Manlius Here in Central New York, playing lacrosse is as much of a way of life as is going to Sno Top for an ice cream cone, cheering for the Syracuse Orange or complaining about the winter weather conditions. But in the southwest region of the United States, that isn’t the case.
Alan Locke is a former member of the Fayetteville-Manlius High School lacrosse team. Since graduating from F-M in 1997, he has moved to the greater Phoenix, Arizona area where he now coaches high school lacrosse. Locke said the biggest difference between coaching kids in New York and Arizona is that by the time they’re in high school, many players from the Syracuse area have been playing the game for almost ten years. In Arizona, it’s a different story.
“Most kids start playing out here in eighth, ninth or tenth grade, where in Syracuse, you generally have a stick in your hand when you’re five or six years old,” said Locke, who is the head varsity boys lacrosse coach at Horizon High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. “The biggest difference is that we have to teach these kids the whole game – some of them have never played catch before, so you’re starting at square one. Meanwhile, at F-M, we were doing behind-the-back shots in fourth grade.”
Locke is one of five alumni from the F-M High School lacrosse program who now are coaching in the Phoenix area. In fact, most of Locke’s coaching staff at Horizon is comprised of F-M grads: Geoff Gorman (’97) and Eric Hatch (’95) are assistant coaches and John Romano (’92) coaches the Junior Varsity squad.
And that’s not all – about 40 minutes south of Horizon High School, Dan Lannon (’87) is the head coach at Desert Vista High School, which, according to Locke, has become “the pinnacle program” in Arizona since Lannon became head coach. This year, Lannon not only won the first lacrosse state championship for Desert Vista – he also has three seniors and two juniors who have committed to playing lacrosse at Division I schools in college – something almost unheard of in Arizona.