Team USA Takes Timeout to Teach at Champion Challenge
Almost 400 youth players and coaches gathered Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012 at US Lacrosse’s Champion Challenge for clinics hosted by Team USA and held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Between busy schedules of training and competition, both the Team USA men and women took the afternoon to share skills, drills and lacrosse wisdom with clinic attendees from across the southeastern U.S.
||Youth players get a chance to learn from and mingle with the best players in the world at U.S. national team player clinics.
Two local programs earned a chance to take part in a private meet-and-greet session with Team USA — Lakewood Ranch Lightning (boys) and John Carroll High School (girls) — where they were treated to one-on-one time with the world’s best prior to the afternoon’s clinics.
"We are still a young program, so the girls really enjoyed the tips that the Team USA women gave during the meet-and-greet and clinic," said Lisa Conway, head coach of John Carroll. "This is our third year at Champion Challenge, and it is always a highlight of our season. We had an awesome time!"
"Our kids view the Team USA players as rock stars, but they certainly didn’t act that way," said Chris Sforzo, head coach of the Lakewood Ranch Lightning. "Throughout the day, the national team players were approachable and genuinely excited to interact with the kids on a personal level. The clinic drills were not only educational, but also age-appropriate. Fundamentals and fun are the two main themes of our programs, and from those perspectives, US Lacrosse hit this event out of the park."
In addition to Saturday’s youth clinics, for the first time in the event’s seven-year history, US Lacrosse also hosted a mini youth tournament Sunday morning for U15 teams with players representing each of the three US Lacrosse Chapters Florida — Gulf Coast, Orlando and South Florida. Orlando’s Orange Crush was one team who came in for the entire weekend to participate in clinics, play in the youth tournament and watch Team USA in action.
Youth players weren’t the only ones receiving one-on-one access from Team USA. The women’s senior team coaching staff also conducted coaching clinics, focusing on "The Team USA Way." In addition to X’s and O’s, youth coaches were given an inside look into the philosophy and team-building strategies employed by the reigning world champions.
Several Team USA members on both the men’s and women’s sides brought Sunshine State ties to this exhibition event. Men’s team veterans Casey Powell (Boca Raton/St. Andrew’s School), Doug Shanahan (Ft. Lauderdale/Pine Crest) and Chazz Woodson (Miami/Ransom Everglades) all reside and coach high school teams in Florida. On the women’s side, Erica LaGrow and Caitlyn McFadden both serve as assistant coaches of the University of Florida women’s team.
"Overall, our players were incredibly touched by the genuine feeling of the love of the game Team USA passed down from one generation of lacrosse players to the next," Sforzo said. "The entire weekend was a tremendous experience and we will make it a priority to be back next year."
The 2012-13 national teams clinic schedule will be released in fall 2012. For more information on U.S. national team clinics and events, please visit www.uslacrosse.org/TopNav/NationalTeams.aspx.
• Lakewood Ranch Lightning players on their clinic with the U.S. men
• Orange Crush U15 girls on their Champion Challenge clinic experience