Paul Krome | @paulkrome
Growing up with dreams of playing for a certain team represents a common phase for young athletes.
That holds true for some lacrosse players in their 30s.
Such is the lore surrounding the Navy Old Goats, a post-collegiate men’s lacrosse club comprised largely of Navy alumni. And such was the spot former Midshipman defenseman Dan Doster, a 1984 academy graduate, found himself in during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“I’d read about the Goats in the alumni magazines and was looking forward to playing with them once I turned 40,” said Doster, who achieved the rank of captain during a 26-year Navy career. “Then I moved to the Northwest and found the WOOFs team in Washington state.”
Doster decided to play with the WOOFs at a tournament in Canada before joining the Goats at the Vail Lacrosse Shootout.
“I destroyed my knee,” he said.
Doster’s debut with his dream team would have to wait until 2004.
The Navy Old Goats, meanwhile, were cruising in their second decade of existence. Vail co-founder Jim Soran and former Navy player Mike Gottleib figured a service academy alumni team would be a nice addition to the summer classic’s post-collegiate lineup. The Old Goats first competed in Vail in 1991 — with just five Navy alumni.
Fast-forward 23 years, and the Navy Old Goats will enter at least three teams in the World Lacrosse Festivals July 10-19 in Commerce City, Colo. They’ll compete alongside a record 38 nations that are vying for the official Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championship at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
To say the Navy Old Goats have hit their stride — they spring for formal uniforms, raise funds for an adopted charity or foundation each year and require newcomers to speak on what the sport and Navy lacrosse has meant to them at pre-tournament picnics — would be an understatement.
They also like to compete.
“The great thing about playing with the Old Goats is the chance to play with people across the years you never would get to normally,” said Syd Abernethy, a Navy All-American attackman in 1981. “I assisted Hank Giffin, Class of ’67, in one game. He was a three-star admiral.”
That’s not necessarily uncommon for collegiate alumni teams, but the Navy Old Goats make participation more of an all-encompassing experience. It starts with remembering where they came from and those who made the ultimate sacrifice while defending our freedom. They sing the national anthem prior to games. This year, they’ll raise funds and awareness for the Navy SEAL Foundation.
“It’s important to continue to give back to our fellow brothers in arms who’ve made major sacrifices — whether it’s the Wounded Warrior Project, Navy SEAL Foundation, widows or active-duty guys that have been handicapped,” said Glen Miles, a former Navy All-American at attack and midfield and member of the 1990 world champion U.S. team.
Miles rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. He’s the coach at St. Margaret’s Episcopal (Calif.), which debuted last month at No. 7 in the Nike/US Lacrosse West Region Top 10.
“Aside from the common bonds, the other reality for the Old Goats is that we have a group of highly successful men: CEOs, COOs, CFOs, admirals, generals,” Miles said. “’So-and-so is a general? I knew him when.’ It’s pretty unique for one institution.”
The uniqueness of the Old Goats is part of what drew Tulsa alum Jim Headrick into the fold. A life member of the Naval Academy Alumni Association, he helped form the Old Goats and for years has coordinated all logistics.
“Jim just has so much appreciation for what we went through, and he’s done a great job of keeping all of us together,” Miles said.
Headrick has coached and officiated following his playing days. He referred to current Goats as “the amazing people I have met via Navy lacrosse.”
Participation in an event as unique as the World Festivals is not lost on the program’s executive officer.
“I’ve been telling them between the World Championship teams we’ll never see again, the event, the chance to partner with the Navy SEAL Foundation — this is the chance of a lifetime,” Headrick said. “This is an event our guys will cherish for years to come.”
Indeed, another chapter in the lore of the Navy Old Goats.
May 1 is the deadline to register your team for the World Festivals, also July 10-19 in Denver. Divisions for boys’ and men’s teams are U11 through 60-and-over. Info and registration at WorldLacrosse2014.com.