Club lacrosse players build skills, unity over the summer

Two years ago, assistant boys varsity lacrosse coach Kevin Hudson created a unique and ultimately very successful summer lacrosse team for Westminster students. Wining in tournaments across the country, the team even made it to the semifinals of the Dicks U-15 National Lacrosse Championships. This lacrosse club gave dedicated players an opportunity to hone their athletic dexterity, bolster their leadership skills, and most importantly to compete at a higher level against teams from around the country in weekend tournaments.

“Summer club lacrosse has become increasingly popular as a way for players to compete at a higher level against teams from around the countrym,” said Hudson. “Several Westminster players had participated with other local club teams, but for various reasons were dissatisfied with the experience. A group of parents approached me and asked me if I would organize a ‘Westminster only’ club team to compete against other ‘all star’ organizations. Thankfully, Westminster is fortunate enough to have a core group of very talented players in the 2014, 2015, and 2016 classes to have made this a viable option.

“Furthermore, it is increasingly important for lacrosse players to spend time in the summer competing against players with select teams from other regions in the country,” said Hudson.  “Specifically, if Georgia lacrosse is going to catch up with the hotbeds of Baltimore and Long Island, we have to travel to the mid-Atlantic to face tough competition.”

Members of the Westminster Club Lacrosse team participated in demanding practices throughout the summers of 2010 and 2011. Additionally, many of these practices occurred at night since the club is considered a summer program, rather than an official sports team. In order to create a strong sense of community within the new club, Hudson appointed senior players as assistant coaches, hoping that they would be role models to future varsity players. In the first year, 2011 graduates Jimbo Izlar, Chris Reagan, and Michael Thomas served as assistant coaches. Last summer,  seniors Danny Catan and Shelton Collier took their place as student assistants along with Bennett Gillogly ‘10 and Davis Shamburger ‘09, who joined the coaching staff while home from college.

“As a summer program, the school permitted us to practice at the summer camp in the evenings,” said Hudson. “I made sure practices were very focused and intense. I also recruited Coach [Brooks] Batcheller in order to build a sense of ownership and responsibility for the future among our varsity players.”
The full team was combination of eighth graders and freshman, all determined to have a successful lacrosse season. The roster included freshmen Cole Haverty, William Hudson, Levi Laseter, Malon Linder, Matthew Ramsey, and Charlie Trense.
The Wildcats competed in the U-15 age bracket under specific US Lacrosse rules; all players had to be 14 years old or younger on January 1st of each tournament season, which ultimately limited the team to seventh and eighth grade boys. Over the past two summers the Wildcats competed in tournaments in Georgia, North Carolina, Baltimore, and Annapolis. Most recently, the Wildcats played for the National Championship in the Dick’s Tournament of Champions in Tampa over New Year’s against 19 of the top U-15 teams from around the U.S. and Canada. The Wildcats resulting record in the 2011 summer season was an impressive 18-5-1.

“Playing on the team was a great experience, even with 6:00 a.m. practices,” said Trense. “Our team grew to have certain traditions after while, such as taking ‘good luck’ energy drink shots right before the games.”

Their season culminated with a tournament championship 8-1 win against Lake Norman United (NC) at the Southern Sizzle in Charlotte the last weekend of June. This victory earned the Wildcats an invitation to compete for the National Championship over New Years.

“In those summer tournaments and at Dick’s we faced other select teams from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Canada,” said Hudson. “For the Dick’s tournament I invited six players from outside of Westminster to join our roster. Age qualifications permitted us to carry some young sophomores. We were joined by some very talented players from Northview, Pope, Walton, Wesleyan, Fellowship Christian, and Whitefield. In addition, sophomore Tommy Fort played with the team again for the tournament.”

Because of GHSA rules restricting coaches from working with players out of season, Hudson, as the assistant boys varsity coach, had to hand the reigns over to another coach.

“We were very fortunate,” said Hudson, “to get Paul Thomas, head of the Northside Youth Lacrosse organization, to step in.”

At Dick’s, the Wildcats went 5-1, losing only to the tournament champions, the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) National Team, which draws the best players from all over the country to play together at Dick’s. The Wildcats finished with the second best record of the 19 teams.

The Wildcats had many more memorable moments throughout the course of the season.

“All of the games at Dick’s were quite exciting, but I definitely remember two games in Baltimore in the summer of 2010 against Perry Hall and Towsontowne,” said Hudson. “We were down in both games and [came back to tie] with a team composed mostly of seventh graders. In 2011, the Southern Sizzle championship win against Lake Norman United was particularly sweet as we had lost to them earlier in the summer. Ultimately, since most teams we came across were all-star teams which were comprised of best players from various schools in the nation, it was very satisfying to do so well with a team only centered on Westminster players.”

However, due to increasing difficulty of maintaining, organizing, and coaching such a team, Hudson decided that the Westminster club team will not participate in the summer season this year. Nevertheless, Hudson has devoted himself to coaching a local club team with a strong Westminster presence called “Thunder Lacrosse.”