Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hobart's Ed Howard on Signing Autographs for the First Time

At the close of my interview, I asked Ed Howard if he ever experienced any racism on the field “I never experienced anything like that,” he says, but on two occasions (one at Adelphi University on Long Island and the other at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania) white opponents called his teammate and fellow Buffalo native Mac Nelson, nigger. “When I heard that, you know I got in there because” I was ready to fight, “I wanted some,” recalls Howard. It’s interesting to me that these incidents did not happen down south when Hobart traveled to North Carolina and Maryland at the start of the spring semester in the mid to late 1970s. No, the incidents happened up north where historically most of us assume white folks are beyond that stuff. What’s also interesting is a story Ed told me about playing in the North South All Star game held at John Hopkins University in Baltimore his senior year. In contrast with the racist slurs Nelson confronted on Northern college campuses, for the first time in his college lacrosse playing career, two boys asked for Ed’s autograph, “Two white kids,” says, Ed. The request “shocked me” remembers Howard years later. Ed never played post-collegiate lacrosse after leaving Hobart, that’s a shame too. “By the end of his career he was spectacular,” says Marc Van Arsdale, Associate Head Men’s Lacrosse Coach at UVA and a former Hobart ball boy in the 1970s. Coach Van adds, “I often thought that if he had continued playing after college he would have been a good bet to be a USA Team Player.” In 2003, Hobart inducted Ed Howard into its Athletic Hall of Fame. His bio for the event reads in part, “A stifling defenseman, . . . Howard was a four-year letter-winner and a member of the College’s first two NCAA Championship teams (1976-77).” The bio goes on to say, “During his career, the Statesmen posted an impressive 49-8 (.860) record, including a 15-0 mark and the Division II/III championship in 1977.” Ed lived in New Jersey where he worked as a senior executive for Chubb Insurance. 

Ed Howard Obituary:

My Series on Hobart All American Ed Howard:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ed Howard on The Desire to Win and Be the Best

Ed Howard in the spring of 1979 after winning the Graham Award as the team’s best defenseman, the Kraus Memorial Trophy as Hobart’s most outstanding senior athlete, and the Roger Frankel Award as the senior who contributed the most to the Hobart community during his undergraduate career. 

Ed Howard earned second team All Americans his junior year at Hobart College and he was named a co-team captain and first team All American his senior year. As the caption above shows, Ed also received a plethora of honors at Hobart's 1979 sports banquet. “Ed was one of those student athletes who made you look like you knew what you were doing, says Dave Urick, the Head Lacrosse Coach at Georgetown University and Ed’s defensive Coach at Hobart. “In junior high school I lived to go to the Hobart practices every day after school,” says University of Virginia Associate Head Lacrosse Coach Marc Van Arsdale. “Guys like Ed Howard were my heroes. Ed was one of the guys who always took time to talk to me in the locker room before or after practice. He wasn't boisterous, but he was always friendly and thoughtful in his dealings with a 13 year old kid hanging around a team of college men.” Van Arsdale, insists, “my experiences as a ball boy . . . probably had a great deal to do with my decision to enter the coaching profession. Similarly, after a Hobart Mt Washington Lacrosse Club down in Baltimore as part of his last spring spent in the south as a collegiate athlete. A guy from Morgan State University (a historically black college and University) came up to him and said, “man you have no idea what that poster of you means to so of us down here, so many [African American lacrosse players] have one,” the guy said. Like Navy’s Syd Abernethy, Ed has no stories of throngs of black kids swarming after games seeking his autograph. But he knew folks were watching him and as a result, he says, I “tried to represent Hobart College the best I could, that’s all.” He adds, “I had an insatiable desire to win and to be the absolute best I could be,” and that’s what Ed focused on not on being any bodies role model as Charles Barkley would say. Both Ed and Syd Abernethy had no idea the impact their careers had on me as an African American adolescent just starting to play lacrosse. Marc Van Arsdale argues that “Maybe it was part of Ed's legacy that in 1987 the Hobart team had 2 African American Captains—Tim Clark (Henniger) and Ray “Tiny” Crawford (Manhasset).

My Series on Hobart All American Ed Howard:

Monday, June 25, 2012

"Once I got my stick skills together I was dangerous thereafter,” Hobart's Ed Howard Part 2

Ed Howard covering Syracuse’s Tim O’Hara, a 2nd Team All-American selection in 1979. In Howard’s playing days the Statesmen dominated the Orange 24 – 8 in 1977, 15 – 9 in 1978, and 16-4 in 1979. Not an easy bit of history for this historian and SU lacrosse alum to write about. The scores above are representative of three years of good old fashioned butt whoopings! It was during this era that upstate teams, Cornell and Hobart, dominated college lacrosse. 
Speaking of his first year on Hobart’s varsity men’s lacrosse team, Ed Howard (Hobart 79) says, coach Urick “always had me cover the best incoming rookies, during practice” which really helped develop his game. Ed took to the Hobart defensive scheme under Urick which fit his athleticism well, “pressure was our game” Howard says, “and we had Rick Blick in the goal,” a three time All American and a two time U. S. National Team player. By the way, why hasn’t any Hobart alum or fans nominated Blick to the National Hall Fame? He’s got the credential folks. At the start of Howard’s sophomore year, a starting defenseman for the statesmen failed out of the school just before the team traveled south for spring break workouts and games. During stretching before a scrimmage against Hopkins, Coach Schmidt casually informed Howard that he would be starting. In the first half of the Hopkins game Howard picks up a ground ball and goes coast to coast and scores a goal. He would go on to start the rest of that year and scored another goal in Hobart’s National Championship victory over Washington College the same year. But he did a lot more than score goals. “From the time I became a starter as a sophomore, I was always assigned the opposition’s best offensive player. I took pride in that challenge and was very effective (more times than not) in shutting down/ or neutralizing the very top offensive players in the game during my era,” Howard recalls. “We had a lot of athletes on our teams over the years,” says Dave Urick, “but Ed he had something extra, he was really smooth and developed some nice takeaway checks.” The summer between his sophomore and junior year Howard spent hours working on his stick skills in a handball court back in Buffalo. “I grew up in the inner city, and black folks on the corner use to call me ‘college boy,’” recalls Howard. He worked on his stick work for hours during a time when black folks in the city of Buffalo had never heard of the game. “I had a great work ethic” and focused on becoming a complete player with a right and left hand that summer. It was like, “I went from blurred vision to 20-20 once I got my stick skills together.” He says, “I was dangerous thereafter.” More on the final two years of Ed’s career at Hobart over the remaining days of Black history month.

My Series on Hobart All American Ed Howard:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Remembering Hobart's Ed Howard

In the winter of 1976 Ed Howard had just become the newest of a long list of, what Hobart All American and Associate Head Lacrosse Coach at the University Virginia, Marc Van Arsdale has coined, DNPs—guys who did not play in high school. “I was lucky enough to be a ball boy for a bunch of those Jerry Schmidt/Dave Urick Hobart Teams in the 70's” says Van Arsdale who grow up in Geneva, New York. “There were some ferocious, physical athletes playing defense for Hobart in those days [who] were DNP's—Tom Korn, Tom Moffitt, Bootie Gringeri (all defensive football standouts)—but Ed, once he learned the game, was a more graceful defender,” Van Arsdale recalls. “I remember his great footwork/quickness . . . maybe attributable to his hoops upbringing,” he theorizes. Howard remembers being home in Buffalo on winter break after 6 B team practices when he received phone call for then defensive coordinator Dave Urick tell him that he’s been invited to come to up to varsity. “I am looking out the window and it was a terrible ice storm and here’s coach asking me if I want to join the varsity team on spring break down in North Carolina.” Back in those days Hobart we would play Carolina, NC State, Hopkins, and Navy on spring break. “Looking at the [bitter cold] weather outside it was an easy decision.” Howard remembers telling Urick without hesitation “I am going!” As freshmen Ed played mostly on Hobart’s man down defense. He had no fear of big offensive guns he faced on man down because he had no history on the players and programs he was facing to go on. “I had the advantage,” explains Howard, I was not encumbered” by the reputation All Americans, “plus in basketball and football I was an offensive players” and could anticipate the other guys moves. “I was 6’ 2’’ 200 lbs and ran a sub 4.5, 40- yard dash—I had the advantage in my mind and it didn’t matter who you were to me,” says Howard. Lord willing and the snow doesn’t get to high, we will have more tomorrow on Ed’s first season as a Statesmen.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Lacrosse World Mourns the Loss of Hobart All American Ed Howard

 Do you remember this poster? Hobart All American Defensemen Ed Howard # 26 throwing a over the head check on a unidentified Washington College player. 

I learned yesterday that Ed Howard had unexpectedly died (1957 to 2012). I believe Ed Howard was the first African American college player I ever saw. I still remember seeing this poster of of him above, throwing this great over the head check against a Washington College player in the 1977 Division III championship game. The photo was part of a 1978 U. S. National Team promotion. “The over the head check was my forte,” remembers Ed Howard. “It was my favorite because of my height [6’ 2’] and the fact I could get close to my opponent.” He goes on to say, I learned the check from [my defensive coach at Hobart] Dave Urick and perfected it via real time trial and error.” What’s unique about Howard’s story is that he never played lacrosse before coming to Hobart. And back when he played, Hobart was a power house in college lacrosse taking on all comers including Syracuse. In 1977 Hobart went 15 and 0 with Howard both starting, neutralizing other teams top attackman, and earning All American honors. This was a rare lacrosse photo back before the proliferation of lacrosse magazines in hard copy and online, and the multitude of lacrosse blogs including my own. Photos like this one represented some of the only outlets for lacrosse junkies like me to satisfy my craving for the game. Few newspapers back in the late 70s covered college games or stories about All-American selections. So when I saw this photo of Ed Howard I wanted to know more about him. 20 plus years later I got a chance interviewing Dave Urick, UVA Associate Head Coach Mark Van Arsdale who was a ball boy for the team when Howard played, and Ed Howard. I conducted the interviews back in 2009.  In the series I talked about  how Howard went from a Hobart walk on to becoming an All American.  I hope you enjoy the series and share with others what you learn about his lacrosse career. 

Hobart College Mourns the Loss of Ed Howard:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What I Found When I Returned to Lacrosse After Ten Years

Syracuse University Lacrosse All-American and Hall of Famer Jim Brown 
 Former Syracuse University Lacrosse Player Fred Opie

Navy’s African American All American Syd Abernethy:

Navy’s African American Head Coach Rick Sowell:

My Earliest Exposure to Lacrosse:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Five Principles I've Learned From Athletic Competition

Chris Burt 33, Fred Opie 34, Mike O'Donnell 31, Syracuse Hopkins 1985 Title Game at Brown University
Yesterday I spoke to the Wellesley Boys High School Varsity Lacrosse team on the occasion that tomorrow night they play in the Eastern Mass Lacrosse Championship at Harvard Stadium. Their coach thought hearing from someone who had played in big venues would be helpful. I welcome and enjoy these opportunities when I can work them in because my wife keeps reminding me that I've had some unusual athletic opportunities and the lessons learn from them explain allot of the personal and professional success I enjoy and should share them with others when I get the chance.  I talked to the team about the importance of visualizing the desired outcome you want and situations you need to avoid like the plaque. This is something professional pilots do on a regular basis in flight simulators. I do this as a writer and teacher and I asked them to visualize executing the prepared game plan, and adapting it to the circumstances. Second, I said give your best efforts so that win, lose, or draw you would have nothing to regret. I played in two national championships and lost both but because I gave my best effort I've never looked back. The same was true when I won and loss club championships before the pro outdoor league began and when I won a world championship as a member of the 1990 U. S. National Team. I spoke about my college coach at Syracuse University, Hall of Famer Roy Simmons Jr. Junior and his mantra: head, heart, and hustle.  Coach would say the difference between winning and losing often is who would hustle the most and get the most ground balls and who would hustle to keep possession of the ball when shots were taken on the offensive and defensive end of the field. one. My own mantras is ground balls wins games, in the little foxes spoil the vine. That is, do all the little things right because they bring about big results! Finally, I told them that as the varsity players in their town local youth lacrosse players see them as heroes thus they should never forget that someone's always watching a hero. One of the assistant coaches for Wellesley, who I have never met before, recalled that I once worked at a New England lacrosse camp that he attended and that, I left a lasting impact on his life. Similarly, I mentioned that I was a camp counselor at the West Point lacrosse camp when eighth or ninth grade Roy Cosley was a camper. He just became a 2012 inductee to the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame. What kind of influence are you having on those around you? I remember the local lacrosse heroes I grew up around and will talk more about them tomorrow. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

How To Get Better During Practice and Improve Your Game

Yorktown and SU All American and 2012 National Hall of Fame Inductee Tim Nelson 
Former Syracuse Lacrosse Player and Tweener Fred Opie

My College, Club, and U. S. National Team Experience

Hard Work and Lacrosse Video Series:

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

Friday, June 8, 2012

Are You A Tweener?

Tweener Fred Opie covering a Umass player in Amherst, Mass in 1985. Umass along with Hobart and Hopkins represented some of the toughest places to an away game. Umass fans provided great support to the Minutemen and sat just a few feet from the field heckling the visiting team the entire game. 
Former Syracuse Lacrosse Player and Tweener Fred Opie

My College, Club, and U. S. National Team Experience

Hard Work and Lacrosse Stories:

College Lacrosse Recruiting Series:

Friday, June 1, 2012

Syracuse All American Ric Beardsley Recalls "That Field"

Maverick Lakeland High School and Syracuse University All American Defensemen Ric Beardsley #47 recalls "That field"  where here played summer league in the Hudson Valley. As you will see below, Beardsley who had a reputation as a loose cannon is a introspective person who writes well. 
That field was narrow and I think illegal to be honest because it was so narrow. The field served as a drainage field for the school grounds behind it and as a result it had manhole covers on it. I used to try and run opposing attackmen on to those man hole covers in order to try and make then fall. I am sure that field could tell so many stories if it could talk because of all the great players that played on it. It was a horrible field but it was like home for me for all those years. I remember playing an alumni game on that field and guarding Jim Egan the year he started @ SU and I de-sticked him like 5 times and I was only a high school sophomore. . . he was so pissed! But at the end of the game he was determined to have me play for SU and look what happened. Fans would back their cars up to the field in the parking lot that overlooked the field and sit on their tailgates to watch games. In high school I can remember my father sitting and yelling encouraging things to me during my games . . . That field is also the field where I learned to play the game @ all the levels that got me to SU and made me the player I became. Summer league then was full of sick players. College guys would bring their teammates from all of the top programs as ringers so they had a shot @ winning the summer league championship. That field will never ever be forgotten by me. The worst field I ever played on but the best field to have played on.

By Ric Beardsley with Fred Opie

Story Submissions: I welcome email submissions of stories for the historical series on summer league lacrosse I am running this summer on the blog. Particularly interesting in stories from the periods before I started playing summer league (1970s) and after I stopped playing (1990s) and areas I know little about such as New England summer leagues, and leagues where the game has expanded like the Midwest and South West. So long has its historical I will consider running your written or video story (3 to 7 min) on the blog as part of the series.