Some dilemmas are truly once in a lifetime. What are the odds that your wedding and the state championship for the team you coach would occur at the same time?
A New York boys lacrosse coach might not know the odds, but he is facing that reality on Saturday.
As The Journal News reported, Westlake (Thornwood, N.Y.) boys lacrosse coach Hunter Burnard, 28, is in the middle of the ultimate case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
“You know, I’m conflicted emotionally, because I want to be there for my guys,” Burnard told WCBS.
Burnard and his fiancée, Ali Steinberg, planned their wedding last fall, with the state tournament far from their minds. While he knew that the Westlake team he coached would be strong, little did he know it would make a run to the state’s Class D championship game.
“I didn’t realize there could be a conflict until we got closer to the season, maybe January or February,” Burnard told the Journal News. “Ali’s twin sister, Jessi, is getting married in September and we didn’t want to overwhelm the family, plus the camp didn’t have a lot of dates open.”
Fast forward about six months. With Wednesday’s 11-10 win against Babylon, Westlake (17-5) clinched a trip to St. John’s Fisher College in Rochester for the final Saturday night (5:30 p.m.), the first state-finals trip in program history.
About a half-hour before game time, Burnard is scheduled to be marrying Steinberg 267 miles away in Beach Lake, Pa.
“Obviously, something we probably should’ve planned a little better,” he told WCBS.
Additionally, Steinberg is a former standout at Suffern (N.Y.) and met Burnard at Rutgers where they both played lacrosse. She is going to be away most of July, playing for Israel at the Federation of International Lacrosse Women’s World Cup in London.
So now, the coach had to choose between two major moments in his life.
It wasn’t easy, but in a sense, it was a no brainer.
“You know, this is my wife. This is who I want to spend the rest my life with,” he told WCBS. “So it’s an easy choice when you think about it like that.”
“I have the path to a state championship on the whiteboard in my office,” Westlake athletic director Donna Pirro told the Journal News. “We were in a meeting recently and Hunter looks up, reads the date and time of the finals and goes ‘That’s exactly what my wedding invitation says.’ ”
The couple was holding out hope that the New York State Public High School Athletic Association would change the time of Westlake’s game vs. Christian Brothers Academy (Syracuse, N.Y.) from 5:30 to the 10 a.m. slot that is currently held by another game, but there will be no such change. The NYSPHSAA didn’t want to set that precedent, and Burnard understood.
“It was a tough decision to make,” Burnard told the Journal News. “I want to be at the game, but I had to chose family and I hope my players understand.”
The players know what they have to do.
“It’s going to be weird not having him there with us,” All-America midfielder Rob DiNota said. “We’re not upset. We understand. We know he’ll be there with us in spirit. He’s got to choose family on this one. I think he’ll be looking for updates on the game, too, every couple of seconds.”
Westlake varsity assistant Mark Castellano and JV coach Bryan Begala will be in charge of the team for the year’s biggest game.
And Burnard will be in the Poconos, on the biggest day of his life – for multiple reasons.