Tuesday, September 03, 2013

End of the road

Readers: Thanks for reading my comments about NorCal Boys and Mens Lacrosse over the last decade. Ten years is a long time on a narrow topic like NorCal Lacrosse. Including my posts on the wonderful NorCalLaxForum and here on the NorCal Lacrosse Blog, I've written nearly 4,000 posts and you, dear readers, have produced nearly one million page views. I no longer have anything to say. Time to call it a day!

I had never seen a Lacrosse game in 2002 when my then eight-year-old Son, while waiting for a Little League Baseball practice to begin, saw three Piedmont HS laxers throwing it around at Linda Beach Field in Piedmont. He asked me, "What game are those boys playing, Da?" I was able to respond, "They're playing Lacrosse, Son." He thought for a couple of seconds and said to me, "That's the game I want to play."

I bought two sticks and a three-pack of balls and we started throwing it around. We played catch an hour a day, seven days a week! I bought and read six lacrosse  books trying to answer questions the boy had. I read voraciously, because I didn't know anyone who had played Lacrosse. Somehow, I learned about an upcoming STX Lacrosse camp and we signed him up. I didn't know STX from STP, but the day came and his Mother and I took him over to Witter Field at Piedmont High and sent him to the registration booth. There,  in bold letters, a sign said, "You must be at least 9 years old to register." He read it. He understood it. He swallowed hard, handed them the check his Mother had written and said, "My name is JW McGovern, and here's my money." The lady at check-in took his money and handed him a Pinnie. At that camp, the legendary Gary Gait oversaw the camp for STX, Duke All-American Matt Ogelsby was the Camp Director, and some nineteen year-old college players from the Ivy League ran station drills to teach the boys the game of Lacrosse.

Three hours into the camp, Matt walked up to JW and asked, "How old are you, Son?"

"I'm nine, Coach," JW responded. You see, he was hooked on the game. He still is. That was the first, and only, time he has EVER lied. Yep, EVER.  Learning the game we all love was really important to that eight-year-old boy.

The boy at 9 years old

One thing led to another and he played NCJLA lacrosse at Lamorinda for five years and a final year with So. Marin, played on 4 youth travel teams (2 U13 and 2 U15 teams) when the NCJLA was the only travel team sponsor, played for Mario Enea's Braveheart (the first commercial travel team in NorCal). Played Boxla at the Bladium for four years. Youth Lacrosse was consuming to him - and to us.

But, it didn't end there. High School applications were around the corner. He considered a number of private and parochial High Schools. In the end, it came down to De Lasalle (DLS) and Saint Ignatius (SI). On a tour of SI, his mother, walking in the Halls of that venerable institution,  happened to look up and saw, on the wall, a class photo from long ago. In that class photo, she saw her Father, as a young man, staring down at her. Her Dad, who had passed a decade before, and both of her Uncles, had attended SI. She took it as a sign – and that was that. SI it was!

SI was wonderful. The years flew by, the boy had world-class coaching and, because of that, kept getting better. Many awards and honors later, he enrolled at Yale after being recruited by the Bulldogs and several other Ivy League Schools. Coach Chris Packard of SI and Braden Edwards of the Outlaws were able to recommend him when college coaches called to ask about his character. Those recommendations are a critical part of the recruiting process. I'm very grateful to all the coaches who helped him along the way. In particular, Coach Packard, who stayed in touch with the boy and his college coaches throughout his Freshman year, helping both the boy and his college coach understand each other. I have never met anyone, in any field, who feels more strongly the call of duty to help his charges – even long after they leave his grasp – than Coach Chris Packard.  We are honored to know him.

JW ended up being a starter on the EMO unit for the Elis much of this past season and had his fair share of goals and assists for the 2013 Yale team, which made the NCAA tournament and ended up being the #7 ranked team in the nation. The only Lacrosse wish I've ever had for him was that he be a contributor to the success of his team. Last season he was. Moreover, he loves Yale – and he still loves lacrosse!

And here's why it's over for me. This past summer the boy was a coach at Chris Packard's first-ever St. Ignatius Lacrosse Camp. JW was a nineteen year old college student, teaching eight-year-old boys how to play the game. It was a mirror image, time-warped from eleven years ago, when he was the eight-year-old being taught by nineteen year-old Ivy League players. The great circle of lacrosse life had been completed! He, who has been given so much – by so many others – was now giving back. It was a magical moment, and I'm greedy enough to want to see more of them. He's got three more years of college ball, and I can't think of anything I'd rather do than sit in the stands on a sunny Spring day and watch him play, while daydreaming about some future moment when a young player comes up to my Son and says... "Thanks for everything, Coach!"

The Boy at 20

I hope, and pray, that your experiences as a parent, a player, a coach, or a fan, will be/have been as positive and powerful as mine. Thanks for the memories – to all of you – players, parents, coaches, and fans alike. It's been a pleasure to write for you about the game we all love.