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.

Related Links:

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]

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Recruiting Process of a Rising Senior Part 2 of 2

Herkimer General Fred Opie Covering Hobart's Rick Vacion in 1983

Here’s part two of the story about helping the son of a high school friend who I describe as rising senior this coming year whose game took off this past spring and summer. The post starts out with his mother describing her take on what one can do to market themselves to a top college program.  She writes, “Obviously, it takes lots of hard work to get the place where that coach will see you do the "good" thing.   There is not a straight path; each student will find his/her own way.  Stay open minded and be willing to entertain all possibilities.” To email responded that its not luck that has opened doors for me. “I work like it's all up to me, because it is, and pray like it's all up to God, because it is.” I went on to say, “a successful person described luck as when hard work meets an opportunity. Another said stress in large part comes from a lack of preparation. It will be much easier should this happen again with your other children.” I sum a successful recruiting experience depends on understanding the process and tapping into networks that can help you along the way. For the best of the best the process can be a quick sprint. But for tweeners like I was back as a high school senior in 1981 and then again as a junior college guy in 1983, its most often a marathon. Also, the process and rules are changing so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up with best practices.

Monday, August 6, 2012

My Lacrosse Recruiting Experience as a High School Senior

That's Guest blogger and Navy Head Coach Rick Sowell (right) as a riding attackman from Cobelskill chasing me down in 1983 in a game at Herkimer. I covered Rick and we had some battles! I am embarrassed recall that in those days, my BC days (before Christ), I used a profane and limited vocabulary to talk allot of trash and disrespect opponents. I later played with Rick on Maryland Lacrosse Club and it was allot better playing with him then against him!   

Navy Coach Rick Sowell: My recruiting experience as a senior in high school was an interesting one. First off, I can tell you having been a college coach for about 20 years now; the difference is night and day compared to the recruiting process back in the early 80’s. I was recruited by Ithaca College to play football and Hobart College to play both football and lacrosse. After a visit during the fall, I committed to Hobart, but unfortunately, due to grades, I found out in late April I would not be accepted. So then, the plan was to attend JUCO [Junior College] for one year then try and transfer. I ended up choosing Cobleskill over Herkimer because Cobleskill had dorms, plus they were the better program at the time. From there Terry Corcoran recruited me to play for him at Washington College. As a head coach at Stony Brook I recruit[ed] JUCO players; In fact, we had 4 former JUCO players on our team. As a Coach, I look for players with great work ethic and I really enjoy seeing them develop throughout their college years. [I like my teams to] work hard on the fundamentals aspects, the little things that make a big difference.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Navy Head Coach Rick Sowell on How to “Really Play” the Game

Guest blogger Navy Head Coach Rick Sowell on learning the game lacrosse back at Horseheads high school in western New York (photo from lacrosse magazine)
Coach Rick Sowell: After months of Coach Moffitt explaining to me how the game is “really” played and that I could be good someday, I took a chance, a chance that proved to be one heck of a turning point in my life. It took a little time to develop my stick skills, but it didn’t take long to fall in love with the game. In the inaugural varsity season, I played the long pole position and our team finished with a modest 5-13 record. The next season, I became a short stick two way middie (offense and defense) and also played some attack. I went from scoring zero goals my first season to twenty six as a junior. In my senior year, our team posted a 14-5 record and I lead the team in goals with sixty. Not bad improvement over those 3 years!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Navy Coach Rick Sowell On How He Started Playing Lacrosse

Rick Sowell # 30 back in 1983 playing attack for Colblesskill. I use to cover him and we had some battles! Rick is now the head coach at the U. S. Naval Academy
I've known Head Lacrosse Coach at the U. S. Naval Academy Rick Sowell since 1982 but I never asked him how he started playing lacrosse. Rick Sowell: After successful seasons playing freshmen basketball and JV football, I was introduced to the sport of lacrosse by Tom Moffitt, who also taught me both algebra I and II in 9th and 10th grade. Prior to Coach Moffitt’s arrival in Horseheads in 1976 (I was in 8th grade), our area [Western Tier of upstate New York] did not have lacrosse, but somehow he quickly convinced our school board to approve a lacrosse program. It began as a club sport and after 2 years it officially became a varsity sport for the 1979 season (my sophomore year). As was the case with many athletes who played both football and basketball for coach Moffitt, he somehow talked us out of playing baseball and joining him on the lacrosse field. To this day, I really don’t know what made me decide to give up baseball for this sport. I had never seen it before nor was I excited to try a sport where you “whack” your opponent with a stick.

When, how, and where did you start playing or coaching lacrosse?

Related link:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Coach Mark Miller on Shooting Part 2 of 2

Here's a video I shot at Brown Lacrosse Camp, related links below

Colorado College Coach Mark Miller on Shooting Part 1 of 2
[Watch 3 min 6 sec]

How Many Goals Did the Gaites Score Right-Handed?: [Watch 8 min 24 sec]

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

Lacrosse Shooting Video Montage: