Monday, December 31, 2012

My First Lacrosse Stick Part 2

The old STX 73, which was much like my first stick My first lacrosse was a STX 76 with a traditional pocket which ordered the summer I entered 9th grade in 1976. I was so excited that it seemed like it took forever for my first stick to come in. I kept bugging Coach Nick Padula every time I would seem up at the high school gym asking if my stick arrived yet. When it finally arrived, man talk about a happy camper; I was in nirvana looking at it and touching it; but I also I had no clue how to string a traditional stick and neither did any of my peers. Christ Weber, who graduated ahead of me at Croton, ordered a “STX 73 from coach Padula.” Chris read my post and wrote me on facebook about is on first stick stringing dilemma; every player goes through this. It’s learning how to tie your first bowtie. Speaking of 1973, Chris wrote, that is stick “came unstrung from Bacharach-Rasin and cost $15.00. Not only was it my first stick but also the first stick I strung” and neither Chris nor anybody he knew in Croton could explain to him how to string the pocket.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Meddling Parents and Athletics Part 4

My son in the red shorts, at his first organized game
Lets put an end to the series of stories I started on parents and coaches and in the process answer a question. You may be wondering how did my experience with my Dad and my high school coach shape my life today as a parent of a seven year old playing lacrosse and a person coaching youth lacrosse? I am processing a lot when I work with both players and parents. And I too bring a lot of hurts and baggage to the field without a doubt. From the kid who had learning disabilities and often felt like an outsider because of my ethnicity and learning disability, I am always on the lookout for parents and youth players on the margin going the extra mile to let them know I care about them and see them as part of the team. By the way that was the first and only of my Dad’s interventions with one of my coaches. Dad worked so much overtime as a guard at Sing Sing prison that he hardly ever made my games even when I played in college and thereafter. But when he could make it, his appearance on the side line or in the stands at the Carrier Dome made me so happy and it always elevated my performance. Today, I am busy as a professor with teaching, publishing, committee work, and serving on boards, but I always make it my business to be there when my children are performing on and off the field. Men put your children ahead of your careers and or jobs and go watch your children perform. Take it from me; it will make a big difference in the life of your children.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Meddling Parents and Athletics Part 3

Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Freshmen Team Coach (left) Jeremy Sieverts (University of Maryland Lacrosse alum) being interviewed with Dylan Maltz (right) after the FCA team won the 2010 Dick's National Tournament in Tampa this month. Dylan, son of my SU teammate Derek Maltz, won the tournament MVP award.

Allot of my former teammates, guys I played against, and guys I coached in high school and college are now at the top of the high school and college coaching ranks across the country. Some tell me that the biggest head-ache they have are problematic parents—that come in all forms. Many of these parents are people carrying around unresolved emotional traumas from their childhood. Others are unconsciously reliving their lives through their children. We all have seen this at one time or another and it’s not pretty. Out of the older generation of coaches who have recently retired, truth be told, they got out of the game earlier than planned in part to escape problematic parents, their constant phone calls and emails and denial when confronted about their child’s poor performance and or character on and off the field. “I can't figure out why parents who from our generation, a time that seemed to be without parent medaling seem to feel entitled to question everything the coaches, the professional, do. It's hard to except your child isn't as good as you may think or that they deserve playing time over others the coach, the professional, feels is best,” writes fellow Croton Native Chris Weber, who both still plays (don’t know how you do that man but more power to you and plenty of post game ice!) and coaches lacrosse, Chris I concur with you. Tomorrow I want to share my own parent coach experience back in the 1970s when I played in high school

Friday, November 30, 2012

Meddling Parents and Athletics

Photo: Me helping coach my son’s Kennedy’s 1st and 2nd grade lacrosse team. In contrast to my son, who is a lacrosse fanatic, I didn’t start playing until 8th grade.
In today’s post I want to continue to explain my own experience parent and coach relations. As I mentioned yesterday, this went down back in the 1970s back when parents and coaches seldom butted heads. My injury during a freshmen football practice and the coach’s failure to follow up that night with my parents led to a confrontation between my Dad and freshmen football coach Nick Padula who also served as the varsity lacrosse coach. My dad, I learned years later, when ballistic resulting in me being overlooked the following year when it came time to promote JV players to varsity during the year end sectional playoffs. You see, my Dad’s youngest brother Earl Washington Opie died about his freshmen or sophomore year of a football head injury as a student at Sleepy Hollow High School in the 1950s. 

My Earliest Exposure to Lacrosse:

Lacrosse Back in the Day At Croton Point Park:

How to Improve Your Stick Skills: [Watch 4 min 2 sec]

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sports, Psychology, and Parents

Derek Maltz Jr. signing to play Syracuse Lacrosse next year. I played with his Dad at Syracuse a member of the first championship team in 1983. I came in the fall after that season and I was apart of what cuse guys call the “dry years.” Every successful team has a Derek Maltz on it to keep morale up and balance on long bus rides and in the locker room.

For the next few days I am going to talk about sports, psychology, and parents using my beloved sport of lacrosse and my own experiences as a case study. Psychologists say that inside every adult there is a child, and a child in need of healing some unresolved hurt. I talked about the emotional ups and down I felt when I was an absolute failure when I arrive at Syracuse back in the fall of 1983. But I clearly arrived on campus out of shape and unprepared for big time lacrosse following knee surgery. In contrast to today, my parents never called coach Desko, my position coach at the time, and demanded an explanation of why I wasn’t starting close defense. Boy have parent’s attitudes and relationships with both their children and the folks that volunteer and get paid to coach them. You can see it in youth lacrosse, high school, travel teams (that topic deserves a series of post on its own) and the college level; more on this tomorrow.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Traveling with Eli Part II

Chief Oren Lyons 

Eli, the Iroquois sage, who I wrote about yesterday, represented Simme’s way of staying spiritually connected with the game started by native people. Coach was like that, a Renaissance man interested in art, history and culture as much as the game of lacrosse. I maintain that this part of his persona came from growing up around the Onondaga Reservation, playing games there as a youth, and being teammates at SU with many of the best players from there. If one looks at the Syracuse University Lacrosse rosters over the years you will notice that most of them have at least one Native player on them. Our team included the very talented attackman, with a gun for a shot, Emmett Printup (Niagara Wheatfield) and midfielder and martial arts bad boy Mark Burnham (Henninger). By the way, Simmie played on the 1957 undefeated SU team that included All-Americans and Hall of Famers Jim Brown (Manhasset) and Oren Lyons (Lafayette), traditional Chief of the Onondaga NationIroquois Confederacy. When I think of Native American culinary culture I think of corn, which historically represented their staple grain. They would steam, ground, roast, bake, soak, pound, and ferment it. Each of these methods changed the flavor, texture, and nutritional value of the corn. They also used it in one of my favorite ways, to bake bread.

Corn Series with Recipes:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Traveling With Eli Part 1

Young Roy Simmons Jr with is traditional stick made on the Onondaga Reservation. That's coache's Father Roy Sr. 

When I played at Syracuse University in 1984 and 195 we  traveled to away games on a chartered bus with what coach Roy Simmons Jr. (Simmie) called his “Iroquois medicine man” Eli. Eli lived on the Onondaga Reservation about 30 minutes from campus right off of US 81. He had to be in his late 70s early 80s when I met him. Eli, as we all called him, was a soft spoken dignified man who loved the game. The guys on the team treated him like the team’s elder and sage making sure he was comfortable and had everything he needed for the long trip down 81 south to Baltimore. I believe the story goes that coach grew up watching his Dad’s SU teams play against a team of Iroquois that included Eli. In his day Eli was both a terrific player and stick maker. He may have been the person that made the old wooden sticks for SU players before the introduction of plastic heads like the players use when I played and now. Eli traveled to every game my junior year; his failing health prevented him from doing so my senior year.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Food and Athletic Performance

Frederick Douglass Opie played lacrosse at Croton Harmon High School in New York's Hudson Valley, Herkimer County Community College in the New York's Mohawk Valley, and at Syracuse University. He played and loss in two NCAA national Championships for SU's orange men in 1984 and 1985 to John Hopkins. He won championships with Long Island and Maryland Lacrosse Clubs and played on the 1990 U. S. National Team which won a world cup in Australia. Opie has served on the Board of Directors of US Lacrosse, he is a member the Metro Lacrosse Board of Directors, coaches youth lacrosse, and share his experiences and insights on the game.  Fred Opie received his Ph.D. in history from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. He is a Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow at The W. E. B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and a Professor of History and Foodways at Babson College.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Occupations of Lacrosse Players then and Now

The pay check for pro lacrosse players back in the 80s and now was largely ceremonial. In contrast to allot of male college basketball players, lacrosse players largely do graduate and on time from some of top college and universities in the North and South East. As such we had/have good 9 to 5 jobs with benefits. Wall Street was/is crawling with one time collegiate lacrosse players who are hired for their solid academic training, aggressive personalities, ability to think quickly on their feet, and lacrosse networking. Others were/are attorneys at top firms and companies in Boston, New York, Baltimore, DC, and other cities where one can work and continue to play competitive pro and amateur lacrosse. Another cadre were/are educators and coaches. When I played for the New York Saints in the late 80s, we had guys attending law school, on wall street, and civil servants. In short, we had steady jobs and our love for the game allowed us play professional indoor lacrosse even when the play and working conditions were not professional. For me, the practices, home games in the Nassau Coliseum, and out of town games in equally renowned hockey arenas fed our egos and made us not dwell on our low salaries. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pro and Poor, My Reflections on Professional Lacrosse

In 1988-89 most of us MILL players earned $100 per game and we earned that only when we dressed for games. The salary situation isn’t much better today for pro lacrosse players about $13,000 per season-double that if you play both professional indoor and outdoor. Most of us I would argue played because we loved the game, the paycheck was just a bonus and it helped our egos too; it’s probably the same with the pro-lax players today. The tryouts of that team were very competitive and I was surprised that I made the team with so many Division I and III College All Americans and US Team Players. Here I was, a guy who did not make All Across the Street as a Syracuse Lacrosse Player! We had about 25 man roster and we dressed 23 guys each game. That season I dressed in two of the teams ten or more games--that's right, I made $200 bucks for the entire season! But not getting much game time made more miserable than the measly pay check or the lack thereof. But making that team did boost my confidence and it most likely increased my chances of receiving an invitation to try out for the 1990 US national team. I believe 120 players received invites to try out for the team in the summer of 1989.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Advocating A Diversity of Sports and Passion

My son is a lacrosse fanatic. However he started asking me if you could play hockey. He’s now developing is skating skills and in preparation to play on a youth hockey team. Allot of parents are pushing their children to focus on one sport like lacrosse in hope of increasing their chances of one day landed a scholarship to a prestigious university. I disagree and suggest children enjoy a diversity of sports. In middle school, I started watching a lot of ice hockey during the height of Hall of Famer Bobby Orr’s career with the Boston Bruins. Watching him sparked my short lived hockey career which started in a house league hosted at the now defunct Westchester Skating Rink in Hawthorne, New York. I played hockey from the sixth grade until my senior year in high school and it made me I would argue a much better lacrosse player, particular in terms of ground balls. I noticed that one of the best players in terms of ground balls in our youth player was a hockey player. Lacrosse is Canada’s national sport by the way, not hockey. The games complement each other well and I am excited my son wants to play. I still skate today but no longer player lacrosse. Most importantly allow your child to explore those activities they are passion about. For example my seven year old daughter is passionate about figure skating and knitting and my wife and I are doing everything we can to nurture that passion. I particularly like these two activities because she can do them for a lifetime.

Lacrosse and NHL Goal Scorers:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Link to a Generation of Lacrosse Greats

Me, Bob Henrickson in the middle, and SU teammate and Hall of Famer Brad Kotz  in our team US National Team Swag in Australia, 1990
I had the opportunity to play with Hall of Famer Bob Hendrickson on the 1990 US national team. Bob had a long career, including All-American honors at Cornell University in many years as a club player for the New York athletic club. Bob, who hails from Manhasset Long Island, best be described as one of the smoothest  players I've ever seen. I see him as a cross between the slashing NBA's Hall of Famer shooting guard George Gervin nicknamed "The Iceman" and the Baltimore Orioles' Iron-man Cal Ripken Junior who consistently played well into his late 30s. Bob had a long career and when I played with him in 1990 he must have been about 36 years old and a practicing veterinarian in Manhasset. What he lacked in explosive speed in his later career he made up for it with excellent decisions and didn't turn the ball over. That's why he was a repeat national team selection.  Most importantly for me Bob was my link to a generation of lacrosse greats who he played with and against that I could ask him about. Players like Cornell's Eamon Mckneaney, Mike French, Chris Kane, Bill Marino, Navy's Jeff Long,  and Hopkin's Dave Huntley and Mark Greenberg. These are players I say play on ABC wide world of sports back when I first started playing lacrosse in the mid 1970s. Hall of them are in the National Hall Fame.

Cornell Members of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame:

Hopkins vs Cornell 1978 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse National Championship:

Hall of Famer Bob Henrickson:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Metro Lacrosse Fund Raiser At Fenway Park on November 15, 2012

Metro Lacrosse Fund Raiser:

Hall of Famers Jim Darcangelo, Mark Millen, and the Gait Brothers

Photo of Lax World's Baltimore Location
Jim Darcangelo (Towson, Maryland Lacrosse Club, 2x USA, Hall of Fame) was the first to leverage his time as rep (STX) to create Lax World, a lacrosse retailer first in Baltimore and now with stores in other locations and he has done well over the years. Recent Hall of Fame inductee Mark Millen (UMass 2x USA) had been been a savvy lacrosse entrepreneur with camps, clinics etc. Mark’s worth ethic as a player and entrepreneur reminds me of James Brown, the God father of soul who people called “the hardest working man in show business.” I heard Mark give his Hall of Fame acceptance speech and I noted when he said, “I make my entire income off of lacrosse.” That statement rang in my head. Like Roger Bannister, the first guy to run a sub-four minute mile, Gait, Darcangelo and Millen proved you could live by our game. In the 1990s, most understood how the great Gait brothers could, but they were considered superheroes of the game but particularly Millen and others after him have shown that with hard work one could earn money following their passion for lacrosse.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hall of Fame Week, Larry Quinn

I took this photo of John Detomasso and  Larry Quinn, at a pratice in Perth, Australia in  1990

Larry Quinn, a two time Division Player of the Year and Goalie of the Year, was a Fordham Law School student when we became teammates on Long Island Hofstra lacrosse club in 1987. I don’t ever think I a saw Larry panic during a game. He was like playing with a funny college professor of the game who inspired confidence in the defensemen in front of him. He was a high school All American at lacrosse at legendary Levittown Memorial which along with cross town rivals Levittown Division graduated a number of members of the National Hall of Fame such as Larry and Coach Bill Tierney. For four years at Hopkins I believe my club teammates John DeTommaso, Larry Quinn, and Brad McClain played on the defense for Coach Jim Tierney, who at that time served as the defensive coordinator of the teams I lost to at Syracuse in the national championship in 1984 and 1985! Thus I made it my business to pick their brains as much as possible and learn everything I could from them.  I have heard it said and I agree, that before the geographical expansion of the game, the Hopkins coaching staff probably had done the best job of all of the legendary college colleges of recruiting the perfect blend of hard-nosed players from the island, and on occasion, other points north of Baltimore, with players with superior stick skills in Baltimore County and other points south, west, and east of Baltimore. John and Larry one could argue are the best players at their respected positions to come off the Island. 

Larry Quinn in the SU Hopkins 84 Championship:[Watch 11 min 11 sec]

My College, Club, and U. S. Team Players and Coaches

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Allan Hodish and Hempstead Lacrosse

Click this image to enlarge and read this 1980 article on Hempstead Youth Lacrosse. That's coach Allan Hodish  in the photo on the left. Guest blogger Aaron Jones reflects on what Hodish brought to Hempstead many years ago. Jones went on from Hempstead to play at Cornell in the late 1980s where he appeared in a National Championship game against John Hopkins.
[Guest blogger Aaron Jones] My relationship with this game started from unique circumstances. Let me give you a little insight into my background so you can understand what I mean by “unique circumstances.” Hempstead, Long Island in 1975 was not unlike most communities of its time, very homogeneous in its makeup. In Hempstead, there were people of similar backgrounds that lived together side by side to form a close nit community. Hempstead was almost entirely an African American community. It was a proud community of modest means but deep in its history of athletic prowess at every level. Year after year football, basketball, baseball and track teams from youth levels all the way up through high school varsity sports were successfully competing on their athletic playing fields throughout long island and beyond. The Salvation Army youth basketball team was famed around the world for its dominance. The varsity basketball team was a feature story in the local and regional news seemingly every year for its accomplishments on the court. The football team was as successful as the others, always fairing very well in league competition. I think you get the point, in Hempstead athletic excellence was the norm year in & year out! Around that time a new gentlemen came into the Hempstead community with an eye on bringing a new sport to the town. He was very different from the normal Hempstead coach, Jewish by faith, outspoken by nature, and caring to his core! Alan Hodish began touring the Hempstead streets with his Toyota Celica hatchback encouraging Hempstead youth to make their way to the local park. There Hodish demonstrated a new sport called lacrosse and influenced scores of boys to give the game a shot. I was one of those young kids picking up this foreign sport for the first time and through it I earned an opportunity to attend Cornell University where I played lacrosse in the 1980s.

Navy’s African American All American Syd Abernethy:

Hobart’s African American All American Ed Howard:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lacrosse and Football, Football and Lacrosse

Aaron Jones
In his senior year at Hempstead High School, the University of North Carolina offered Aaron Jones a scholarship to play defensive back for the Tar Heels but his mother, an English teacher at the time, at Hempstead High School, insisted on Ivy League academic excellence over ACC football. Hempstead athletes often excelled in football and basketball at the high school and many had the option to play those sports in college and did as scholarship athletes. They include University of Iowa defensive end Larry Blue (defense), Syracuse University linebacker Reggie Terry and who is now Director of Football Administration for the Arizona Cardinals (attack), Temple University linebacker Tim Terry (Goalie), Northeastern University basketball and football standout Lamont Hugh (midfield) and Syracuse University and NFL wide receiver Rob Moore who was a varsity midfielder at Hempstead his sophomore and junior year before he turned to track his senior year (Rob is returning to SU’s football program this year as the team’s wide receiver coach). All these guys played youth and high school lacrosse because of the recruiting effort and passion for the game of Al Hoddish, the man with a hatchback full of lacrosse sticks and a vision for greatness for the youth of Hempstead.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Inactive Duty and The Battle of the Bulge

For those who use Skype or are in the Boston area, I love to do video interviews for the blog on one's lacrosse experience including being recruited, fall ball, teammates, coaching, being a student athlete, playing in the pro leagues, and the transition to life after lacrosse or what I call “inactive duty.”  That transition can be tough mentally and physically and I've seen lots of college and pro athletes struggle with it. For example, It's amazing how many my former teammates from high school and SU have gotten big as a house! How are you doing with the battle of the bulge?

HBO Special, The Weight of the Nation Program Website:

Interactive Map on Obesity in North America:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Student Teaching and Coaching in Croton Part 2

Me (and physical education and coach Len Gobber left) speaking at the annual CHHS end of the year sports banquet and the Evening Dinner Theater in 1986. Wow was that allot more hair and long time ago. 
As a student teacher in the Croton Harmon public school district in 1985-1986 I had a blast. I coached soccer in the fall, girls basketball in the winter, lacrosse in the spring. The toughest part was being so close in ages to aggressively flirting senior girls who I had to put in check on more than one occasion.   In the spring I served as the assistant varsity boys lacrosse coach working with the defense. Back then girls lacrosse had not yet exploded across section 1. Taking a page out of the old Hobart play book, I had all the long poles on the team play with PL 77s. My mantra has been for a while there's little better than a great poke check and never allow a player to keep his bottom hand unmolested on the stick.  I was very demanding but also had plenty of time to make jokes and keep things light and it was obvious I loved coaching. I also loved warming up the goalies which I would argue is the best paid gig in the world!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Syracuse Lacrosse Swag in the 1980s Part 2

Former SU goalie from the 1983 championship team Travis Solomon with his son.

Syracuse University (SU) athletic department issued apparel gave students, especially football and basketball and after 83, lacrosse players, a pass port in many ways in the Syracuse metro area. It could get you dinner invitations at nice Syracuse restaurants and home cooked meals. It got you sandwiches and conversations with people who otherwise might not give you the time of day. In short, legit athletic department apparel from prestigious programs gives one a cool that wins friends and influences people. My official gear gave me an unsolicited but welcomed elite status on and off the field that I never had before. I say unsolicited because I just loved the game and wanted to win a national championship. That status and the opportunities that came with it would only increase as SU and Herkimer (the junior college I attended before SU) would win many national championships long after I had graduated from both schools.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Growth of the Game

During my days coaching the defense at Gettysburg College (1989 to 1992), Brian McGurn from Chicago impressed me from the first day I saw him on the field during a fall ball practice. Back in the early 90s lacrosse coaches did not view Chicago as a recruiting hot bed and there were fewer recruiting camps and select team tournaments for players (who can afford them!) from Illinois to get a look from schools back east. Gettysburg Coach Hank Janzyck J (coach J) is a great recruiter but the guy puts in the time—calling players regularly and hosting them on campus. Perhaps I would have gone into college lacrosse coaching if it were not for recruiting, scouting, and breaking down film part of the job—I just could not stomach it—not that grading papers is a cake walk either. But back to Brian, this cat from the windy city had average speed but in my opinion he had perhaps one of the smoothest sticks and arsenal of checks I’ve seen in the game. Plus the guy was a vacuum on ground balls and coachable. I really enjoyed watching his game develop over my two years with him. Brian when on to earn first team All-American honors after I left which I expected. Brian stayed on to take my old position as defensive coordinator for coach J; in 2002 the team appeared in the D III title game. I remember encouraging Brian to try out for the Men’s National Team. He received a coveted invite to the 2002 tryout which is really an accomplishment but did not make the team. We actually had a nice talk before the tryout in which I tried to encourage him to play is game. He did not make the team but the odds were stacked against him. Why because back then G-burg players did not have the same cache and respect that they have today. Brian was a history major at G-burg our mutual love of history and lacrosse has helped maintain our relationship over the years.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Team of Rivals Part 4

Me shooting on goal in exhibition game against the Syracuse All Stars, That's  Rodney Dumpson chasing me down

Here is part 4 and the final segment of our series Team of Rivals. Some of our teammates called John DeTommaso (Deto) “chicken hawk.” I maintain the nickname reflected John’s aggressive pursuit of ground balls like a predator.  John came from great stock as an alumni from Farmingdale high school a working-class community on Long Island which I would argue that like Yorktown, West Genesee, the Levittowns, Calvert Hall, and others, has graduated from of the best lacrosse players ever to play the game. Similar to my recently passed Syracuse teammate John Schimoler, Deto was a hilarious guy who loved the camaraderie of his teammates and practice. You begin the serious I asked a question, how you don't will not making all American at Syracuse University to a US national team selection? In the final analysis, I attribute making the US national team in 1990 in large part to what I learned while playing with Hopkins rivals on Long Island Hofstra Lacrosse club for three years prior to the tryouts.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Team of Rivals Part 3

Long Island and USA teammate Norm Engelke (Cornell) and Me in Perth, Australia, 1990
While playing with Hopkins lacrosse alum John DeTommaso (Deto), Larry Quinn, and Brad McClain I gleaned everything I could. After all they played for some of the best high school coaches on the Long Island and then for Jim Tierney at Hopkins and John and Larry made the 1986 National Team. I have always said that some of the keys to my success on and off the field has been the ability to learn from others and trying myself with the best coaches and mentors available. In my opinion, playing with Deto and Larry Quinn made me a much better player, particularly because both of them had been students of the game and fierce competitors. Everybody responds differently to competition with some doubting themselves, others turning in the towel, and others rising to the occasion. I would argue that sports can be a great incubator for developing mental toughness and the discipline necessary to achieve one's goals. However, fear competition and or being jealous of others can cap one’s own growth and development. 

How to Improve Your Stick Skills: [Watch 4 min 2 sec]

Friday, August 17, 2012

Team of Rivals Part 1

Brad McClain (right) covering Brad Kotz in the 84 Hopkins championship win 
John DeTommaso (left) covering Tim Nelson in the 83 Syracuse championship win
Fred Opie # 34 (left) scoring on Larry Quinn in the 85 Hopkins championship win
In her book Team of Rivals, Harvard Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin argues that Abraham Lincoln became one of the greatest U. S. presidents because he made his political rivals members of this cabinet and his closet advisors. I didn’t have as much wisdom and foresight as Lincoln but the same scenario happened when I joined the Long Island Hofstra lacrosse club in 1987. I became teammates with Hopkins rivals John DeTommaso “Deto,” Larry Quinn, and Brad McClain. Deto played at Farmingdale High School on the Long Island which continues produce great players year after year. At the time he had enrolled in Hofstra’s master of education program. Keep in mind I just lost two national championships in a row to John Hopkins when I played at Syracuse in 1984 and 1985 and now I am playing next to these arch rivals! We felt each other out at the first practice of the season and it was awkward to say the least. But slowly we gained confidence and mutual respect for each other and I still consider these guys friends. I went from not earning All-American honors at Syracuse to making the US national team in 1990. How do you explain that phenomenal improvement in ones game? As I will share in this series, playing with Hopkins rivals for several years made me a much better player than I was at Syracuse. 

Author Interview, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: [Listen 20 min 7 sec]

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Going Deeper Then Goals, Assists, and Shutouts Part 2

Photos from my 1990 U. S. National Collection. Notice, John Schimoler's brother Paul in the heads shots above. The photo below is an exhibition game victory against the Syracuse All Stars in Liverpool, New York, a suburb of  the City of Syracuse. In these two photos there are a more than 12 members of the National Hall of Fame. But more important there are some great friendships
Hearing about the death of a Syracuse teammate like John Schimoler goes a long way in putting you into a reflective mood about your life and what's really important. The vital question to ask an athlete (or colleague) is:  Which teammates or rivals who can attend will show up when it's time for your funeral and or memorial service? I would argue that to a large extent you can determine that today with an introspective look at the questions: Do you build people up or break them down? Do you add to people’s lives or take away? Are you carrying or critical of those around you? These are the deeper questions in life then how many goals, assist, or shutouts you had. Men, as Joe Ehrmann has done, let’s start a going conversation about priorities and putting a premium on forging loving and caring male relationships that will last for a lifetime and have a positive impact on the people around us.  

Herkimer, Syracuse, Club, and U. S. Teammates:

Building Caring Male Relationship Through Lacrosse:

Joe Ehrmann, Inside Out Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives: [Watch 4 min 7 sec]

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Going Deeper Then Goals, Assists, and Shutouts Part 1

Former Syracuse players from the 1983 team and coach from right to left: John Schimoler, Derek Maltz, unknown, Tim Nelson, Coach Roy Simmons Jr, Fred Cambria, Randy Lumblad. 
Last month I had the opportunity to address the Men’s US U-19 national team before they headed to Europe to compete in the 2012 world championships. What I said to them on that day on the turf at Bryant College in Rhode Island brings me full circle to themes I've been writing about the past couple of days—the importance of boys and men developing authentic and honest relationships with other boys and men. I recently wrote about how difficult it is for young boys to establish meaningful friendships and relationships with their peers and how lacrosse if used correctly can help that process along. Yesterday I spent most of my day researching the career of my Syracuse teammate John Schimoler who died unexpectedly this past Sunday. In my interviews with Syracuse teammates who knew John at the center of what they said about him was not is athletic attributes and stats but the importance he put on relationships. Long before the news of John passing, I told the U-19 team, “what I learned when I played on the Men’s 1990 US National Team, is that what you will remember about this experience is the relationships that you will develop, I still have and maintain them. I told them to cherish and nurture them in the years to come because when the competition is over it will be the most important and lasting memory they take away from the experience.” 

My College, Club, and U. S. Teams and Coaches

Monday, August 13, 2012

Syracuse Lacrosse Community Mourns the Lost of John Schimoler (1962-2012)

Reunion of the 1983 Syracuse Championship Team at the NCAA Lacrosse Final Four in 2008  Above of #21 Paul Schimoler from top to bottom in 1984 and 1983. (photos courtesy of Derek Maltz)
My former Syracuse University (SU) lacrosse teammate John Schimoler (Class of 1985) died unexpectedly in his sleep at his home in Anne Arundel, Maryland on Sunday August 12, 2012. He had a fever and upset stomach the night before but the cause of death his yet undetermined.  Born in 1962, Schimoler grew up in Glen Head, New York in Nassau County, Long Island. “Schimolls” as his friends and teammates called him, was a 1981 graduate of St. Mary's high school in Manhasset where he was captain of the lacrosse team his senior year. He entered Syracuse as a member of a talented freshman class which included Fred Cambria, Brad Kotz (National Hall of Fame), Frank Lanuto, Derek Maltz, Emmett Printup, and Eric Jeschke. Kotz and Schimoler remained roommates during their four years at SU. Tim Nelson (National Hall of Fame) would transfer into that same class from North Carolina State (NC State) after that ACC school disbanded its lacrosse program following Nelson’s freshmen season. As a freshmen in1982 Nelson led the country in assist. “I'll never forget how nice he was to me when I arrived at Syracuse” says Nelson.  It wasn't until August of 1982 that I knew I was going to Syracuse and had no idea where I was going to live . . .  the coaches brought me to the Sky Top apartments and I was told that I would be sharing a room with John Schimoler.” He adds, “John had no idea who I was but he unselfishly gave up his privacy to allow me to have a bed in his room and we laughed for the rest of the year!” Nelson says, “That's the type of guy John was, easy going and a friend to all.” A member of the second midfield in his sophomore year Schimoler contributed 12 goals and two assists when SU won its first national championship in 1983. Teammate Derek Maltz (his son is currently a starting SU attackmen), recalls that Schimoler a 6-2 190 pound midfielder “pushed members of the first midfield to be better players during practice” Kotz, recalled that “John’s nickname was Mr. P” because he enjoyed practice as much as games. He was a teammate that kept the team in rolling in laughter and therefore loose and relaxed because of "his ability to find humor in just about everything" says Eric Jeschke who ran on second midfield with Schimoler in 1984. Teammate Christ Burt, who like me arrived at SU in 1983, insist that Schimolls "was one of the funniest men I have ever" known.  I transferred to SU from Herkimer in the fall of 1983 and played two seasons together with John sharing locker rooms, icy cold world pool after practices and games, and lots of meals.  We talked regularly on those bus rides to and from class and away games. We also shared the agony of defeat losing three games between 1984 and 1985: two national championships and one regular season game all against John Hopkins. John's younger brother Paul was a standout goalie at St. Mary’s High School, Cornell, and the US national team. “John was extremely proud of Paul's accomplishments,” says Kotz, and played a role in helping Paul to develop into one of the best goalies of his era. “John would tell me stories about how they spent hours in the basement of their Long Island home with John pounding Paul with shots using tennis balls and small makeshift goal. When Paul made the 90 team that went to Australia, John felt like he made it as well” Today Paul Schimoler is the defense coordinator for the Dartmouth College men’s lacrosse team. A marketing major at SU Schimoler married and settled in Anne Arundel, Maryland becoming a committed and devoted husband to wife Jane. John was also a loving father of daughter Heidi (a college undergrad) and son Gunnar (a high school sophomore).  Schimoler worked in the construction industry in the Baltimore and Washington area. Perhaps only locals can testify to how he helped increase the quality of youth lacrosse in Anne Arundel County. His family, friends, and many teammates have too many great memories and funny stories to ever forget him. “John was an incredible friend, husband, father, and guy who loved the game,” said Kotz. "Every year he drove from Maryland to the Canadian boarder with New York to play on a SU alumni team in the over forty bracket and watch his son Gunner play on a U 15 team in the Lake Placid Lacrosse tournament. SU’s Kyle Fetterly wrote upon learning of Schimoler’s passing that he was “too young to go so soon, [and] God’s Speed [to you] John.” In the words of one of the program’s Hall of Fame Coaches, Roy Simmons Jr., Fetterly said one last time to John, “Head, Heart, and Hustle.” 

From the Schimoler Family: "In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the educational fund established for John's children. Please direct to "Schimoler Family"  c/o Ellen Schimoler Kelly, 82 Lewis Point Road, Fair Haven NJ 07704.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Nurturing Healthy Male Relationships

My son Kennedy (left) playing  in his first youth lacrosse program  back in  New York

Here’s an email dialogue with a parent in a youth program that ask for advice about how to address his 4th graders interest in playing fall lacrosse. I shared my thoughts in a previous post and link to a related video I did on club ball and tournaments. The parent wrote, “Fred, I share your concern that commitment to a single sport and competitive expectations can get out of control for kids in elementary school. My wife and I assumed our child would switch to other sport(s) this fall as he had in the past. But he is really pushing to play lacrosse.  If he is going to play this fall, our #1 objective is to allow him to continue playing with lots of town kids. Our youth lacrosse program here in town was so good for him socially this spring and we'd like him to continue building those friendships.” To that I say, I hear you on the role of sports and helping to nurture healthy relationships among children. In particular, young boys often struggle in this area (and so do men! This is something I began to work on last year). When we relocated to Massachusetts in 2010, life was pretty miserable for my son, who is going into fourth grade. Playing in a very large town lacrosse program in which I his father coached helped him establish some healthy relationship with other boys in his new community. Because he excels on the field he has gained bit of cache among his peers which helps his delicate self-esteem. As a coach, athletic competition is a great opportunity for me to help nurture healthy relationships between young boys and guide them along the long and bumpy journey to manhood.  Teaching them how to treat each other with dignity, respect, and grace during practice and games is my goal. I could care less if the team wins or loses, that's not my raison d'ĂȘtre for coaching. As I have learned from Joe Ehrmann, I’m focusing on helping boys become men and cultivating relationship with other boys including the ones on the opposing team that just beat us 10 to 2 or 10 to 9.  

Helping Boys Develop Friendships: [Listen 17 min: 51 sec]

The NBA's Grant Hill on Sports and Parents: [Listen 17 min: 51 sec]

Joe Ehrmann, Inside Out Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives: [Watch 4 min 7 sec]