By Keith Mills
This time last year Bryant Barfield was battling for his life in a hospital bed at Maryland Shock Trauma after suffering serious head injuries in a car accident. A few days later, when he was out of danger and able to talk, Barfield made a rather odd request. He asked to talk to his lacrosse coach.
"Here he was with a cracked skull," said Kirk Crawley, the lacrosse coach at William H. Lemmel Middle School. "He could barely talk and his head was bandaged and all he wanted was to tell me he wouldn't be able to go to lacrosse camp in the summer. I was hoping he was still alive and he was worried about lacrosse. It was shocking."
Members of the Morgan State Club Lacrosse team were at the clinic to help the kids learn the game. (Mitch Stringer/PressBox)
Barfield is not only alive and well, he was among nearly 200 city middle school children who ignored the rain and took part in the first Baltimore Youth Lacrosse League Clinic last Saturday at Patterson Park.
"This is just the beginning," said David Skeen, a 1998 Gilman graduate who went on to play at Washington & Lee and who helped run the boys' clinic. "We want these kids to learn the game and come back and play with us in the summer."
Skeen and his brother Jay are a part of the Trilogy Foundation, a non-profit group aimed at improving inner city lacrosse and creating a summer league for Baltimore City middle school players.
"We're thrilled," said Roy Skeen, a 2000 Gilman grad who went on to play goalie at Yale. "Because of the rain, we were wondering if the kids were going to come. But then the buses pulled up and they poured off of them and there's been a lot of smiles and happy faces."
The clinic was a collaborative community effort. Dave Sikora, Bill Doherty, Jim Mceachren, Steve Bartenfelder and Johnny Magwood represented BGE, which put up $15,000 for the clinic. Magwood's son, Johnny, and brother, Larry, also helped with the instruction.
The Trilogy Foundation has already raised $40,000 for the city-wide program. The Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, Blax Lax, Kelly and Associates and Towson University were also instrumental in putting together the clinic. Sports Our Way donated 40 sticks to the girls and Lax World donated 140 sticks to the boys.
Thirteen members of the Gilman junior varsity lacrosse team and a dozen members of the Morgan State Club Lacrosse team, now in its second year of assistance, were also in attendance.
"The thing I love about this sport is that it breaks down barriers," said Lloyd Carter, the coach at Northwestern High School and the chief of emergency medical services for Baltimore City. "This is like a fraternal organization. On the field everybody's even."
quot;I want to see the kids do something positive," said Mitchell Waters, a junior midfielder on Morgan's club team and one of the clinic's instructors. "It's a win-win situation. They do something positive. We're having fun."
"We see kids now that can really play," Roy Skeen said. "Lombard, Roland Park. Those teams are really good."
"We really want to push this down to the middle school level," Carter said. "It's a real team effort. BGE's involved, Trilogy, BlaxLax. We're all here for the same thing. To help the kids learn the game."
Kirk Crawley, Akim Jones and Nick D'Ambrosia stood in the mud on one of the
makeshift lacrosse fields at Patterson Park and liked what they saw -- more than 100 teenage boys passing, cutting, checking and playing a game few had ever seen until they got to middle school.
"The kids we get don't know anything about lacrosse," said Crawley, a 1980 graduate of Arundel High in Gambrills. "Once they get into it, they love it. They can't wait for the season to start."
"I'm ecstatic," said Jones, the coach at East Baltimore's Lombard, the defending Baltimore Middle School Lacrosse League champs. "Most of my kids have been with me since sixth grade and now they never put the stick down."
Lombard defeated Roland Park at Poly in last year's final to finish the season a perfect 13-0.
"This is a way to get them off the streets and out of the gangs," said Jones, a social studies teacher at Lombard. "We want them to use this as a vehicle to get them to play at the next level. Two of my kids are playing at City this year."
"I see our kids throwing the ball around before school and after school," said D'Ambrosia, who played lacrosse and football at Archbishop Spalding and is now in his second year as coach at Roland Park. "The things we do in practice, they say, 'Hey, I saw that. I saw a Hopkins guy do that.' It's good they're paying attention, watching and learning."
Television has certainly helped advance the game at the middle school level. Since WMAR-TV started broadcasting a collegiate game of the week 10 years ago, the quality of the league has improved.
"They used to think the game was all about hitting," said Carter, who played at Edmondson High School and then at Morgan State. "Then they saw the stick skills, the behind-the-back shots...the passing, the Powell brothers, Kyle Harrison, and they would come in to practice and say, 'Show me how to do that.' "
Casey, Ryan and Mikey Powell weren't at the clinic, but Harrison was. The 2004 college lacrosse Player of the Year at Johns Hopkins, Harrison was a guest of his father, Dr. Miles Harrison, who played at Morgan State in the early 1970s and was one of the original "Ten Bears," the first all African-American team in college lacrosse.
"When I read that book, I got goose bumps," Waters said. "It really has motivated me to play harder. We want to try and get our club team at Morgan established as an NCAA team. That's our goal."
Waters didn't pick up a stick until his freshman year at Carver. Now, he's one of 30 members of the Blax Lax Bears Club team at Morgan, which plays local club teams from Johns Hopkins and Towson as part of a 13-game schedule. Carter is one of their coaches.
"It's great to see the kids at Morgan playing," Carter said. "They can't get enough of the game and to see them here working with these kids is great."
Kendra Ausby played lacrosse at Oakland Mills High School in Columbia and then UMBC. She has coached at Randallstown, Towson Catholic and now City College, where her Black Knights are one of five teams in the Baltimore City girls lacrosse league.
Ausby ran the girls' clinic last Saturday with her trademark enthusiasm and desire to make a difference. She is one of a very small group of African-Americans who have played lacrosse at the collegiate level and now one of its few black coaches. She is determined to get the girls' summer league off the ground.
"It's going to happen," Ausby said. "I vowed to make a difference for African-American girls and I think we're off to a good start."
Many of Ausby's City College players were joined by several current players from Hereford and a handful of former players from Friends, Maryvale and Bryn Mawr.
"I really want to get this summer league going," Ausby said. "I want these girls to be a part of this."
Issue 2.13: March 29, 2007