May 8, 2013

World Class Treatment: Team USA Members Inspire Future Stars

by Lane Errington | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Team USA attacker Katie Rowan instructs a young player on the tools of the trade at a youth clinic hosted by US Lacrosse at Champion Challenge in January 2013.
© Romeo Guzman

We’ve all been there. No matter your age, gender, race or creed, we can all relate to the living room floor.

It’s where many of us took our first steps. Where we learned to play that one family game that, years later, still brings a smile to our face. Where, for some of us, we learned the meaning of the word timeout.

And for 14-year-old Kate McFarland, it’s where earlier this year she found inspiration to pursue the dream of playing college lacrosse.

Kate’s family hosted five U.S. women’s national team players in January for clinics with local youth and high school players in Roswell, Ga. Liz McFarland, a board member of the Roswell Youth Lacrosse Association (RYLA) — and mother to eighth-grade triplets Alex, Kate and Sam — led the effort to bring Team USA south for the winter.

“National team players are great examples of what a young woman can achieve if she sticks with sports,” Liz McFarland said. “Girls in our community have a hunger for high-level lacrosse instruction, especially from women who are young and relatable.”

Team USA players Brittany Dashiell, Katrina Dowd, Amber Falcone, Mikey Meagher and Jenn Russell led 140 youth and high school girls from Georgia, South Carolina and Florida in a day of on-field instruction, just some of the nearly 2,000 boys and girls players to participate in 35 U.S. men’s and women’s national team clinics since January 2012. High school players also heard firsthand about the college lacrosse experience and had one-on-one discussions about the realities of recruiting with some of the best players in today’s game.

“One of our goals is to expose the game to different areas where lacrosse is growing,” said Falcone, a six-year veteran of the U.S. women’s team program and 2009 All-World defender who will play in her second World Cup this summer. “There aren’t a lot of role models out there for young girls’ lacrosse players to look up to. We’re passionate about being those role models.”

“It’s my favorite part of my job,” said Nathaniel Badder, director of national teams for US Lacrosse, who along with Stacie Wentz (manager), Cerra Cardwell (fundraising manager) and two national teams sub-committees coordinates all aspects of the U.S. National Teams Program. “Watching kids swarm our national team players after games or clinics to get that chance to rub elbows with lacrosse celebrities is what our work is all about.”

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Bonnie Rosen, a three-time U.S. women’s World Cup team veteran and 2010 National Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee, has remained involved in the national teams program leadership since retiring from playing in 2005.

“My experience with the national team changed my entire adult life,” Rosen said. “Being empowered as a woman and becoming a team leader meant everything to my professional development.“

Rosen began volunteering with US Lacrosse upon its inception in 1998, serving as an athletes council representative to the new board of directors. The former All-American at Virginia and current coach at Temple now is one of five members of the women’s national team sub-committee that oversees program policies and procedures, helps select national team coaches and player evaluators and drives participation in local outreach events. Rosen previously served on the US Lacrosse Board of Directors, among numerous other volunteer roles within the organization’s leadership structure.

The U.S. National Teams Program has functioned as an avenue for building leaders, both current stars and future generations of players.

“Team USA is the benchmark for how the game should be played and how players should act,” Rosen said.

In addition to hosting roughly 30 clinics each year for youth and high school players and coaches, Team USA launched at October’s Stars and Stripes weekend in Northern California a series of parent-daughter dinners that invite local youth families to spend “An Evening with Team USA.” (The next event will be held June 29 in Baltimore.) In December, members of the men’s and women’s national team programs led free clinics on Long Island for more than 300 youth players from communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. And at January’s US Lacrosse National Convention, presented by Champion, Rosen led an initiative to bring inner-city Philadelphia kids to the event to interact with the U.S. women’s team.

“I serve because I made the team, and learned how to give back,” Rosen said.

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And so, after a full eight hours of clinics, Falcone and her Team USA teammates spent that January evening sitting on the McFarland’s living room floor with Kate and her brothers.

Katrina Dowd demonstrated her well-known stick tricks to the boys’ amazement. Jenn Russell talked recruiting and the importance of being a well-rounded student-athlete. Perhaps most significantly, Kate heard and understood for the first time that training above and beyond her team’s practices and games — wall ball, individual fitness and strength training and mental preparation — sets apart apart elite lacrosse players.

“Parents can say it all we want, but hearing that sort of advice from the best players in the world,” Liz McFarland said. “It really sunk in for Kate.”

Said Falcone: “It’s what we do. We don’t think twice about it.”

Matt Chittum, a youth coach and parent in Roanoke, Va., echoed McFarland’s thoughts after a national team clinic in his daughter’s hometown earlier in January.

“It is hard for girls here to find heroes in the game they love — a player to emulate, a standard to try to meet,” Chittum said. “For the girls who attended, this clinic went a long way toward filling the gap.”

A portion of the proceeds from each national teams clinic benefits the local US Lacrosse host chapter or league. The RYLA was one of many local hosts to generously reinvest those funds into the national teams program for future clinics and events geared toward impacting kids across the country.

Following Team USA’s visit, the buzz remains palpable.

“Now that we have that connection, we can’t wait to support Team USA at the World Cup this summer,” McFarland said.

Perhaps they’ll find a comfortable perch on the living room floor.

Fuel the Journey
Help send the U.S. women’s national team to the FIL Women’s World Cup in Ontario this summer by making a secure donation at uslacrosse.org/donate.

This article appears in the March issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.


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