Kauffman works OT on vacation

Gilman grad blazes trail for sport in Northwest

June 25, 1999|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

When R. C. Kauffman competes in the Vail Lacrosse Shootout over the next week, the Gilman graduate will be seeking some relaxation following his so-called "year off."

By transferring from Yale to North Carolina, Kauffman knew he wouldn't be able to play for the Tar Heels until the 2000 season and decided to kick back and visit his grandparents in Bremerton, Wash. So what did this 22-year-old do for his vacation?

He became the head coach of a high school lacrosse team on the verge of folding and resurrected it, and also established the Kitsap Lacrosse Association, a nonprofit organization designed to help fund club teams in the state of Washington and level out the playing field with Seattle private schools.

The Kitsap team, named for the county in which it draws its players, not only survived but thrived under Kauffman, earning the top seed in the state tournament with a 10-2 record, a vast improvement from its 1-12 season in 1998. Kitsap, one of 15 teams in the state of Washington, ended its season with a three-goal loss in the quarterfinals.

"It's pretty insane," said Kauffman, who will play for the Northwest Jammin' Salmon in Vail. "The captains stood up at the end of the year banquet and said they remember their goal this season was to win two games. So it's mind-boggling."

Kauffman, who played on Gilman's 1994 and 1995 championship teams, had never been a head coach before and stumbled into the Kitsap position at a Seattle-area restaurant last October.

Not knowing lacrosse was played in the Northwest, he asked the waitress about the lacrosse T-shirt she was wearing. She turned out to be a player's mother, who informed Kauffman that the team would disband if it couldn't find a coach.

Six months later, Kauffman assumed control of a team that started seven underclassmen and had three times as many first-year players as seniors. But on a larger scale, he took on the overwhelming responsibility of seeking out national sponsorship for his association, which will attempt to start a new team in Washington each year and begin a coaches' fund, and will conduct a camp there this summer for 100 players.

Although Kauffman plans to go to Chapel Hill in the fall, he won't sever his ties from the other coast. He will still manage the Kitsap Lacrosse Association and will personally select the team's next coach.

"It's amazing what he's done," said Jody Martin, the men's division director of US Lacrosse. "Sometimes you hear of people having five-year plans, but this seemed to happen overnight. For lacrosse to get to that next level, we need more R. C. Kauffmans."

Vail Shootout

When: Today-July 4

Where: Vail and Avon, Colo.

Divisions: Boys 16-under; boys high school; girls high school; elite men (18-over); elite women (18-over); men's masters (35-over); men's supermasters (40-over). Maryland will have a team in each division except for boys high school.

Pub Date: 6/25/99

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