year away.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lacrosse on the Brain: It's About the Endorphins Part 2

High Fiving SU teammate Dan Pratt  from Homer, New York (who back then looked
allot likeTom Cruise) during a 1985 game. Another old photo I came across while
unpacking in my new home in Wellesley, Mass where I am now living and teaching
at Babson College.

Talking about when I was club player back in the early 1990s with lacrosse on the Brain (see earlier post). So I get off the flight from Mexico to New York sleepy as all get out and head straight to my folks house in Croton to pick up my car and equipment. I make it to the game with barely enough time to warm up before the start of the opening faceoff. I felt physically drained and I was in a fog with everything moving slowly. I did not play poorly nor did I play outstanding. One of things that I learned was that by that stage of my career (I had just turned 30), when you’re a National Team Selection (and black which made me stick out that much more), opponents gave you allot of respect. For example, offensive players, unless they were also National Team players or extremely cocky, didn’t challenge you as a defender, for fear they would get embarrassed I imagine—and they could. You see, at age 30 a world class athlete is at his or her prime athletic ability and field sense if he or she plays a team sport. You’re very strong, if you work out, which I did, and your anticipation of the next move you should make or your opponents’ next move is uncanny. In addition, if you are playing well, your confidence makes you almost unstoppable. I’ll pick it up here tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Guadalajara, Mexico: Part 9 Learning a Foreign Language

My two children back with they spoke allot of Spanish with grandma and grandpa Pittman

Both my children had childcare in the home of a Spanish speaking family with the childcare provider speaking almost always in Spanish out of necessity and with the permission of my wife and I or both speak Spanish. This was their world from 9am to 5pm from the ages of 16 months to two or three years old with some of their first words spoken in Spanish. As result both children became bilingual and I would often speak to them in Spanish to further their language skills. They then transitioned into an English language childcare and they stopped speaking Spanish accept on occasion with me. I am sure that they have not lost what they learned in their earlier preschool days and prolonged time spent in a Spanish language environment with their peers and adults for several months would draw out what’s in them already. In addition, interesting enough my daughter who spent more time at the day care than my son, shows greater interest in the Spanish language and regularly asks me to read the Spanish language parts of the bilingual children's devotional bible that we read to them on a daily basis to her. She also loves speaking to me on the phone when I am away on business trips in a make believe foreign language that play along with her. She will go on for a long time in this language if I role play with her. So in short, I should have started the journey to learn Spanish many years earlier than my decision to start doing so in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1992.