Paul Krome | @paulkrome
This summer, US Lacrosse will host the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championship in Commerce City, Colo., an event that, for the most part, will feature players in their 20s and early 30s. Most of them, their parents and maybe even their grandparents were not yet born when Harvey Cohen first fell in love with the sport. Some may even be products of youth leagues Cohen helped establish.
Indeed, Cohen, 95, has given a lifetime of service to lacrosse in numerous capacities. He’s the oldest living National Lacrosse Hall of Famer.
Feted for his achievements and contributions at the 2014 US Lacrosse National Convention, presented by Champion, Cohen received the inaugural National Keeper of Lacrosse Award during a tribute that included remarks from US Lacrosse CEO Steve Stenersen, a video and a standing ovation from about 2,000 on hand for the opening session.
“Harvey’s unrelenting passion for the sport and his quest to share the gift has made him both beloved and invaluable,” Stenersen said.
Cohen, though largely confined to a wheelchair these days, continues his leadership in lacrosse as a donor to the US Lacrosse Foundation, the philanthropic arm of US Lacrosse that makes possible many of the national governing body’s programs for sport development and education.
“It’s a worthwhile cause,” Cohen said. “The development of youth lacrosse, the development of teams, the growth of participation and the world games — all these things come out of US Lacrosse. They’ve also done tremendous work with medical advances and equipment grants.”
But while he now contributes resources for US Lacrosse to provide services to grow the game, Cohen may best be known for being on the front lines of the sport’s growth on his native Long Island — before it was a hotbed.
Cohen first got involved in lacrosse as a player while at the New York Military Academy in 1934. He went on to play at Lafayette and later coached the freshman team at Harvard.
But Cohen’s most significant contributions to the game came after he returned from duty in World War II. That’s when he set out to provide kids in his area with opportunities to play. In 1964, he started a youth program, then called the “Midget Lacrosse Program,” in Port Washington, N.Y. Five years later, he helped to bring together four other communities to form the Long Island Midget Lacrosse League. He would go on to develop playing opportunities, programs and teams for high school, post-high school and post-collegiate players.
Why did Cohen work spend much of his life growing the game?
“It’s a great game. You’re not dependent on size alone to be able to play,” Cohen said. “It’s a game in which people get to know and enjoy each other. I’ve enjoyed being involved.”Perhaps not as much as the thousands of players who have benefited from his involvement.
The Keeper of Lacrosse Project is a character education program funded in part by donations to the US Lacrosse Foundation, the philanthropic arm of US Lacrosse. To support the responsible growth of the sport, consider making a donation today.