A rising tide lifts all boats.
I’ve heard this expression many times, and it was always appropriate. It also applies to my approach to promote Midwest lacrosse players and teams to the nation.
If one player from a midwestern squad gets a Division-I, D-II, D-III, NAIA, JUCO or MCLA opportunity, we should shout it from the rooftops. Because if one player can get there, why can’t more?
If one player rises, others can as well.
Who Am I?
My interest in lacrosse started in 1997 when I met a girl from West Islip, New York. Being a lifelong Chicagoan, I only had a passing knowledge of lacrosse. In West Islip, it’s a way of life. Her brother, friends, and nephews all played lacrosse whenever they could, heading to the park to play, much like my friends, and I did with baseball and basketball. I was amazed to see chain link cages in their parks, instead of the chain link basketball nets I was accustomed to seeing in Chicago.
That started my passion for lacrosse.
I followed it as much as possible – catching college games on ESPN, going to see local high school games in the North Shore suburbs of Chicago, and of course, taking in games when I had the chance while visiting Long Island. Fast forward 10 years to 2007, I’m still in Chicago, and that girl is now my wife. We have two children, Michael Jr., and Delaney and they both play lacrosse.
Fanning the Flame
My wife, Patty, calls her friend’s younger brother to give lessons to our 5-year old. I think this is a little excessive, but she says by five on the Island they’re already working on their off hands. My son’s trainer was an All-American from Rutgers who participated on the U.S. team. We were all in!
I supported his love of lacrosse with daily games of catch, coaching, and guidance. My son started playing for various youth programs and travel teams and has been involved for about eight years. He’s played on Long Island, Chicago, Detroit and with various travel teams throughout the Midwest. It’s not an understatement to say that I’ve traveled all across this country with him, and I’ve witnessed multiple levels of talent. I’ve been fortunate to have met countless coaches, parents, and players from all over the country who share my same passion.
One memorable trip was for the Dicks NDP National Championship in Tampa, Florida with my son’s U11 team. This team beat up on their Midwest counterparts handily and thought their success would show well on this stage. When we were scheduled to play Team 91 Crush (from Long Island), we knew we would see something we hadn’t yet witnessed among our midwest competition. My son kept telling teammates that he had played with a few of them on Long Island and that they had mastered both hands along with behind the back shots and passes.
He was right, Team 91 Crush was incredible. Passing, shooting, footwork, and positioning. Behind the back shots and passes, they beat us 20-0! Not because that was all that they were able to put on us, but because they decided 20 was enough! At one point, to slow the game down and to limit their scoring, they made 75 passes without dropping the ball. Simply amazing!
I believe that team featured a young Brennan O’Neill, who a few years later became the first 8th grader to commit to a Division I college. The lesson my son’s team learned from that game was … they weren’t physically superior, just more skilled. If Midwestern players focus on improving their skills, they can keep up with anybody.
At least five boys from that travel team are D-I prospects today. A few of those players play for Loyola Academy (Wilmette Ill.).
Last spring that Loyola Academy team traveled East and played three games in Baltimore and three in New York. They went 5-1, including a win over Victor (N.Y.), the No. 8-ranked team in the country.
The tragedy was that it was big news and common knowledge among my Long Island circle of lacrosse buddies, yet there wasn’t a peep in the press in Chicago or the Midwest. I found that to be outrageous. How can a team from the Midwest go to Victor, win and … crickets!
That brings me to the present, my mission, my calling. I will be that voice. That cheerleader to stand and yell – “Hey! We may be from Illinois or Michigan, Indiana or Ohio, but we can take on anyone. We have talent, skill, and physicality.”
If we don’t promote us, who will?
So, here is my pledge to you. I will do my best to spread the word. I will travel to watch games personally. I will talk to coaches and players, and I will try to promote the best of the best we have to offer here in the Midwest. Because if one succeeds, it helps all of us.
A rising tide lifts all boats.
I will be contributing a weekly column at Laxrecords.com highlighting my journey throughout the 2018-2019 lacrosse season.
I’d love to hear from all the coaches, players, or parents about big games, big players or any news that should be promoted.