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American Revolution: Creating Elite Lacrosse Instruction

Editor’s Note: Peter Tumbas has been updating us on the Pittsburgh lacrosse scene, and handling moderator duties for a roundtable of Lacrosse Club Directors. He also runs the American Revolution, a travel team for high school (and college!) players. Tumbas also ran an instructional camp this past Holiday season, and has some takeaways to share with the world on why instructional camps are so important, and possibly a dying breed.

With the proliferation of tournaments and showcase camps, elite level instructional opportunities have become more and more rare. When you look at the numbers, this trend seems to be backwards simply because so many new players are picking up the sport. There are more opportunities to play the sport than ever before but not as many opportunities to learn and develop skills from talented teachers.

We wanted to create an instructional camp for young players in an underserved market led by current college coaches in the most intimate setting possible, to really kickstart the 2014 season. We did so with a Holiday instructional camp in Pittsburgh.

We invited coaches from Johnson & Wales Providence, Western New England, Bates, Denison, Bryant, Colgate, Binghamton, Lafayette, North Carolina, and Bryant, all to Pittsburgh for the first annual American Revolution Holiday Camp, which took place on December 20-21st.

Why have it in Pittsburgh? I’m from Pittsburgh. A Pittsburgh team has never won a state title (I lost in the state finals to Ridley). Pittsburgh teams have been roughed up the last few years in the state semifinals. You would think lacrosse is relatively new to the area and yet we’ve had it for decades. Somehow newer lacrosse areas like Florida, Texas, Colorado, California, and Minnesota are cranking out better lacrosse players and teams. We’re trying to fix that.

While the camp was based in Pittsburgh, athletes from Philadelphia, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia were in attendance (More on who stood out later in this post). The youth players had the opportunity to work with the coaches first on Saturday. By the end of their session, the little guys were snapping off passes and had a working knowledge of how to run and defend the two man game. They got better!

In the afternoon session, the high school players took the field. For them this was an opportunity to not only learn new skills and showcase their abilities in front of college coaches but also to learn how high expectations are for college athletes. The coaches constantly demanded that they run everywhere, have their chin straps buckled at all times, and communicate during every moment of play. Little reminders they often hear from their high school coaches likely resonated even further coming from the mouth of a Division 1 coach. These players too, got better, but perhaps in a different way.

Sunday featured a brief training session, a recruiting discussion, and a forty minute game for the high school athletes. The recruiting landscape is changing every year so we felt like it was critical for the college coaches to answer questions about the process in front of players and their parents. Having coaches from D1 and D3 schools present gave the parents a better idea about the differences between the levels of play and how they should approach the recruiting process.

Following the question and answer session, the college coaches divided up amongst the two teams to provide leadership and instruction. The coaches were divided into a team of coaches who had either player or coached at Western New England and those who hadn’t. The non-WNE staff led by Bryant assistant Casey Brodersen came away with the victory.

We’re very thankful for the players, parents, and most importantly the coaches on staff who made the first American Revolution Holiday Camp an incredible success.

One parent sent this email to us.

From a parents’  perspective here is what I really liked:

1) Kid to coach ratio instruction 
2) The incredible enthusiasm of all of the coaches – this goes a long way with the boys (and parents)
3) The non-stop instruction action – station to station 
4) The emphasis on instruction (again) and stopping the action, detailed explanation of correct concepts, using the coaches as examples
5) The boys and parents being able to ask specific recruiting questions – and having opinions given by 10 coaches from different schools
6) The comments from several coaches about being a student and getting the good grades

The American Revolution Holiday Camp was designed to reintroduce players to the highest level of instruction possible from college coaches. Every decision we made from staff selection to venue selection to enrollment numbers was a result of good and bad experiences we’ve had as campers and staff members. Receiving a testimonial like the one above makes all the hard work of planning and executing an event of this magnitude worthwhile.

American Revolution Lacrosse believes that amateur sports are a category of the service industry. We are here to serve our campers, members of our High School National Teams, and members of our International Teams. The athletes and their families don’t owe us anything. We owe them everything. Ensuring their success is viewed as a duty, obligation, and responsibility.

From a recruiting standpoint, the following athletes stood out over the weekend.

1. Levi McCrady 2016 midfielder Fox Chapel (PA) Tall and fast. Extremely polished shot on the run. Everyone at camp was on red alert when he touched the ball. One of the best players in Pittsburgh right now.

2. Bennett Faloni 2016 midfielder Peters Township (PA) A pit bull of midfielder capable of creating for himself, facing off, and competing defensively. Looked like a running back in the clearing game.

3. Teddy McClain 2017 defenseman Sewickley Academy (PA) His height and length immediately intimidates. A nasty demeanor at the point of contact was almost shocking.

4. Max Jaffe 2016 attack Shady Side Academy (PA) Primarily a finisher, Jaffe has developed his dodging since the summer and looked very comfortable working from X.

5. Mitch Van Sickle 2016 goalie Saint Charles East (OH) Unable to participate in the game due to injury but showcased his abilities during the training sessions. Polished, athletic, and very competitive.

6. Daniel Sparks 2016 midfielder Concordia (IN) A strong dodger who is a little rough around the edges, but a committed athlete who has vastly improved since the summer.

7. Devin Sparks 2016 midfielder Concordia (IN) See above. Same player as his twin brother.

8. Chaz Diloreto 2016 defenseman Loudon Valley (VA) Tall close defenseman with tremendous reach. Will become a nightmare for attackmen after spending more time in the weight room.

9. Logan Lair 2016 midfielder Hawken (OH) Very similar player to Faloni. Built, aggressive, violent shooter on the run.

10. Mack Fall 2015 face off middie University (WV) Capable of winning face offs in a variety of ways. Developing an offensive game since we saw him in the fall.

Other players of note

Matt Norton 2016 defenseman Stevenson (IL)

Nolan Brahmey 2016 W.T. Woodson (VA)

Will Swain 2015 face off middie Kiski School (PA)

Patrick Morrow 2016 goalie Mars Area (PA)

American Revolution Lacrosse will offer June camps in Pittsburgh. The Phenom Prep Camp for 2015s and 2016s runs from June 10-12. Only 60 athletes will be accepted. The Phenom Futures camp for 2017s and 2018s runs from June 17-19. Only 100 athletes per grade will be accepted. Currently, nineteen coaches from every NCAA level are committed to both Phenom Prep Camp and Phenom Futures Camp.

More information including application and college coach staff lists for both Phenom Camps can be found here.