The Beginning Of A Life Of Lacrosse
My first memory of lacrosse is hard to pinpoint exactly, but I seem to remember a family party at my cousin’s house and wandering into their garage to find something to play with. I must have been 9 or 10 years old.
I filtered through a bin with hockey sticks and other sports equipment until I picked up this weird thing with strings in the spoon shaped plastic part at the top. I couldn’t figure out how to play with it so I put it back wondering what the heck it was. Little did I know that it would one day change my life.
Fast forward a year or so and my older brother Paul and my Dad came home one night with two Brine lacrosse sticks. My brother had just joined his high school team and was super pumped to get started. Some of his friends played it and so did our cousins so Paul wanted to try it out too. At that point in my life whatever my brother did I thought was the coolest thing in the world, so naturally I wanted to play too.
My first game of catch was with my brother in our backyard. We must have been the only kids in our neighborhood with lacrosse sticks.
Scooping up the ball was hard and catching it was even harder. Paul showed me what he learned at his practices like where to hold my hands when passing and I did my best to try and throw the ball at his stick. He showed me what wall ball was as we bounced the ball against the brick wall behind our garage. I threw it all over the place and would get frustrated. For about a year my only lacrosse training was playing wall ball or catch with my brother and dad.
Lacrosse wasn’t super popular in the suburbs of Detroit with only a small number of schools having teams, so the only games I got to watch at first were my brother’s at Eisenhower High School. They were fast and confusing and I didn’t know what the positions were or any of the rules. I just knew that Paul played midfield and took faceoffs. I would bring our other stick and throw the ball against the chain link fence near the field while the game was going on.
I remember watching a game where Paul picked up the ball and ran by everybody cradling it like crazy as he launched a shot at the net and scored. It was the best thing I’d ever seen.
In the summer of 2005, I went to my first lacrosse camp at the Knights of Columbus park off of 21 Mile Road in Shelby Township, Michigan. It was a week-long camp run through my school St. Lawrence as they had just started a team that year. This was me and almost all of my friends' first formal introduction to lacrosse. I still had the first stick from my brother and was ready to learn everything about this mystical sport.
The main instructors were Rob Dameron and John Dell'lsola. Coach Rob played at Michigan State when they had a Division 1 team. I can still remember some of the basics he taught us and the energy he had when talking about the sport. We did partner passing, learned how to dodge, and even scrimmaged as he shouted out advice the whole time. When switching hands or doing a split dodge you put the stick down between your legs in “the bucket” and then brought it back up to your other hand. When you scooped a ground ball you got your two butts (your butt and the butt of your stick) low. He showed us trick shots like the behind the back and the “Canadian Egg Roll.”
One of the days it started raining and there was a lightning delay. We hid underneath the pavilion nearby and Coach Rob gathered us all to learn more about lacrosse.
He showed us how to adjust our sticks if they were throwing too high or too low. He talked about how it was created by Native Americans and how it was the oldest sport in North America. He told us how the best players in college did wall ball everyday and had the best stick skills. He said we should try to get out to watch a Brother Rice High School game because they practice their stick skills so much that they are like robots throwing perfect passes. I’m almost certain he mentioned the Powell brothers at one point. I didn’t know what college or pro lacrosse even was, but hearing Coach Rob talk about it made me want to learn everything about it.
When that lacrosse camp ended, I felt like I was a real lacrosse player.
All it takes is one stick. All it takes is that first catch. All it takes is a spark in a kid’s eye. That spark can lead to a fire for the rest of a player’s life.
Me and a lot of my friends at that first camp would go on to play varsity lacrosse in high school and several went on to play college lacrosse. Fast forward 18 years later and that first stick has taken me all over the country and to Canada to play the game. It even led me to work for a lacrosse company who provides that first lacrosse experience for kids all over the world with our sticks and camps.
It’s been an unpredictable journey filled with adventures and magic moments from that day when my brother came home with those sticks.