In just three short years, the East Lacrosse Youth program has grown from 10-20 players to nearly 150 kids who are anxious to learn the game.
Each summer, East Head Coach Pete Stevenson and an involved parent, Charlie ‘The Godfather’ Freedman, have spent their Thursday afternoons teaching the fundamentals of lacrosse to kids from 3rd to 8th grade. Every Thursday in June and July, you’ll find six goals on three fields packed with kids and coaches working on their stick work and running drills.
“We want to become the best program in the state,” said Freedman. “Obviously you have to have a strong youth program to do that.”
The Leopards have found success in building a healthy youth program by giving the kids a weekly lesson, rather than a one week cram session. Freedman admitted the idea is ‘open source’ meaning he encourages others to use the weekly clinic with their youth programs.
“Kids get burned out when they focus on one thing for too long,” said Freedman. “We decided to give them lessons once a week which gives them time to go home and practice it and then come back and learn something new.”
Standing in the midst of the kids are the current high school players who help coach and teach.
“We have to have the varsity players here because it gives the little guys someone to look up to,” said Freedman. “On the flip side, it makes the older guys more involved in the youth program.”
East uses the proceeds as a fundraiser to help continue to grow the program, opening up possibilities like out-of-state away games, something East hasn’t benefited from in the past.
In addition to the youth clinic, East runs a three-day clinic for their high school players. Typically Stevenson and his assistants are the coaches but this year former BYU Head Coach Jason Lamb did the coaching.
“I know Coach Stevenson very well,” said Lamb. “He wanted me to come out last year but I was just getting involved with the Denver Outlaws and didn’t have free time so I made him a promise to come out this year.”
Lamb is currently the Director of Lacrosse Operations at Notre Dame and had some free time to spend with East before heading to a recruiting event in San Diego. Stevenson and Lamb have formed a special friendship since Stevenson played for Lamb at BYU from 2002-2005 and coached alongside him in 2007 & 2008. The two talk frequently about lacrosse and life.
Coach Lamb also helped with the youth clinic, showing kids the proper step-down shot and emphasizing quick passing. At the end of the clinic, he told the youth and high school players three important principles.
- Play lacrosse as much as you can.
- Hit the wall, but only if it was made out of cement.
- Get good grades in school, especially if you’re looking to play lacrosse after high school.