In the Florida Space Coast that I have called home since 2004, lacrosse is still in its relative infancy and still in the stage of emerging sport. Nonetheless, growth has been steady since its inception in 2008 with a youth lacrosse club of 300 kids and growing, 11 area high schools with lacrosse programs, and two college lacrosse programs (Florida Tech and East Florida State College). For the third year, we have partnered with professional lacrosse players, Ray and Brian Megill (now also professional lacrosse coaches within their Performance Sport Systems youth athletic training and development company) and former Division I women’s college (St. Joe’s) lacrosse standout and current college lacrosse coach (Rowan University); to put on 4 day summer camps for our local youth and high school lacrosse athletes.
Participation has increased each year, this year totaling 82 boys and girls. It is an incredible sight for me who witnessed a community in 2004 that by in large had never heard of the sport of lacrosse, to have just experienced 82 boys and girls from 2nd to 12th grade being trained by lacrosse coaches of the highest caliber. The excitement for the sport and the benefit this brings to our players is immeasurable. As a lacrosse coach, year in and year out when these outstanding ambassadors of the game visit our community to work with our kids, I never cease to learn something new that I bring to my teams, from drills and techniques to modern approaches to the game that the evolution of the game have necessitated.
I am not alone out there soaking in all of the excitement and knowledge that these coaches bring to the Space Coast lacrosse community. Many other moms and dads, some coaches, some not; take off of work to watch the 4 hour long camp each day. An experience like this uplifts the whole lacrosse community and gives lacrosse a main stream feel for the relative minority of us that have embraced the sport.
Unique to this year, with the camp’s growing numbers, the Megill brothers enlisted the help of local college players that are currently home on summer break. Former local high school lacrosse stars Dylan and Quinn Lowdermilk (both currently play for Florida State University) and Garrett Arnold (currently plays for Jacksonville University) were out there assisting the pros, already feeling their own pull to give back and pay it forward at such young ages. This only sets the stage for these young men to graduate in the near future, return home and be part of the next generation that will grow and nurture lacrosse locally.
This is how a lacrosse community is built. It starts with a small group of people that introduce the sport that they love and watch it slowly encourage others to not only participate, but join in the effort to grow the sport. The kids that embrace the sport and fall in love with it one day return to their communities as adults and parents to pay it forward and continue the effort.
That is what occurred in my home town of Clark NJ where it was one man, James Carovillano who brought lacrosse to our town in 1968 before I was even born. So many of us that he coached are now ourselves parents coaching and promoting the game, some back in our home town of Clark, NJ, others in other corners of the country like the Florida Space Coast.
The Megill brothers, also from Clark, NJ, reached the level of professional lacrosse players in large measure because of the efforts of Mr. C (what all of his players affectionately called him) long before they were born. The first time I met Brian Megill was in 2014 when we were both playing in our high school alumni game. Mr. C was at the game officiating it. I hope one day he can make his way down to the Space Coast to see the camp that he played a role in creating.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.