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.