I’ve been meaning to write this story for a while, but I was waiting to have enough time to sit down and write it well. Well, after reading about the Grow the Game trip to Thailand, and what Payu has done to build the team over there (along with a convenient tonsilectomy) I fell into plenty of free time to write it. So for those of you who have ever wanted to start a lacrosse team at your school or a club team, listen up , hopefully this will inspire you to take up the task!
As you may or may not have read in my first post “Playing Lax Later: For Those Players New To The Game“, I was not lucky enough to pick up the sport until the summer after my junior year of high school, when I found out we were getting a team in the Spring of my senior year. By December of my senior year I had been accepted to, and chose to attend, Penn State Berks in Reading, PA. And after playing that spring season of high school lacrosse I was hooked on the sport.
I knew it was something I wanted to continue in college at the club level, I practiced just about every day and had a burning passion to improve, but I knew NCAA lacrosse wasn’t in my future. So I looked into the Penn State Berks Lacrosse program. I found a website that said they were a club team in the NCLL and had won their division multiple years in a row. A perfect source of motivation for the Summer to improve my game.
When I showed up for my ftcap day (an orientation before orientation where you go to schedule your classes), there was an area to sign up to receive info from different athletic organizations. I quickly went in search of the lacrosse table, which I soon discovered was no where to be found. So I asked one of the staff members in the area where I could find it, and she said they didn’t have one, nor did she ever know one existed. I asked one or two other school staff members that day and received the same answer. Now I was faced with three choices… find and play for a local men’s club team, start a team for the school, or hang up the lacrosse stick forever.
The first week of college during my freshmen year, I scheduled a meeting with a school official and told them straight out, I wanted to start a lacrosse team on campus. I also asked if this was an obtainable goal for the current year? They informed me, yes, and from there on out I was determined to make it happen. The very next day I started making calls to the NCLL, and then shopped around for uniforms, helmets, etc. Luckily for me though I had already met my buddy John Wynne through another friend. After noticing he was wearing a lacrosse shirt I asked if he played and if he was interested in helping me start the team on campus. He was quickly on board and enthusiasic to make it happen and truly helped me get that team off the ground.
Throughout that fall semester we attended numerous meetings with different school officials to make sure we were a go for the spring season. We also began to sell apprel as a way to get the word out, and do a little fundraising for ourselves, which was very successful. Everything was set in place for our innaugural season.
When the spring semester started (Mid January) we were able to gather 15 players and a coach. With time against us, we began to hold team practices for about an hour a day, 3 days a week. It was admittedly not the most ideal situation, but since we had to set up the team during the fall we couldn’t start practices until spring. On top of that we didn’t have a game field so all of our games had to be played on the road.
One of the other downsides of being a first year team is having many established teams not want to waste their time playing against you. So although our coach was emailing and calling many teams across the state, we were only able to gather about 5 games together. Two against Albright, and one each versus St. Joes, East Stroudsburg, and Bryn Athn. We went 2-3 on the season with our biggest accomplishment coming in the form of a loss to St. Joes. Our 15 man roster went against St. Joes who would end their season 7-2 with a 30 man roster and we only lost by 2, with their last goal coming in the last 15 seconds.
We could not have been more proud of our effort against such a skilled and established team. That one game, along with the two other wins, made all the many hours of meetings, advertising and last minute practices well worth it. To see a team that you built from the ground up be able to compete and do well is something I was, and will always be, very proud of.
The next year would turn out to be a bit of a rollercoaster. After doing so well with such little time the previous season, many of us were excited to pick up where we left off, even though we lost the majority of our guys to transferring to the main campus of Penn State (Berks campus is another PSU school). We played a fall ball season with 25 guys and had 2 games planned. Things were looking up, even though we lost 1 game and the other was cancelled. Sadly come spring time, we would have about 14 guys drop due to grades or they were forced to get jobs.
We played games with 11-12 guys and sadly what was originally a jam packed schedule had to be reduced to 5 games, all of which we lost, all of which were once again on the road. A disappointing way to end my final season at Berks. Lucky for me though some very exciting news would find its way to me. One day while talking to my coach about some things we had to do before I left to make sure the organization kept growing, he told me that the school was purchasing a turf field that would be the game field for soccer, lacrosse and rugby.
With the addition of this field it was scheduled that our lacrosse team, the very one me and John Wynne started two years ago would also be going NCAA D3 in two years!!!! Are you kidding me? Our efforts resulted in a D3 Lacrosse team?!?!?! Ok, now I could not have been more proud. Coach had been recruiting different kids all year, some of which I had actually given campus tours to, and many have already give intentions to commit for this upcoming year or the following year.
I could not have been prouder with what my efforts have produced and I intend to be in touch with the team and make sure they continue to grow. I would recommend to anyone even considering starting a team to go for it. The worst that can happen is that it doesn’t happen but at least you can say you tried. Otherwise you could be the one saying I started that D3 team. Regardless, I’m very proud of everything me and my teammates accomplished and it is a memory and experience I will never forget.
For more information on Penn State Berks Lacrosse:
Facebook (LIKE THEM!)
Penn State Berks Lacrosse School Page (The Lacrosse section of the Berks Athletic Site)
All Photos from Innaugural Season. To see pictures from this past season go visit the facebook page!
Also please Like the LaxAllSharks, LacrosseAllStars newest summer team on facebook and be sure to check us out at the Beach Lacrosse Tourney in Wildwood,NJ July 16th and 17th!!!