I’m in Baltimore for lacrosse camp. I was in Vermont. I was in New York, in Lake Placid, Saratoga, and even snuck in a minute visiting my parents in Oswego. Then I was in Vermont again, but now I’m in Baltimore. July has been a trip.
That’s lacrosse. That’s life. If you’re not moving your feet and traveling, you’re not doing it right.
I presently find my toes straddling the sideline of a gorgeous grass field on the campus of Goucher College. I’ve been fortunate enough to be offered an opportunity to cover the High School Aces Camp, a production of the boys over at Trilogy Lacrosse. I’ll be here for the next few days watching some of the best in the business coaching the next generation of bests in the business.
I got in late last night, after my sixteen hour rental car odyssey brought me to campus. I snuck in a couple z’s in the dorm before having to get up and return said rental car. Coaches rolled in starting around nine am, for a briefing and itinerary of the day to come, as well as the format for the week. I was greeted by a friendly “what are you doing here” by one Corey Bulken, a B’ville/LeMoyne/Charlotte Hounds buddy who I habitually run into everywhere I go. Good people last. I like that.
First order of business was a meeting for the coaches, headed up by the Ryan Boyle, Mitch Belisle, and Jimmy Vlahakis. I’ve watched these guys on TV and in person for years, but this has been my first opportunity to meet these guys and I’m even fortunate enough to work with them in a media/reporting capacity.
Ryan opened up with a statement that was the medicine for any of the ugliness and negative connotation associated with the words “club, lacrosse, summer and/or showcase”. He came right out and pretty much told the guys “Hey, this is what we’ve been waiting for all summer, we actually get to COACH KIDS”.
I didn’t immediately understand, but looking around at all the embroidered college polos it was pretty soon clear to me that these are the thankless bunch of college coaches you see on the OTHER sideline all summer.
While I’ve always admired their profession and tried to appreciate their ridiculous travel schedules, I hadn’t really considered that these guys don’t really ever get to stand up and run around and COACH KIDS. Young men who’ve been successful enough to coach at the college level all spring, and are immediately confined to notebooks, emails, and camp chairs. While their job IS still lacrosse, I can only imagine the itch to get to the other sideline to help players improve, not just cherry pick the best three for recruitment.
That’s the name of the game here, improvement.
While the coaches are in fact current college coaches, the main focus of this week is individual improvement. Boyle went on to say, and this is not verbatim, that too many kids are just too caught up with getting recruited. Instead of coaching the kid to be recruited, coach the kid to be good at lacrosse, and then he’ll get recruited.
Following the flood of check-ins and the campers successfully navigating the labyrinth dormitory, a meeting was help for the campers AND their parents. While my memory of summer lacrosse camps is ever-fading, I’m pressed to remember if my parents were ever invited to stay and hear from the director of the camp. After? Maybe. I really thought it was quite nice. And, following suit, it was simple and to the point.
They (Ryan and Mitch) introduced themselves, followed by a quick introduction of the entire staff. It lasted no more than fifteen minutes, just a brief outline of what they were hoping to accomplish as coaches, and a statement of purpose that we (collectively) all find ourselves at Goucher College this week in the mutual interest of improving each and every camper as both a player, as well as a young man.
The first session lasted a little less than two hours. Acknowledging the madness that is club lacrosse, Boyle asked the collective group of 180 boys “who played in a tournament this past weekend” to which 80%+ raised their hands. In the interest of not running the boys into the ground after they already might be a little banged up, the first session was pretty much all stick work and the group was split into positions, with the attackmen, midfielders, and the “mutants” (Defense/LSM/Goalies) each going to separate fields.
I brought my notebook out to write down notes for this article. While I got some notes, the majority of my scribbles were the tiny little tweaks and variations on the most classic drills that I had just never seen before. I did my best mimicry of the “brilliant” guys from those Guinness commercials under my breath. People heard me. It was embarrassing.
Following the session, there was a recruiting workshop in the athenaeum (New word. Big word. Fancy Theatre.) just across from the dorm. There are a couple of workshops scheduled over the next few days. I’m not too familiar with how other workshops are run, but I do believe they serve the wonderfully pure purpose of dispelling any of the myth and lore that the boundless mind of the teenage boy is able to conjure and convince himself of. There’s a lot of misconception about the “next step” to the college level and how that courtship is conducted, and I figure that hearing as much honesty directly from the mouths of the guys who do the recruiting is a great resource for any young player.
The night was concluded with the traditional ordering of the two hundred million pizzas from the local
spot. Since the dawn of time, campers have always had eyes bigger than their stomachs and the coaches wind up the beneficiaries. Occasionally even the resident scribe gets in on the action. Maybe they think I’m a coach. Either way, I’ll take it!
With day one in the books, I’ve got nothing but enthusiasm heading into the rest of the week. This camp is flawless so far and I don’t really have much reason to suspect any deviation in the coming days.
There’s a lot to look forward to, with teams being assigned to coaches tomorrow, and a live-streamed All-Star game via the good folks over at LSN.
The players are pumped to be playing. The coaches are elated to be coaching. I’ve got food in my belly and the sport I love is a major part of my life. The world is good today.