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Park District Board President, Fellow Coaches, Introduce Lacrosse To Girls
Volunteer coaches in Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills number in the hundreds. Over the past two weekends, I’ve had the chance to watch two of them in action with a bunch of little girls running around indoors getting an introduction to that amazing and fast-growing sport of lacrosse. I enjoyed the practice because I admired and was amused by the coaches’ patience and skill.
Leading these girls were Greg Johnson and Bill Santulli. Those names should sound familiar. Santulli because he is a well-known lacrosse dad and coach, whose children have gone on and are going on to play lacrosse at the college level, including his twin daughters who played lacrosse for National Championship winning-Northwestern University a few years ago. Johnson’s name should be familiar not because it is a common surname but because he is currently serving in his second term as the elected president of the Clarendon Hills Park District Board of Commissioners. He’s not just serving in a leadership and administrative capacity but in a hands-on one as well.
How cool and inspiring to find these men as well as Brett Secola giving up an hour on a Saturday introducing lacrosse to girls in kindergarten through fourth grade. Johnson’s daughter, Lally who is a freshman at Hinsdale Central, was there helping.
Johnson will be the first to admit that he doesn’t even know how to hold a stick, which is of course an important component of the game since the stick with the net on the end is the instrument by which the ball is propelled around the field. Lacrosse players must learn how to run and cradle the ball in such a way that it does not fall out of the net. They must also learn to throw and catch it. It is a difficult sport. Johnson said he grew up in Central Illinois, and traditionally the strongest lacrosse programs have come out of the east coast.
Not having “stick skills” has not prevented him from helping his own kids or these girls learn to throw and catch as his parting comments to parents after that first practice indicate: “Parents, you don’t have to know how to use a stick to play catch.” He said he used to just reach for his baseball glove to play catch that way.
The girls were focused and interested. Some had obviously seen the sport before, were better at scooping up the ball and running with it holding the stick in two hands and cradling it. Still girls will be girls. At one scrimmage, instead of thinking of their team as the one with the red penneys, one girl observed that her team was the one with brown hair and the other team was blond.
As a parent, it reminded me a little bit of my daughter’s first years of violin lessons: a lot of screeching which with practice and time will give way to beautiful music. Here there were a lot of balls flying all over the place.
“What is great about lacrosse is it’s such a great combination of foot work, running and hand-eye coordination as well as toughness,” Johnson said, adding that it is a beautiful sport to watch. He sees many of the same application of basketball concepts to lacrosse, of setting picks and rolls. For more information about the Winter Lacrosse Camp, visit www.clarendonhillsparkdistrict.org