The Strain

Kyle’s lacrosse season is winding down, and it has not been a memorable one for his team. The team currently sits at one win and ten losses, partly because there is a lack of viable talent, and partly because of injuries. One of those injured is Kyle.

In the first quarter of the season, the team lost its top faceoff guy (a senior), its starting goalie (a junior), and its best defensive midfielder (a senior). Kyle was called upon to carry a lot of the load at midfield. In that vein, he played most of every varsity game, then stayed to take faceoffs for JV games. Mrs. Earp and I worried the extensive playing time would come back to haunt him.

It did.

Kyle had been complaining his legs were burning after games and practices. Then a week or so ago, he caught a terrible stomach virus, causing him to miss his first ever high school lacrosse game. The coach benched Kyle the next game because he was sick the day before. (A rule I think is ridiculous, but whatever.) He was allowed to play that day for JV – again, ridiculous – and after that game he asked us to take him to the doctor’s office…

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A Golden Opportunity

Kyle’s lacrosse season opener was Monday, and we were pleasantly surprised to see him on the first midfield line, starting ahead of some seniors. Kyle shared faceoff duties with the senior captain, which bodes well for his college prospects. (Faceoff specialists are in high demand with college programs, and as one of two faceoff guys, Kyle is in a good position.)

The team shot itself in the foot many times, mostly with terrible, preventable penalties. Then, in the second half, the senior captain was tripped, landed one his shoulder, and had to leave the game.

Yeah.

Kyle took the rest of the team’s faceoffs, and ended up winning two out of five, which isn’t bad. Sadly, the team lost by a score of 7-2, but Kyle played well for his part. Kyle was then informed he had to take faceoffs during the JV game because he was the only other person on the team who could do it.

Yesterday the coaches came to Kyle at practice and told him the senior broke his collarbone, and done for the season. They then told Kyle he was now top dog, and would be taking all faceoffs for the rest of the season. After practice, I drove him home, and he was incredibly stressed out. He claimed he can’t carry the team, and wasn’t good at the senior faceoff guy. Kyle spent the rest of the night stressing about today’s game, until his former coach – who coaches his summer league team – sent a text message saying, “You’ll be fine. You’re ready.”

I tried to impress upon Kyle what a great opportunity this is. He can tell recruiters he had to step up as a junior and become a leader on the field. If his faceoff win percentage hovers around 50% this season, he’ll be gold.

Now if we can just get him past the nerves…

The Blues And The Reds

After a few weeks of waiting, I took Kyle and Erik to the University of Pennsylvania to see the Penn Quakers play Cornell in lacrosse. The boys like both Cornell and Penn, and when they saw the matchup on a rare weekend off for me, we decided to go.

The game was not being played in Franklin Field, but an auxiliary field near the stadium. Ironically, the other field was a thousand times better. We were only a few feet from the action, and Erik even snared a lacrosse ball during warmups.

The game was great; two top teams playing at their best. Penn led at the half, but sadly, completely fell apart in the third and fourth quarter. They lost to Cornell by a score of 20-13. They only real downside was the weather, which was bitter cold with a biting wind. Oh, and the fact Kyle was nearly killed.

In the second half, we stood behind the net where Penn was shooting. There are thirty-foot tall nets to keep the lacrosse balls in play, but they have a lot of give. A Penn player rushed up the field and fired a shot we could actually hear coming. There was a whoosh and a loud bang. The ball hit the fence mere inches in front of Kyle. The impact was so hard, the protective plastic covering flew off.

Kyle looked at me, eyes wide, and said, “Jesus.” After that we moved a little further behind the fence. Lesson learned.

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This

Yesterday I spent the day in South Jersey at the South Jersey Saints lacrosse College Prospect Day. Kyle signed up for the event, which included three hours of instruction, drills, and scrimmages in front of an audience of college lacrosse coaches. There were schools from Division I, II, III, and a junior college in attendance for Kyle to impress.

Now, I am brutally honest about my kids’ talent levels. Kyle is a very good lacrosse player – he’s been playing since first grade – but he is not a Division I quality prospect. He can, however, be competitive in a Division II or III school, and this was a nice event to show scouts what he can do.

Kyle, being my son, was a bundle of nerves the entire drive, and through the first half of the day. He was worried he wouldn’t impress anyone, and worse still, his favorite coach – from his freshman year of high school – was in attendance. Kyle did not want to disappoint him especially…

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Make Lacrosse Great Again

The Adelphi University’s men’s lacrosse team has been entering the field on game days to audio of a President Trump speech.

The Adelphi University men’s lacrosse team uses a speech by President Donald Trump as its entrance music, and a video showing the entrance has been viewed more than 730,000 times on Instagram.

“In all of our cities and all of our towns, I make this promise. We will make America strong again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And we will make America great again.”

At this point the players start running onto the field. The speech concludes, “God bless you, and good night. I love you.”

So. Awesome. The speech must be working, because Adelphia is sporting a 14-3 record and is the top seed in the NCAA Division II tournament.

Re-Re-Retired

Yesterday was Kyle’s last lacrosse game of the season. Both varsity (3-10) and JV (4-8) suffered through a sub-par year, and the final game was a welcome sight for many of the players.

Around midday I was pacing in front of the mailbox, desperately hoping my Zoloft fix would arrive. Sadly, it did not, but a letter from Kyle’s school was delivered, and it was addressed to me. I assumed it was either notice that Kyle was receiving an award… or he was being expelled. Neither was the case.

The letter read, in part:

“According to our records, the documentation checked below is missing from your file. Please return the information to the main office by June 15th, 2017, in order for you to continue your ministry to students of our school.”

Six of the eight boxes were checked. It would have been easier to note the forms that were in my file. Now, I’m no detective, but after twenty-one years coaching high school lacrosse, I am intimately familiar with clearances and their lifespans. Most of the boxes checked involved the archdiocesan training concerning child abuse and reporting. All archdiocesan employees must attend a three-hour training session on the subject, which I completed on March 31, 2016.

The training certification lasts three years

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A Midseason Report

Yesterday Kyle’s lacrosse team played its seventh game of a twelve-game season. Kyle (left above) is primarily playing junior varsity this year, thanks in part to the minuscule number of players who came out to play. We have 37 on the roster, but we rarely see that many on game days, and while we do have enough to play games, some players have to play both varsity and JV the same day.

Kyle, a sophomore, has seen some varsity time, but it’s few and far between.

The boy has been playing very well on JV, however. Kyle is the JV top face-off guy, and through seven games he is 18-for-33, which amounts to a 55% win rate. He has also added two assists – a stat which angers him, because he knows he should be putting up better offensive numbers – and runs the offense on the field for the top midfield line.

I’d like to see him score more often, and I definitely want him feeding linemates more, but otherwise I am very happy with his play. The kid is the typical grunt player. He runs through kids to scoop ground balls, he sacrifices his body to draw penalties, and he leads by example. In short, he does all the things I did when I played, except he has much more raw talent that I ever had.

The Crusaders currently have a record of 3-4 overall and 3-2 in their conference. Their next game is Friday afternoon.

Unretired

So remember that post back in December when I explained I was re-retired from coaching? Well… scratch that.

I received a call last week from Kyle’s new lacrosse coach asking if I was able to help out. I wasn’t really keen on the idea at first, because of the way the high school treats lacrosse as a whole – spoiler alert: like crap – but after talking to the coach, I decided to climb aboard.

Today will be my first day back to the school, and hopefully last week’s snow will be gone from the field. Ironically, Kyle won’t be there today, because he is home sick with a nasty stomach virus that has hit everyone in the family – save for me.

So wish me luck – again. Let’s see how long this tenure lasts.

Re-Retired

hung-up-whistleFor the past year or so I have had the pleasure of coaching my oldest son’s high school lacrosse team. I came back because the head coach needed a few more hands on deck, breaking a six-year retirement.

I am now re-retired.

The team’s head coach – who, at 32 years old forgot more about lacrosse than I ever knew – accepted a job at one of New Jersey’s best lacrosse high schools. The position comes with more money, better facilities, a supportive administration, and players who really want to play the game.

Sadly, much of that is missing on my son’s team.

The head coach was making peanuts – I think, literally – and I was not being paid at all. I was strictly on a volunteer basis. The facilities at Kyle’s school are decent, but they cannot compare with the Jersey school. The administration at Kyle’s school despises lacrosse, and we were offered little of no support. Finally, the upperclassmen on Kyle’s team were a mix of good and godawful. Kyle’s class is very dedicated, but many of the older kids are there only to receive a jersey.

So the head coach did what any sane person would do; he accepted the job at the powerhouse school. He called me personally to let me know, then apologized to me and Kyle. I feel badly for Kyle and the kids who wanted to be there, because his head coach was brilliant. Now I worry the school will hire someone on the cheap, or worse, someone who does not know – or love – the game.

In the meantime, I’ll be sitting in the stands from here on out. I’ll miss coaching, but at least I officially have twenty years of coaching on the books.

Only L. Ron Hubbard Saves More

milhouse-in-goalIn preparation for the upcoming lacrosse season, Kyle’s high school team – of which I am an assistant coach – has been practicing from 7-9 pm on Monday and Wednesday nights. I refer to this as practice, but in reality it is just the kids split into teams and scrimmaging for two hours.

As mentioned before, I and the other coaches occasionally play; mostly when we are craving a huge slice of humble pie.

On Wednesday night, we were short a goalie, so the head coach asked if we could bring in goalie equipment. Kyle had some from when he played in grade school, so I brought it to the scrimmage. Before we left, Mrs. Earp issued two general orders: 1. Kyle is not to play goaltender, and 2. I am not to play goaltender…

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