FLIP'S JOURNAL | 2010
FLIP'S JOURNAL | Finally United in Manchester
I just watched the second half of the 2010 World Games for lacrosse in Manchester, England. Actually I only saw most of the second half/ The USA will be bringing home the bacon, a title they will defend in Denver in 2014. Folks around here are already getting worked up about it.
An extra man empty netter made for the 2- goal margin in the 12-10 final score. It was good drama. The USA had the game in hand early in the second half, starting out with an 8-4 lead, but the boys from north of the border put on a nice run and did eventually lead 10-9 for a brief period. Team USA withstood the Canadian barrage pretty well, though, and I think Team Canada did run a little short on gas late in the game
The Canadians have so many lefties (hockey) and they all seem to have great sticks and finely tuned pockets as they look for every advantage. As a coach I love lefties, and I’ve been known to make a kid an attackman simply because his natural hand was left.
PRETTY GOOD, EH?
I must admit that I like many things about the Canadian team, and for the life of me I don’t understand why, with the depth and breadth of talent available to the American team, we don’t blow them out. The Canadians do have some truly great players, like Brodie Merrill (LSM/Plonkey style) and John Grant (a regular Gary Gait). But they also have like a 40-year old goalie, most of them play very little outside on a big field and most of their long poles are not used to playing with the longer sticks. That along with a lack of depth certainly was at least a fragment of their demise as the time wound down late in the fourth with no shot clocks or handicaps to make the Americans do anything with the ball for the final few minutes, which became mice chasing cats.
Maybe it is because the Canadians play so much ‘box’ lacrosse, but that whole Fogo thing doesn’t exist as much for them. The face-off guy can play, you know, like a regular player. It looks nice. I think it is very important for a face-off guy to add capable (defense) and to be a little dangerous (he might go to the goal).
The Canadians look to score on any kind of transition where they can break down the defense and basically make it a one on none and where the goalie is a non-factor. If they don’t get what they want they settle. Mix that running game with a sic behind the backer or two from your John Grant and you are pretty much in any game. Still, I say we (Americans) didn’t make them (Canadians) play good team defense to be successful. They only use long poles for three months every 4 years!
THE AMERICAN WAY
I don’t understand why we as a country don’t just pick the most athletic team and go run everyone to death, but until later in this game there was a lot of just a few Americans working for match-ups with short stick defenders. The Canadian defense could hold together pretty well with time to regroup and wait for the dodge. We change players on pretty much every offensive possession to get those specialist scorers in the game. I would love to see more team offense where a lot of different players score goals. I guess that is just where the game and our style of play is.
AND IN THE END….
The American cream did rise to the top in the end. It was a great game played between two great teams.
FLIP'S JOURNAL | Love, Love Me (I) Do
Yesterday I was much more than HONORED to be an invited guest at the Mike Hamm wedding, where Vanessa and Hammy did the “I do” thing in a very upbeat yet time honored and traditional way. Before I go on at all, though, I must commend the couple on some of the logistical greatnesses of the event. The ceremony took place at the Trinity United Methodist Church, a grand old edifice in downtown Denver. The church’s architectural setting would satisfy even the most discriminating traditionalist with its giant pipe organ and hand carved curved mullions inside the stained glass windows that showered late afternoon light upon the pulpit. I mention this only because I also would not have been surprised even a little bit if Mike Hamm had gotten himself married next to a river somewhere or at Sullivan’s (bar and grill near CSU that no longer exists) for that matter. Mike has always marched to the beat of shall we say a little bit different drummer.
DOWNTOWN (Petula Clark)
The ceremony was neither small nor large or the least bit gaudy. The ‘family’ atmosphere was seemingly built and calculated right into those moderate numbers in attendance, It was big, but it was not.
For the reception, one needed only to cross correctly at the stop light on the corner of the cathedral and 'voila’ The Brown Palace Hotel lobby became just a few steps and a simple push through the glass revolving door which opened into the beautifully appointed lobby area. The late afternoon was soothing. There was no hustle, no personal bustle or oppressive mid-summer temperatures begging to hear the question, “Where else would I rather be?” Pretty much there was nowhere else one might have rather been. It was a good place to be and it was stress free. Anyway, it was a most pleasant very short 30-second walk from alter to alcohol, with ample ‘quiet’ time to help one get comfortable in and enjoy being in the concrete jungle.
While the lengthy wedding party picture taking was going on back at the church, a full-blown cocktail party erupted amongst the rest of us in the cozy confines outside the banquet room where the eating and ultimately the dancing would later take place. The photo interlude gave the guests the time and a place to ‘get comfortable’ with their Upper East Side surroundings. I think these people (Brown Palace Hotel) have done this sort of thing before.
There was good representation for CSU lacrosse spanning the turn of the century through the first half of this decade. There were only a handful of the laxers, but the cross section revealed many layers of the CSU lacrosse family. The first person I saw was Nick (Stanitz) Harper (A – 2005) who was our first person then, too. He was a star, but also our face and image, too. Beneath his good looking exterior he was a tough kid. In many ways that’s who we were during that period, although I think he stands alone in the charming, single guy at weddings thing.
There were two sets of brothers that had played at CSU as well. The groom was one, and he has a twin, Matt, that played for us as well, although I defy anyone to find two more different twins. They did both play midfield and they both graduated in 2002. Being with them really brought to mind a couple of things that demonstrate what great teammates they were in our team family, a true band of brothers. Mike was great as a player because he knew just how to help the team in the best possible way. He could score two or three goals in a game and literally play a total of five minutes and touch the ball for less than five seconds for the whole game, whatever time it took to get it from Napi (A – 2002) to the back of the net. He was uncanny and efficient, and a bit sneaky, too, but what I think about is things like the fact that he never let me, the family ‘preacher’ forget what family was. A practice session never came and went without me getting a hug from this Teddy Bear, not ever. It was a joy to motivate him because he loved the team so much and at times when we would be getting ready to play a game the next day or whatever, I would look at him and he just looked like he was about to explode from excitement. He alone could make me feel like I was Knute Rockne or Vince Lombardi.
I have another story about the best man, twin Matt, that I’ve told a million times, but I think it is worth telling one more as this first decade of the 21<sup>st</sup> century begins to fade into the all new Facebook and Twitter age. When I say that Matt loved the team like no other I really am not kidding. Matt played four years and probably never missed one practice. He tried as hard and improved a lot, but the truth be known he did not play many important minutes in big games in those 4 years. In 2001 we had a great team. I had only the highest expectations for this team. I never felt as strongly that we would win a national championship. I felt it so strongly that I began to write this on-line journal that very year because I wanted to document the season. I suppose that is a somewhat arrogant approachI had always done journals as a coach, but this was the first time I typed it and posted on line and all that. Anyway, things went along beautifully on our path. Well, except for that disaster in Durango when we blew a big lead in the RMLC final and lost to BYU. Steve Austin (yes, old people, Steve Austin) led a Cougar comeback that practically was worth $6 million. Perhaps everything does happen for a reason and a few short weeks later we exacted our ‘revenge’ when we met and beat them in St. Louis in a National semi-final, which was probably the best game I have ever been a part of. I knew that semi-final was THE game. Whoever we would play the next day, and it turned out to be Stanford, could not beat us. So we had this rare and wonderful opportunity to blow out someone in the final (16-7) and there was no drama. As a coach the game was just there to enjoy. Our team was the best and it was playing at its best.
WHO CAN FORGET THE “HATER’S REVENGE TOUR?”
At that time other teams were just beginning to hate us and that passion did grow rather quickly. All the teams at the national championships were in the stands that day so the crowd was a good one. Somewhere early in the fourth quarter a chant began to build in the stands behind me. “Thirty, Thirty, THIRTY”, and I’m like, what is this? As it turned out they were chanting Matt’s number, as in he had been rooting us on in such a big way, running up and down the sidelines behind the bench, that everyone in the crowd wanted me to put him in the game, which of course I immediately did. That was such a cool thing and it stands as one of those defining, unforgettable family moments.
TRUTH – THERE ARE NO DEGREES OF SEPERATION
Doug and Scott Priebe were in the Hammy wedding as part of the wedding and they also played during that time. Both took and take great pride in what they did with the team, being a big part of us playing in 4 straight Championship games, but what was defining about them and the wedding was that Mama Priebe, Chris, and Papa Priebe, Hank, were guests at the wedding as well. So our family of lacrosse was so strong that it also spanned generations. Those two not only supported their sons and them playing lacrosse, but they traveled pretty much everywhere we did and still keep up with the team even now. My wife, Ada, thought Hank was the team photographer back then because he was always there and always popping off pictures. There have been a lot of parents becoming good friends with other parents over the years. These are the things that really bring home what family means.
I know that I am not Ernest Hemmingway, Ken Keysey or Tom Robbins, but I have been recently ‘flatttergasted’ by people who tell me they still, after so much time gone by, begin their computer day with a stop at the ‘Coach’s Journal” bookmark, only to be disappointed by a headline that still reads CSU 10 – Boston College 7. For those who might still ‘waste’ a little time over there, I dedicate this to you. I apologize for what they see, because it might just as well say, “Ground Hog Day Gazette”. For some reason I have not adjusted well to the change that took place when what I do on a keyboard gained an every day name, The Blog, and equally true is that what I used to do can never be what I do DO.
I am not really a big public speaker. I have never grabbed a microphone. They have always been dropped into my hand. Mostly all the people at the wedding had no clue as to who I might be. Yet I really wanted to make a public toast to express how much this group represented the values I hold so dearly. In the end I did my toasting in groups of two or three, and I chickened out on the whole public proclamation which had pushed so hard on my button this night.
It is true. I did have a not-so-finely tuned mixture of Corona, Margarita and red wine working for me, but not much, and the family flamed feelings I was feeling were in place before I took a sip of anything.
It’s easy to talk about family, and how that dynamic really finds a home on a team and in side the team itself. We (CSU) do walk around with a bit of an attitude that might make others think that we think we invented the word family as it is applied to the team and its success. Of course we did not. At the same time we all believe we took team as family to places where few have tread before. True or not this is a tremendous source of collective power, that, when used well has almost no limit.
This was my second Hamm wedding, having attended Matt’s several years ago, and being with the two of them reminded me of a couple of things that really bring our family concept home for me. I coached Mike Hamm for four years and he defined family for me in a couple of ways. He bought into the whole finding his role concept in many ways, making it extremely easy for me to individually motivate him, but the really great family thing about him was the hug he always gave me at practice every day. No matter how caught up I may have been in my little coaching world, Hammy, like I said, never left the premises without giving me a hug. He also never forgot that we were playing a game, and that it was the joy of playing that made it great. He knew in the same way that I know that the winning and losing will find its own way in a good way more often than not when you are a family.
FLIP'S JOURNAL | Zero Degrees of Separation
Being together with so many from the CSU lax family one night recently, and actually twice in less than a month for the blessed events of matrimony, got me thinking about what kind of moments wind together into the mix that makes up the great coaching experience for me, and that night last week was not just, “Isn’t it cool to see all these guys together still and again some ten years after the last whistle at CSU and yeah, that’s family! It was much more than that. The realization of the depth of the CSU lacrosse connection is almost staggering.
0 DEGREES OF SEPARATION
Kale Nelson (’03) works with and for Nick Harper (‘05’). So does Mike Hamm (’02). Kale also works at Mike Roth's (’01) Denver nightclub called Herman's Hideaway on weekends. Brian Linehan (’01) and Adam Sisbarro (’02) work part or full time for Pat Shanley (’98) and his valet service in and around the Denver area. Tom Fender (’08) works in a hospital group situation where the job came about through Garrett Fitzgerald’s ('08) mother, Maureen, who is large and in charge over there. Jack Genadek (’06) works with Garrett at the Fitzgerald’s investment firm in Denver. I am not sure if I got all the years of graduation correct, and in fact, I’m fairly certain that I did not. I also think I might be missing a few more or other similar connections, but the picture I paint is definitely one that goes well beyond simple coincidence. The ‘family’ really is connected in very meaningful and career oriented ways.
I did not mean to wander off my plan quite that far, so I am not going to go too far into detail. I was really thinking about coaching times and things that define that whole coaching thing for me. A moment that will always be etched like granite in my brain is one from my second full season, the spring of 1998. We were mid-way through our 4-game trip to Southern California, a trip where I shot my first and only boot to become officially a proud part of the CSU Ram family. That also is another story.
BODY OF WORK
This was a most important trip for our team development. I planned it carefully>
Us taking the next step in my little lacrosse program-building movie that had opened with me leaving Santa Barbara to head for Fort Collins was the 'srory line' that mandated us to go to California and beat some good teams in order to have a chance to get to that St. Louis/National Championship thing in May that I had heard about.
I had been living in California for 12 years and doing some or a lot of lacrosse coaching at various levels. I was aware of the (what is now) MCLA teams and how good they were. The first thing I did when I got to California was become the "B" Team coach at UCSB. The 1987 Gauchos were good. They beat Whittier for the WCLL Championship with a bunch of California kids that had spent the last 4 years working towards exactly that. They were hungry Gauchos. I love that kind of team. They also had Pete Reich for starters. He could dominate the face off and shoot over 90 on the run with both hands. I mean what do you want, at least talent wise. It was fun to show up there just then. Meanwhile Whittier was chocked full of Canadians recruited by one Doug Locker and they were the DIII real deal. It was good drama.
BREAK ON THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE
On the other side of the coin, we (CSU) were at best a disheveled bunch of individuals, not yet a woven fabric of family. As a group my 20 or so CSU lacrosse players pretty much thought Bennigans was as good as it got. Or at least that was my take. I remember thinking how weird it was to me that none of these Colorado kids ever wanted to eat someplace in a new town that they hadn't already eaten at back