Things often get a little bumpy when lacrosse rivals go head to head.
It’s all or nothing each time Lakeland/Panas battles Yorktown for possession of a tarnished silver cup or Suffern battles North Rockland for a relatively meaningless league title.
The level of intensity alone is worth the price of admission.
When the game ends, this community of competitors usually lingers on the field long enough to catch up. It’s a ritual. These kids all know each other.
It’s what I love about lacrosse.
When there’s a need in the community, I’ve seen rivals band together and play to raise money or awareness.
And this week, I noticed a situation that needs prompt attention.
For a couple of hours on Monday, Peekskill and Yonkers put on quite a show. It was less than spectacular lacrosse. The coaches on both sidelines were busy teaching basics and offering encouragement start to finish.
Even the referees were doing what they could to lessen what is undoubtedly a steep learning curve.
Most of the players have less than one year of experience. They do possess desire and enthusiasm. And that is how they separated themselves. It was great watching kids play without all of the pressure that is often so apparent when traditional powers step on the field.
It was fun.
The Red Devils have been at this awhile, and that added exposure to the game resulted in a 12-3 win.
“I’m still proud of you,” Bulldogs coach Kyle Calabro told his team.
Every single player who’s currently hoping to catch the attention of a college program needs to find Torpy Field or Tibbetts Brook Park and watch these kids play. It’s a stripped-down version of lacrosse.
It’s not about headlines or scholarships.
“When you’re on the team, you build a brotherhood,” Yonkers midfielder Isiah Frias said. “It’s a family outside your normal family. We just have fun with each other, it’s not just strictly business. We play to win, but some people lose games and we bring out the positives. Don’t put your head down. Don’t be negative.”
I’m sensing an opportunity to grow the game.
“Around my complex, Dunbar Heights, people are like, ‘Oh, you’re the lacrosse guy.’ I have my stick with me all the time,” Peekskill midfielder Savion Williams said. “Starting a youth program, getting more kids interested, that would be great for us.
“Lacrosse can be your ticket out of here. You may not get that scholarship, but you’ll get a work ethic, and that’s something.”
The basics are in place.
Calabro and Red Devils coach Troy Lepore are the right people in the right place at the right time. They are genuine pied pipers with lacrosse sticks. Both schools have the helmets, the uniforms, the gloves, the pads.
What they need is something we happen to have plenty of.
Lepore is a former standout at Hen Hud, and his old school played host to Peekskill for a number of workouts in the offseason. We need to encourage more of that. How cool would it be for Yorktown and John Jay or Mamaroneck and Iona Prep to host these schools for a day of practice each season?
Put the kids on a bus and let them watch as some of the best rivals go at each other, then invite them back for some one-on-one clinic time.
“That would be awesome,” Lepore said. “Anything we can do to make them better, help from anybody is much appreciated.”
Planting a seed in an urban environment will pay off in the future.
Darrel Kidd was at the game Monday, too. He started playing the game his junior year at Peekskill and went to Hampton University. Kidd was on the club team, which this past season was elevated to Division I.
The program is the first HBCU program to play at that level.
Guess what Kidd wants to see and perhaps be a part of?
“I didn’t get to reap the benefits of having a youth program,” he said. “So a lot of times on varsity they were teaching fundamentals where other schools were teaching concepts. I’m looking forward to someday having a program here to groom the kids coming up.”
In the meantime, there is something that can be done.
Lacrosse requires a lot of time and practice. It’s hard to excel from March to June unless the players have a stick within reach the rest of the year. Anybody have one laying around?
There has to be a way to get the usable equipment cluttering basements and garages into the hands of players who need it.
“Look at the cost of playing this game,” Kidd said. “A stick alone can be hundreds of dollars. The game is expensive and if you don’t have it, you probably won’t be drawn to lacrosse.”
We have varsity clubs and booster clubs with enough volunteers to collect and transport used equipment.
“Getting real equipment would be huge,” Calabro said. “Our boys are using phys ed sticks. Hopefully, the pockets are legal.”
Momentum is always important.
Right now, Peekskill and Yonkers are heading in the right direction, and with a little nudge the schools might eventually develop a rivalry.