This summer was easily one of my laxiest summers ever, and it all started with a great idea by the one and only Jeff Brunelle. At the beginning of the summer, he proposed a way for me to stay in the Lower-48 and lax my little heart out instead of going up to Alaska for fishing season – obviously I was sold. It was really simple actually; I would join up with the Rhino Lacrosse Camps and blog about my experiences.
At first I couldn’t believe what was being offered to me: the chance to hang out with some of the brightest minds in the game of lacrosse and write about it. You’re joking right? It didn’t take much time to think over and as you know by now, I said yes. What better way to improve my coaching and playing through learning from great lacrosse coaches, along with my writing (God willing), by reporting on it.
And that’s where our journey began, on I-84 headed about 440 miles West towards West Linn, Oregon and the first of many camps that would occur throughout the summer. From everything I had heard prior to leaving, West Linn is Rhino’s premier camp – it’s the biggest one, has the most coaches, and happens to have its own carnival during Day 3 of camp. I don’t want to dive into too much info in this post since you’ve already heard it all before. I will link everything up for you though in case you want to freshen up on the happenings of each camp. You’re welcome.
All in all, West Linn was a blast, I don’t think I’ve ever learned so much about lax in such a short period of time. It was an incredible experience to take part in, and I couldn’t be happier to meet some of the legends, and soon to be legends, that I did. I was also lucky to be able to finally meet the other Co-founder of LAS, Ryan Craven for the first time when he welcomed me into his home for the week. He lives in the historic part of downtown Portland and it was definitely a scenic area.
On the last day of Rhino Camp: West Linn, Ryan Powell asked if I’d mind joining them for the Goalie Clinic the next day – of course I wouldn’t mind! Little did I know that three straight hours of shooting would do a number on my hands. Should’ve worn gloves… what a rookie mistake. The Goalie Clinic was awesome though – Brian Dougherty and the other coaches put together a great morning of drills and shooting for all the keepers to take part in.
After the camp finished up, I jetted over to Bend, OR for the first annual Summer Bender tournament, because why not? (Right Jonny B?!) If you get the chance next year, I would HIGHLY recommend getting a team together and signing up for it. It is a great venue (one that I might mention later in this post), in a great city, with plenty of competition to fill your likes on the field, and events and other shenanigans to fill your belly off the field. Bend has so much to offer for a lax tourney. There are several local breweries, there was a spirit tasting even while we were there, and they had most of the downtown area blocked off with food and music for another festival. You definitely need to sign up for 2012.
This tournament was extra special because well, like the first one of every summer you get to throw on your new garb and play like a champion. These goodies had been sitting in my bag for several weeks just crying to be worn – but I waited, ever so diligently.
After fighting our way to the championship game with the PNLA Cup under our belt and only one loss to Bigfoot Elite, we had a rematch for all the marbles. Unfortunately, Bigfoot Elite played like a pretty elite squad and took the gargantuan Sasquatch trophy home.
After losing a tough game to Bigfoot Elite featuring Kyle Harrison and Maxx Davis, I saddled back up and made the journey north towards Seattle for the second Rhino Camp of the summer. Ryan Powell was gracious enough to let me float around and take everything in throughout the week at West Linn, but told me that I’d be doing a lot more as the summer progressed. I was anxious, but ready for the challenge. Being an Idaho boy, I feel like I always have to be on top of my game to try and make the best impression, ESPECIALLY amongst these seasoned professionals.
Luckily, I didn’t make too much of a jackal of myself and managed to grab an invitation to dinner with the other Coaches. It felt pretty great to be able to spend some time with these guys and hear their stories outside of the camps. I took two main things away from dinner that night: 1) the lacrosse community is very tight-knit, no matter where you are from and 2) it would have been a blast to grow up with the Powell Bros.
The level of bond and level of competition that grew in and outside of camp was incredible. These guys make a great impression wherever they go, with everyone they meet; they are just great people. And hopefully as this post goes on, you’ll see how competitive all the coaches are with each other. In the first week of camp at West Linn I watched Casey Powell lose a $100 Rhino gear bet to a camper and in the first two days of the Seattle Camp I lost a $5 bet to Coach Fritts… he still owes me a round of Big Buck Hunter though.
My first week of actually coaching at camp went great and I was able to take charge in some positional drills with face-offs, help out a ton with the younger guys and even came out with a couple wins and the camp championship for the young group of kids. Not a bad start, eh?
With that I took a well-deserved break in Seattle over the weekend with my beautiful girlfriend, taking in some of the sites and enjoying some of Seattle’s best goodies.
The next week I was able to plant myself in Boise and prepare for the next leg of the journey, but with 1 tournament, 2 camps and 2,000 miles behind me, I had only just begun. The second leg of the trip would be nearly twice as long as the first with 2 tournaments, 4 camps and 3,500 miles. Fortunately for me the second leg began in my stomping grounds, Boise, Idaho. I was really excited about this; it would be my chance to give a little back to the coaches and show them a good time in Boise since I knew I was the new guy in the bunch. Luckily for me, Boise has plenty of things to do.
We started out with a little local summer league action to show the guys that lacrosse in Idaho is only getting better. They’ve been here for a few years but coaching camps doesn’t really show you the full potential of a place. So I used my connections and coaxed the organizers to allow the Rhino coaches to play since it was for the good cause and they weren’t out there to bully anyone. ‘Grow the game’ baby! Am I right?
The next couple nights we treated them to some home-cooked meals by my family and the Brunelle household. It was a great chance for LAS and Rhino to mingle a little bit and unwind from the coaching and the 90 degree temps in Boise. One of the nights we also took them to the local track for a little horse racing. Their competitive spirit took over from there.
Everything considered though, Boise was a great camp. All bias aside, lacrosse has grown immensely in Idaho the past several years and it’s great to see. You could really see the hard work and passion for the game shining through in a lot of the players. And I am proud to say that up to that point, I think Boise took the cake with the dedication to working hard at camp, buying in and their skills in the competitions RP put on for them.
With a very successful week of camp in Boise complete, we packed our bags and headed down to Flagstaff, with a quick stop in Vegas to take in the sites and read some good literature – but seriously. This where the fun really began. The trip down to Las Vegas from Boise is around 650 miles with a lot of straight, boring roads along the way.
Due to a miscalculation in stops (see improper planning), we were running a tad bit short on gas as we came to a crossroads with a very… antique gas station being our only option of gas. Unfortunately the gas station wasn’t in service so our only offer was $25 for 5 gallons of gas, we’ll take it! Let me preface this short story with telling you that the three kids running around the gas station didn’t have the best education and probably liked to play around in the dirt, a lot. While the youngster filled up our cars with gas, Coach Heim decided to use the gas station’s fine facilities. As he came out of the bathroom he heard one of the kids talking, so he peeked his head around the corner to see what was happening. To his surprise, the youngster was holding a cat in a towel over his head yelling, “we eat what we kill!” Boy Scout’s honor, I wouldn’t lie to you.
Needless to say, we thanked them for helping us out, got right back into our cars and headed down the road as swiftly as we could. Upon arriving into Las Vegas, we knew we would have a very relaxing night and be able to hit the rack early for some much needed shuteye.
That was until we got mugged on the strip by these guys.
Anywho, we enjoyed the city and then made our way to Flagstaff, Arizona the next morning to prepare for Rhino Lacrosse Camp: Flagstaff. This was my first overnight camp of the trip so I was pretty excited to see how the kids act these days when given a little freedom. On the first day, it seemed like it was going to be a long week, but after a challenge for the campers to ‘buy-in’ from RP, kids started to come through and act accordingly.
I think the overnight aspect of the camp actually helped as the week progressed. The campers were always around each other and for the most part, always doing some lax-related. This also proved to be beneficial when it came time for the Rhino contests during the week. Remember earlier when I said Boise took the cake up to that point? Well that’s because the night before each contest, the campers put their heads together and worked a little magic, scheming and practicing to make their performances memorable.
Flagstaff went out with a bang and the coaches packed up and made our way north to Lake Tahoe for rock dangling, shenanigans and of course more LAX! But not without one last stop at a Flagstaff gas station to fuel up and buy something completely unnecessary and extravagant.
We arrived late into Tahoe and I had a game the next morning bright and early against Tournament Juggernaut, Marin so I hoped and prayed that I was walking into the right condo and found a couch to pass out on. A few hours later I woke up to dad (James Stewart – great guy) asking me to sign some liability form for the condos. Thanks dad, good to see you too. We prepared for our first game and made our way to the field. Marin went, well kind of as expected. We definitely could have played a ton better, but lost 11-4. After a quick break, we played Presidio and took it to them with a 12-3 victory. We promptly made our way down the beautiful Lake Tahoe to relax and dangle our footsies in the pristine water.
The day was nowhere near done and we soon ventured over to the Tournament BBQ hosted by Crosby’s and sponsored by Dos Equis. Awesome.
All of us coaches had been yearning to lax after a few weeks of coaching and got plenty of opportunity to let it out in Tahoe. The Woozles went 3-1, Team Dos Equis went 2-2 but made it to the Semi-finals and as you will soon see the ‘Wags also went 3-1. Success! The 2nd day of the tournament would be a nice day of rock dangling and adventures with only one game to play against Rainbow, a team of Utah guys. We took it to them 15-4 and soon returned to dangle and dive into Lake Tahoe.
The next day would come too soon, another year of glorious lacrosse in Tahoe flying by way too quickly. After a slow start on a very swampy field, we were able to pull out a victory against the Regulators 7-4 and head home victoriously with a 3-1 record in only our 2nd year in attendance.
Exhausted, but triumphant, we made our way north to our last camp of the summer in Bend, Oregon. It was an amazing last week of camp. The campers all came ready to play and even more importantly, to learn. They even invited us to a local summer league game where all of the coaches and RP’s youngest brother, Mason Powell got to take part in the action. Lacrosse is growing all over the west, it’s so exciting to see the level of competition raising everywhere.
I also got the opportunity to experience one last bit of hospitality from RP during our week at Bend, he took us all golfing at one of the local courses. RP had been golfing throughout the entire summer so I knew I had to be on my ‘A’ game, unfortunately for me, my golf game could use some serious work. Nonetheless, it was a blast and it was great to be able to relax a bit outside of camp.
With the last Rhino Camp complete, I was ready to relax and unwind with a weekend on the coast, so I packed up and headed north towards Washington. Right before I left though, I received a text from Jeff Brunelle asking me if I wanted to add one more camp to the circuit. It was literally on the way home, of course I will. So after a nice couple of days on the beach I made a short drive to Olympia, Washington to take part in a week of Xcelerate Camps.
Back to camp though, Xcelerate was another quality camp. I was very impressed with the coaches and the level of education that the campers were getting throughout the week. It was also great to meet another group of passionate laxers traveling around coaching kids throughout the summer. They were a great group of guys.
Like I said though, high quality coaching – I wish I would have been able to spend a little more time with these guys and take in some more knowledge from their camps. As soon as the camp finished I made my way towards my final lacrosse tournament of the summer in McCall, Idaho to help the Scallywags four-peat as tourney champs of the Brawl in McCall.
We started a little slow in our first game against Bainbridge Island, but quickly found our footing and pulled away to take that game and our second game against Victorious Secret and relax before our second day of games. We were fortunate enough to have a tourney BBQ thanks to someone, I’m not exactly sure but huge thanks to James Stewart, Jacob Wilson, and Mike Band for organizing the tournament and giving us a place to lay our weary heads each night.
Day 2 of the tournament began with a solid victory over the Tribe out of Issaquah, Washington and then a close win over a very solid Team LAS. They really came together in that last game and gave us a run for our money until the last few minutes when we were able to get some breathing room and the victory. With that, we took a nice little break to wait for our chance to finally defend Olde Tad’s Cup and pop some bottles.
And that is exactly what we did. The game started out scoreless for several minutes while each team tested each other out and looked to draw first blood. Scallywags would make the first cut though with a dodge down the alley by Sayre Thomas and a nice feed to yours truly on the crease which I had no choice but to put away into the back of the net. It would only go downhill from here for the boys from BI as we would continue to score while our defense played lights out and came away with an 8-0 victory in the ‘Ship. Celebrate!
The summer wasn’t quite over though and I was able to head back down to Boise, Idaho and get one last chance to lax during Summer League and take home the Chump Cup (Winners of the losers, I’ll take what I can get).
And that’s where our journey draws to a close, with me back in Boise looking around perplexed as to where the summer went and what I am going to do with myself now that it’s over. First and foremost though, I have to thank Jeff Brunelle and Lacrosse All Stars for the opportunity to take part in this voyage (yar!). I also need to give a huge thank you to Ryan Powell, the wonderful staff at the Rhino Lacrosse Camps, and the Xcelerate Lacrosse Camps - all of whom truly welcomed me in like family and showed me a great time. Last but most certainly not least, I want to give a shout out to my boys on the Scallywags. There really is nothing more special then going head to head with teams from areas who look at you and say, “(insert clever and original joke about Idaho, potatoes and random lacrosse facts here),” then coming away with a win and them looking confused as to how a bunch of boys from Idaho just beat them.
There is also another great thing about this sport that I learned this summer. The lacrosse community is one of the most tight-knit communities I have ever been a part of. You can be enemies on the field and during battle, but as soon as the lids come off, lax bros are lax bros and mingle as such. I have met some of the coolest guys this summer throughout my travels and I will gladly consider them friends from here on out. Plus, in how many sports do top level likes in the game come down and hang out with us normal folk. We have guys like Kyle Harrison, Ryan Powell, Ben Gaebel, Brian Cost, Malcolm Chase, Max Zarchin and some of the other greats of the game who will gladly give their time to others in order to grow the game.
Here’s some stats for you on my trip. In three months I traveled 5,500 miles, making 14 stops in 7 states, coaching at 6 camps, and attending 3 lacrosse tournaments. How’s that for one unforgettable summer?!
Want to check out all the pictures from my journey this summer? Head on over to the old Facebook and give it a looksy.