I went to my first Syracuse lacrosse game in 1988 when I was 12-years old. That’s when I saw my first ‘Air Gait.’
The Orange were playing in the NCAA semi-finals at the Carrier Dome against the University of Pennsylvania in front of 20,148 people. Syracuse was down 2-1 in the second quarter and looking for a big play to rally behind.
The first ‘Air Gait’ I ever saw:
Gary Gait caught a pass behind the cage, revved his engine, and took off like Superman from point behind to dunk the ball over the crossbar like 4th year NBA superstar Michael “Air” Jordan, would dunk a basketball. Gary Gait had tied the game at 2 and woke the spirit of the Orange.
Paul Gait scored the winning goal in that game with 3 seconds left. Syracuse would go on to win the first of three consecutive national championships, defeating cross-state rival Cornell Big Red, 13-8 in the final. The legend of “Air Gait” was born alongside my dream to become the best lacrosse player of all time.
To start right here, there would be no Twosletter without Gary Gait so this story would never be told. If Gary Gait didn’t go to Syracuse and set the world on fire, with 4 NCAA All-America honors, 3 national championships, and 2 Lt. Raymond Enners Awards in ‘88 and ’90 wearing the #22, I don’t go to Syracuse and wear #22, doing my best to follow in those exact footsteps. I’ll double check the stats page but without Gary Gait’s inspiration, I wouldn’t have won the Lt. Raymond Enners award for Division I’s most outstanding player twice myself.
I was in awe of Gary’s skill as a young player. He was big, strong, fast, daring, creative, innovative, and deeply skilled at the game of lacrosse. I wanted to play the game at the level Gary played it and I wanted to excite people about the game the way he did. From the time I heard 20,000 Syracuse fans howl, stomp their feet, and clap their hands to the first intentional crease dive goal of all time, I was Gary Gait #22 every time I scooped a lacrosse ball off the ground in my backyard, at Carthage High School, or any field with goals at opposite ends.
The biggest impact the Gait brothers left on me, besides always being a clear and present danger to the opposition, was their ambassadorship of the game. With the help of Hall of Famer Tommy Marichek and many other great Syracuse players, they put the University in a national spotlight with their fast paced, fluid, Canadian style of play. They also bore the responsibility that came with it.
Paul and Gary Gait would stand on the field until the stadium lights went out after a game – making sure that every young fan got the attention and inspiration they were looking for. Think of the impact it made on a 12-year-old Casey
Gary came down to Sarasota, Florida, to coach a lacrosse camp for the World Lacrosse Foundation’s High School and Middle School club team, the Rip Curl Girls, run by our foundations co-Chair Heather Chase. The camp was a great success. Playing catch with Gary on the field is truly an inspiration when the Syracuse Women’s Lacrosse Coach is out there with a women’s stick pulling off the same tricks you’re pulling off with a state of the art men’s stick. Talk about humbling.
The standout dynamic I noticed to Gary’s approach to the women’s game is that he challenges the girls to have the same dexterity with a women’s stick as men do with a deep pocket men’s stick. While teaching the players new drills, he will have them scoop ground balls with their strong and weak hand, and then scoop ground balls with one hand. He will have them throw traditional passes, then behind the back or shovel passes to emulate situations that come up in a game. Since even before the first Air Gait, his philosophy has been about the regular practice of creativity on the field.
See you out there,
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