Friday, July 27, 2012

Was He the Best Player On Your Team? Part 3

Tom Nims 1983 
Tim Nelson 1983 championship game
Kevin Sheehan  28  hoisting the 1983 championship trophy at Rutgers Stadium 

I am rifting off of a question a reporter asked me about Tim Nelson who was just inducted into the National Hall of Fame. Was he the best player on the team? We had very talented Syracuse teams in 1984 and 1985 with lots of players making important contributions including Tim. There was All American goalie Tom Nims (West Genesee) the father of All American attackmen Kenny. In the goal, Nimmer, as we called him, operated like a Clint Eastwood character without the aggression. And his passing skills facilitated our fast break transition style in which defensive men and mid fields pushed the ball up field and scored goals. 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 offensive threat made him a 3 x All American.  Jeff Desko (West Genesee, Camillus, NY), the younger brother of head coach John Desko a 79 SU All American and assistant coach during my years and Dave 2 x who All American, also played defense. Baby D [Desko], as some called him, ran like a gazelle and played tremendous position defense. I recall when he shut down Carolinas Hall Fame attackmen Mac Ford which earned Jeff first team All-American honors is sophomore year an honor repeated the rest of his career at SU. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Obafemi Alese's Nine Month Brown University Lacrosse Odyssey Part 2

Hempstead High School lacrosse team photo which includes former Syracuse  University wide receiver  Rob Moore who had a ten year career in the NFL.  

Fred Opie interviews lacrosse player Obafemi Alese

Lacrosse and Football Blended Well at Hempstead High School:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Obafemi Alese's Nine Month Brown University Lacrosse Odyssey Part 1

My memories of Brown University include this goal and the loss to John Hopkins in the 1985 championship game at Brown Stadium
Fred Opie interview with Obafemi Alese 

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

My Earliest Exposure to Lacrosse:

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bike and Run and Run and Bike

Today, let's talk about strategies and application for staying fit. On weekends I go for training runs with my 6 and 9 year old children setting the pace on their bikes. My goal is to run a pace in which I am getting a good sweat on for 20 to 40 minutes. I commute to work on my bike and or use a combination of my car or public transportation plus a fold up bike once I get 15 to 30 minutes away from my destination. I also have stationary bike in my office with a fit desk which allows me to write and do email on my laptop while pedaling. In short, come up with creative ways to move more and stay fit that works for your situation. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lacrosse Entrepreneurs

Paul Rabil capitalizing on lacrosse in a Maverick advertisement (image from
The top lacrosse superstar and entrepreneur these days  is Hopkins grad Paul Rabil. After earning All American honors all four years in college, Rabil successfully leveraged his size, speed, and blistering shot to earn indoor and outdoor professional playing contracts and more importantly several endorsement deals that allows him to get paid for his passion. Rabil like his Hopkins teammate before him, Kyle Harrison, has become the Ryan Seacrest of lacrosse establishing a strong brand with stellar performances in the professional ranks, and creating clinics, and camps. He has become the face of lacrosse on television with his California beach boy like persona. Like Seacrest, Rabil his engaged in entrepreneurial activities on many platforms and done it well. I am thrilled about guys like Paul who can follow their passion and get well compensated in the process. For the record my son has a post of Paul on his wall. For a lesson on entrepreneurial strategy check out the Oprah Segment on Ryan Seacrest below. He’s over the top, but most of us lax folks are so behind, we could learn from this guy’s play book. As the proverb goes, you can give a hungry man a fish or you can teach him to fish.

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

Monday, July 16, 2012

Revolutionizing The Game and The Business of Lacrosse

Gary Gait doing the Air Gait as a Syracuse Lacrosse in a playoff game against U Penn in the Carrier Dome   
I played against the Paul and Gary Gait about three times in my career: 1990 world games and in the Cape Cod Classic following their senior year at Syracuse. They were big, fast, and had sensational stick skills. The trailblazing player entrepreneurs in the game of lacrosse are Canadians and US Hall of Famers Paul and  Gary Gait. At Syracuse University the twin brothers revolutionized the field game with their introduction of innovative box lacrosse moves like their behind the back passes, trick shots, and rap checks not to mention Gary’s famous Air Gait move illustrated in the photo above. After sensational college careers at Syracuse in the late 1980s, Gary and Paul boosted advertising interest in lacrosse first as MILL players and then briefly in the outdoor league. But they, especially Garry, also leveraged their star status and created an attractive brand they used to earn contracts with lacrosse manufacturers, create, patent, and manufacture lacrosse products. They also introduced the mobile camp and clinic concept that has become the business model for the increasing numbers of players who make their full time living through lacrosse. Gary is now the Head Women’s Lacrosse Coach at Syracuse University and the program is flourishing under his direction making this year to the NCAA championship game. Paul is lives and works in Albany, New York where he still promoting the Gait brand.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Clay Johnson’s Impact Down Under Part II

Bob Henrickson, John Detomasso, Larry Quinn, at a pratice in Perth, Australia 1990
According to seven time Australian National Team Midfielder (wow, that’s got be a record!) and two time Adelphi University All American, Gordon Purdie credits allot of what he learned about lacrosse as a youth player from Croton native and University of Maryland All American midfielder Clay Johnson. I saw Clay for the first time in many years at the 1990s World Cup. During his more than twenty years as a player and coach down under, Johnson with his California cool looks, unpretentious, friendly, and caring demeanor, proved instrumental in improving the quality of lacrosse in Australia. I asked Purdie, what made Clay different from the many American lacrosse players who spent time playing and coaching in Australia at the end of their college playing days? He said “Brook Sweet also a similar impact, but Clay was different because he stayed in Australia for the rest of his life, he became one of us [an expatriate] and he got along with so many people, and the players loved him.” Purdie, who was named the best midfielder in the 1994 World Cup, goes on to say, “truly Clay was a legend and our link to American lacrosse. We learned how to play like Americans because of him.” Clay had the same impact on Westchester County lacrosse, when he showed up at game at our local summer league when I first entered high school, everybody knew who he was and took notice, and the same happened in Australia.

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

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Clay Johnson’s Impact Down Under Part I

Me on the wing of a face off against the Australian National Team, Perth 1990
During the 1990 World Cup in Perth, Australia I ran into a lacrosse icon from my home town of Croton-on-Hudson in Westchester County, Clay Johnson who was standout quarterback and midfielder in high school and later for Hall Fame Lacrosse coach Buddy Beardmore at the University of Maryland in the late 1970s. In the 1990 Lacrosse World Cup I also played against then Team Australia midfielder Gordon Purdie who went on to represent his country in several world cup and earned all world honors as well as having a stellar career both as club and professional indoor players in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s. “Clay Johnson was a legend in the Australian lacrosse world,” says Purdie. In an interview he told me, “Clay brought American style lacrosse to Australia” as both a great midfielder and coach. “Before him we mostly played with one hand on the stick; he taught us that the best players play with two hand on the stick” so they are always a threat to score or assist on a goal. “Clay also introduced a number of man up offenses, man down defenses, and all even slide packages on defense that revolutionized lacrosse in Australia,” says Purdie who is now the Head Coach of Adelphi’s Men’s Lacrosse Team. More tomorrow from on Clay Johnson.

My Club and US Team Coaches:

Croton and Yorktown Lacrosse:

Interesting link on the history of the game down under:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Removing Barriers On and Off the Lacrosse Field

Fred Opie and US National Team Players as the national anthem was playing before a lacrosse world championship game in Australia in 1990

The U 19 Lacrosse world championship is going on this week in Finland. It reminds me of my time at a similar world championship in Australia in 1990. As an African-American in Australia I felt like a museum piece with so many Aussies staring at me. Seeing an occasional aborigines on city streets warmly greeting me gave me a sense of solidarity with this ethnic group which like my own has a long history of struggling against marginalization. Their fraternal greeting as fellow blacks in a white controlled world said to me that they understood that we shared similar experiences.  It might be similar to the same way lacrosse players in North America greet each other when they come in contact in the spaces controlled by the big three—football, basketball, and baseball. Yesterday I heard a segment on the radio about an aboriginal music group called the Black Arm Band Company.  Like Woody Guthrie, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and KRS1, their music is dedicated to raising people's consciousness about the injustices in their society. As the first African-American to make the US national team, it disturbs me how the current club lacrosse and tournament scene are building economic barriers to more people having the opportunity to play our game at every level.

Friday, July 6, 2012

“It’s about changing your lifestyle” : Staying Fit Then And Now Part 2

Fred Opie covering Hobart's Marc Moore in  the 1984 Manhasset High School's Lacrosse Day of Champions 1984
While playing for Syracuse, I took the game of lacrosse very seriously which meant that while friends from high school took it easy over the summer with partying and seefood diets (eat whatever you). I had to make different choices.  For example, I got up early and went for training runs or did the same in the evening and carefully chose what and when I ate. I would coordinate with staff at my high school to get access to the weight room, and I did lots of wall ball to improve my stick skills. Today I am just as serious about my writing and teaching but more importantly about my fitness. Some say I don't have enough time to work out. I say if you are too busy to workout you are too busy! I also say, look at your older family members and say do you want to look like them when you are their age? Tomorrow I will share some strategies I have employed to reduce my waistline. 

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

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Leagues, Clubs, Tournament, and Lacrosse on the Brain

Madison Vasta (right) facing off, the daughter of my high school teammate and Air force Academy All -American Joe Vasta  
Its July 4th which reminds me of the Vail Lacrosse Tournament in Vail, Colorado. Over the years this has become an annual pilgrimage for those with lacrosse on the brain and lacrosse junkies. The Vail tourney, which has expanded exponentially since I played in it back in  the late 1980s,  also reminds me of the period in my life when I was lacrosse junkie and made what now seems like crazy decisions to play in some of the best lacrosse venues across the country back in the 1980s. For example, I lived in Westchester County and played with a Manhasset team in the old Freeport Summer League. In the 1980s the Freeport League on Long Island paralleled basketball’s Rucker Park Pro League in New York City. Because I wanted to play with and against the best, I drove 90 minutes one way from Westchester County through city and island traffic to play.  I also thought nothing of dropping hundreds of dollars on travel and food to play lacrosse in two Long Island summer leagues several times a week. Moreover I dropped more hard earned cash to play in the best tournaments of my era in Hartford, Cape Cod, and Vail and did not come from a wealthy family. The Vail trip especially cost allot of money for travel, lodging, food, and team fees.  Today some parents are investing loads of money and time and enabling their U11, U15, and U19 child so they can play in the myriad of tournaments around the country that have exploded since I played back in the 1980s. Questions I wish someone had asked me back when I played are: how much lacrosse is too much? Are you spending your money wisely?  Only you can answer these questions. I insist ours his a great game but like money its our attitude toward it that will determine its affect on us and the people around us. Take some time out and reflect before you sign up for another tournament or travel team.