The 2017 season will be the final time Rick Brocato strolls the sideline as head coach of the St. Paul's boys' lacrosse team.
During 16 years at the helm, Brocato has helped the Crusaders maintain their reputation as one of the nation's top programs. However, he decided the time was right to step down, spend more time with his family and pursue other interests.
Still, there are more milestones within grasp this spring.
Brocato is seven wins away from tying George Mitchell for most in school history, with many expecting him to eclipse the mark during the upcoming season. Brocato would also like nothing more than to bring home another Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A conference title in his final year.
"I was always honored and humbled to be the head coach at St. Paul's," Brocato said. "Howdy Myers, Ace Adams, Gene Corrigan, George Mitchell, Mitch Whiteley -- these former St. Paul's coaches are legends in the game. St. Paul's is one of the best high school jobs in the country, for any age or any level coach. It's not for the faint of heart, that's for sure. I always kidded with folks by saying, 'There's no pressure; just don't lose.'"
Brocato has led St. Paul's to the MIAA playoffs in 14 out of his 16 years, making the MIAA title game four times, winning in 2010. He was named US Lacrosse Baltimore Chapter Coach of the Year in 1998 and 2010.
In addition to his work at St. Paul's, Brocato was the head coach of the South team for the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association's (USILA) North-South Senior All-Star Game in 1996, and he led the South team in the 2011 Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Classic game.
He was part of the coaching staff for the selection of the 2015 USA U19 team that eventually won the FILA world championship in British Columbia. While at St. Paul's, he coached four Hall of Famers, 19 Major League Lacrosse professionals, two U.S. World Team members, 17 NCAA Champions, 44 All-Americans and three Kelly Award winners.
"Broc, as he is known to all, exemplifies the very best of the teacher-coach model," St. Paul's headmaster David C. Faus said. "He has prepared athletes to achieve the very highest levels -- college All-Americans, professionals and even the national Hall of Fame. At the same time, he is a deeply engaged, empathetic educator who makes every one of his middle school students feel valued and supported."
Throughout the years, Brocato has seen the game of lacrosse evolve. Many players compete in the sport year-round with the respective clubs. As a result, the game is more competitive than ever.
"There has been a huge uptick in lacrosse specialization," Brocato said. "I believe it corresponds to the growth of club lacrosse in our area, quite frankly, as well as the dysfunction of early recruiting practices. But it is very similar to what occurred with soccer many years ago, when the club scene movement strengthened."
Brocato has been involved with lacrosse in some coaching capacity for more than 30 years. He was the offensive coach at St. Paul's under Mitch Whiteley for eight seasons and helped win back-to-back championships in 1991 and 1992. In addition to coaching at St. Paul's, Brocato coached at the Kent Denver School in Colorado and spent four seasons at Boys' Latin, where he was part of a staff that won the 2002 MIAA championship.
His overall coaching record at Kent Denver and St. Paul's is 244-107.
Brocato currently holds the St. Paul's-endowed Kent W. "Skip" Darrell '60 Distinguished Chair for teaching and coaching. He also received the school's Alec Schweizer '98 Award for the Advancement of Teaching and Coaching, honoring exemplary devotion to the two practices.
After he steps down from boys' lacrosse, Brocato plans to continue teaching science at St. Paul's, where he received a faculty grant award in 1990 to study orangutans in Borneo, Indonesia, and he received the Middle School Faculty Bower Grant in 1994. Brocato has a son, Jack, who is a junior at St. Paul's and will begin his third varsity season in the spring. His daughter, Kate, is a sophomore at University of Vermont.
"I am looking forward to the change and watching my son play while being more of a general fan of the game and the MIAA," Brocato said. "I know I will miss all the relationships with players, coaches --- mine and opponents -- college coaches, referees and friends of the game. I also love practice time on the field, especially when the weather turns for the better in mid-April. But mostly I will miss the action on Tuesday and Friday afternoons in the MIAA. I'm a pretty competitive guy, so that will be different."