POWHATAN – The boys’ and girls’ varsity teams of Powhatan Lacrosse have paralleled one another in their trajectories. They’ve both risen from humble beginnings in 2016 to each earn nine wins for their best seasons to date in 2019.
A couple months later, both programs shared the same practice field, this time working with youth going into grades 2 through 8 on their playing skills, and coming together for festive games and activities during the Powhatan Lacrosse teams’ summer camp.
“It just grows the lacrosse family for both boys and girls,” said Powhatan Girls Lacrosse head coach Laura Camp. “It just really helps foster the cohesion between our teams, and that helps during the season as well.”
In the second year of camps for both teams, Powhatan Boys Lacrosse head coach Joe Niles pointed out that the boys’ program “gladly” had a few more campers this year.
“That’s nice to see,” he said. “It’s nice being able to give back to the community and do something fun like this, especially for the kids in Powhatan. It’s a lot of fun.”
For the girls’ team, who last year had several campers who were new to lacrosse, this year’s camp featured quite a few girls who had played already, which allowed the coaches to add more layers to the drills and expand on fundamentals.
The girls also had a couple of goalies at their camp this year, so they’ve been able to work on playing situations with a goalie, whereas previously they were playing with a net.
“The girls can work on their shooting and placement and we can do more scrimmaging and things like that,” Camp said. “The more playtime the kids get as far as real game-like situations, the more experience they’ll get.”
On the boys’ side, Niles and his Powhatan varsity lacrosse players, both past and present, instructed the campers mainly on fundamentals – throwing, catching and picking up ground balls.
“The kids have been super great – just super attentive, great kids, great Powhatan kids – true passion for the game and having a lot of fun,” Niles said. “It’s always nice from the coaches’ standpoint because it keeps you young...”
Niles’ varsity players have helped lead demonstrations so that the kids could see the right ways to do each drill – and admittedly a lot of the drills were sort of varsity-level drills, Niles noted – but the campers, from an observer’s standpoint, seemed to take to them well.
On the girls side, 2019 Powhatan High School graduate and four-year varsity lacrosse player Anna Causey, who helped out with this year’s camp, had actually coached the fourth through seventh graders for one spring, and “coming back to see them at this camp, they’ve already improved so much” thanks to coaches Camp and Angie Van Buskirk.
“Now, since they’re coming back, they’re excited because they know how to do a lot of fundamentals and they’re getting better every single day,” Causey said.
The camp’s focus was not just on learning the game, but also on making new friendships, which have been a point of emphasis for both teams.
“They see that they’re having a lot of fun at camp and that’s exactly what we do in-season,” Causey said. “We have a lot of fun and we play really hard.”
For the older players who came out to help with the camp, Camp added: “I think the more you do offseason, it helps for the chemistry in-season and it kind of keeps a stick in their hands and keeps their mind thinking about lacrosse.”
The older players are also learning themselves by embracing leadership roles in the camp.
“It’s one thing to know how to do something,” Niles said. “It’s an entirely different thing how to teach it and show another person how to do it. As a player, you’re always focused on: ‘Well I know how to do this drill, I know what I want to do,’ but ‘How do I actually convey that to somebody else?’ is completely different, and I think it makes them better players to be able to do that.”
Along with Causey, Harlan Menger – who plays college lacrosse for Virginia Wesleyan and has loved it there as he’s getting to play with “40 other brothers” on his team – was among the Powhatan Lacrosse alum to come back and give back to their high school programs and Powhatan community.
By growing up in a family of athletes and longtime coaches, and also through stepping in to help with camps at university, Menger noted that it’s natural for him to help the kids from more of a coaching standpoint.
“I love helping them out, making them feel good because I love seeing them get better, seeing them improve every day,” Menger said. “Even the past four days, these kids, man – some of them have improved like crazy.”
He loves bringing away all kinds of little lessons from his coaches, and the valuable lessons he’s learned – how to be a man, how to play lacrosse, how to be responsible, how to have honesty, how to have trust, how to be trustworthy – are good qualities to instill in the kids at the camp, Menger said.
Camp spoke of her hope that the campers who came out and enjoyed their time with the lacrosse players and coaches will go and tell their friends about it.
“Hopefully going forward, this will be one of those camps that they look forward to coming to,” she said. “When they are playing in high school, they can say, ‘Oh yeah! I went to that camp…I’ve been going since fourth grade.’ That’s our goal: is just to keep the same kids coming and hopefully they can tell their friends and the word can spread and we can just get all the kids in the Rec program coming to our camp in the summer. That would be really ideal.”
As Powhatan Lacrosse collectively grows, the summer camp for both the boys and girls teams helps to continue fostering young interest in the sport, thereby creating an avenue for young athletes now to join the school teams later.
“I hope these kids will tell their friends about the game and that sort of thing, and how fun it is to play and how you play it,” Niles said. “I tell these guys all the time that it’s not always about the wins and losses – it’s about how you play the game, which is so hugely important. I think that’s what’s wonderful about lacrosse…it’s not about going out and winning…it’s always about how you play.”
Causey cannot believe how quickly lacrosse in Powhatan has grown.
“When I first started playing in sixth grade, there was nobody,” she said. “And now there’s fourth graders here that are amazing – that have a lot of potential. It’s really exciting to see the program growing so quickly.”