Lacrosse league spawns some of nation's best players Play for fun wins out over playing to win

July 26, 1992|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

Duncan Slidell has been to less than half of his club team's lacrosse games, yet on the two occasions he showed up, his coach let him play -- no questions asked.

The 1992 Severn School graduate has even skipped games after being too tired from working his eight-hour-a-day, five-days-a-week job.

Slidell can moonlight to Vail, Colo. and win a championship trophy with another lacrosse team -- as he did three weeks ago to play with a select, county All-Star squad -- without worrying that his coach will make him run extra laps in practice upon his return.

Besides, none of the teams in his league practices anyway; they only play games.

And as a player in the College or Open Division of the county's Hero's Lacrosse League, Slidell, 17, takes pride in the fact that he always can expect to play for his Red Team whenever he "shows up for a game."

"It's a pressure-free environment, so you don't get burned out or anything," said the 5-foot-10, 155-pound Slidell. "It's a chance to reminisce on the sidelines or play with some of the old-timers and legends of the game, while at the same time improving your skills for the next season. You can . . . get out of it whatever you want."

Over the years, the program has spawned some of the nation's best collegiate and professional lacrosse players including Severn graduate Ryan Wade, a second-team All-American at the University of North Carolina; St. Mary's graduate Brian Wood, a four-year All-American at Johns Hopkins; and St. Mary's graduate Tom McClelland, an All-American goalkeeper at Loyola College who coaches at Fairfield (Conn.) University.

Milford Marchant Jr., a 1992 Severn graduate who grew up playing in the league, was chosen this year's Anne Arundel County Sun Player of the Year. His brother, Ben, 13, currently plays.

But as their father, Milford Marchant Sr., will tell you, helping its athletes to reach fame and glory isn't the league's purpose.

"We contribute to the development of these boys as lacrosse players, but most importantly, we create a sportsmanship and unity for all the Anne Arundel County lacrosse players," said Marchant, the organizer of the High School Division. "We even started a girls program last year that is doing well under [organizer] Robin Schmidt."

With 14 teams, the High School Division is the league's largest, followed by the Junior High with 10 and the Collegiate with eight. All high and junior high school games are played on the Anne Arundel Community College auxiliary fields, with the open division played at nearby Severn River Junior High.

"We have about 300 players and 10 teams in the girls league -- six teams in the Junior Division and four teams in the [Open] Division," said Schmidt. "The Open Division consists of high school and college players, as well as college graduates who still want to play."

All teams qualify for the Aug. 2-8 playoffs, which will be played at AACC and are preceded by an All-Star game on Aug. 1. But for the league's 15,000 participants, their pre-eminent goal is simply to enjoy themselves.

"You can do a lot of stuff that you normally wouldn't do in a game," said 13-year-old Ben Marchant, whose 3-2 Team No. 5 squad competes in the Junior High Division. "Like, one of my friends has tried about a thousand behind-the-back shots."

Marchant enjoyed finishing as a state runner-up while playing the attack position for the Severna Park Green Hornets last spring, but said, "Playing on the Green Hornets, we tried to have fun and win. In Hero's, everyone makes the playoffs. So you try to win, but if you don't, it's no big deal."

There are a few "big deals" in the league, like the personal progress of each participant and the general promotion of a healthy attitude toward the sport. Whether a neophyte or a seasoned veteran, the majority of the league's players end the season with an understanding of teamwork.

The league's clubs are named innocuously with a number and color, rather than after a mascot which could resemble that of a college, high school or neighborhood recreation team.

The teams were put together by computer for the first time this year, but equity has been the league's motif since it's inception in 1975.

Players are separated from their high school and college teammates and the different levels of talent are mixed and matched, requiring a squad's members to be interdependent and to rely on communication for success.

In the High School Division, for example, it's not unusual to see an All-County player like Broadneck goalie Sam Peterson playing alongside a Team No. 1 member who has little or no varsity experience.

The varying levels of talent could make coaching more difficult, but that's not the case, said 18-year-old Ken Pollack, the mentor of unbeaten Team No. 1.

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