Intensive four-day lacrosse camp at Port Chester Middle School in July 2015.
Claire K. Racine|Westmore News
Intensive four-day lacrosse camp at Port Chester Middle School in July 2015. Claire K. Racine|Westmore News

It was that old Rough Rider of days gone by, former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, who was fond of quoting an old West African proverb: "Speak softly, and carry a big stick; you will go far" when it came to describing his foreign policy style, one that included what he called "the exercise of intelligent forethought and decisive action sufficiently far in advance of any likely crisis."

And that, in essence, is what Port Chester is doing before venturing into foreign sports territory, a varsity lacrosse program to be specific.

P.C. Athletic Director Rob Barrett and other local sports movers and shakers are currently speaking softly while in the planning stage about whether the school should carry a big stick, a lacrosse stick to be precise, actually lots of them to be imprecise, because the exact number is difficult to pin down at this stage.

Numbers up in air

It is difficult to come up with a number because a veritable forest of those sticks are on their way to Port Chester right now as the result of three grants, although the exact date when those sticks will arrive is still up in the air, or maybe on a delivery truck, or somewhere in the post office for all anybody really knows.

Wherever they are, they are due to arrive any day now. And when they do, Port Chester will have the wherewithal to start becoming a big time lacrosse club while learning the LAX ABC's on training wheels before the program really ever gets spinning locally.

And if the club works, over time it could become a Port Chester first, a P.C. varsity lacrosse team modeled after Yorktown High, a perennial Westchester power and home of one of the most successful LAX programs in America.

Source of funding

Getting to that stage won't cost Port Chester a penny because P.C. will be doing the club program launch on somebody else's dime, that startup money coming from a Yorktown Huskers LAX alumni group and US Lacrosse, the national governing body of the sport.

Those bucks will go into starting a lacrosse program as part of the P.C. elementary and middle school physical education programs. The funding for equipment is estimated at anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000. Nobody knows the exact amount yet.

So what is happening locally lacrosse-wise and otherwise is really quite elementary although it takes a bit of Sherlock Holmes'-style sleuthing to put all the missing pieces together. But when all those pieces finally come together, eureka, starting a full-fledged lacrosse program is an idea that has finally come to Port Chester. Or at least is about to.

Making P.C. better

The Academy Award or its local equivalent for making the LAX program happen in Port Chester goes to, the envelope please, but so there's no "La-La Land" and "Moonlight" confusion over the best picture Oscar...

For the complete back story, you should first see the video currently making the rounds on YouTube for yourself (view the following: www.youtube.com/watch?v=gg5G5EGV4TE&sn).

The condensed version of that video plot is that a number of Yorktown lacrosse alumni talk up the glories of the sport and its potential to add to the diversity of Port Chester athletics. They talk up LAX virtues against a backdrop of P.C. athletic trophies lining the hallway outside the gym, that video cast lineup including Port Chester Middle School math teacher Paul Santavicca, a former Huskers All-American LAX player who also played ultra-competitive Division One lacrosse for Marist before moving on to coach the sport at Pelham High School and then turning around the losing Port Chester Rams football program last season after just one year on the job.

Pay it forward

As a way of paying forward what the sport has meant to them, and as a tribute to the legendary father of Yorktown lacrosse, Charlie Murphy, whose apple orchards became their first LAX playgrounds, that alum group set aside around $1,000 from their annual fundraiser for the Yorktown youth and high school programs. That $1G grant will go towards helping launch a beginning LAX program. That donation went directly to US Lacrosse with the money earmarked for the Port Chester School District as a result of yearlong on-and-off conversations about starting an LAX program here among Santavicca, Barrett (the AD) and P.C. Middle School Principal Pat Swift.

Those conversations and that grant, in turn, led to Barrett contacting US Lacrosse about the LAX opportunities for P.C. And that really got the ball rolling in terms of possible grants and a video that would get the benefits of the LAX pitch swinging into the community via YouTube. US Lacrosse wrote and produced the script. And Barrett wrote two successful grant proposals. The first was for the so-called "Soft Sticks" program whereby US Lacrosse would provide lacrosse sticks and balls for the P.C. elementary schools as well as professional development for the P.C. physical education program. The second was to start a club team at the Middle School with the Yorktown alums and US Lacrosse providing equipment from head to toe for 20 boys and 20 girls.

Cast of characters

"We are in the process of receiving that equipment right now," Barrett said. "The video was the product of this whole thing."

He said that the "many people" interested in launching the LAX program included P.C. Middle School teachers Joe Capalbo, a former Division One LAX player at Quinnipiac, and Alyssa Canonic, who played lacrosse at Harrison and is a former coach at Middletown High where she helped develop their girls’ LAX program. The Carver Center after school program is also intrigued by the lacrosse potential.

While Barrett said no decision has yet been made about the coaches, "the hope is get the club team off the ground here in a couple of weeks starting with interest meetings. We expect to have practice four times per week for 1 1/2 hours per day give or take for approximately eight weeks."

"After conferring with US Lacrosse,” Barrett continued, “the plan is to have 6th and 7th graders start the club, go club for this year and next year and start a modified team in three seasons where we will compete with local middle schools. The hope is to move to JV and then Varsity if the numbers increase and the interest grows."

Sounds like a plan

That certainly sounds like a plan whereby lacrosse could well be here to stay in Port Chester.

Such a program would prove costly in the long run, admitted Port Chester Board of Education President Jim Dreves. "But if the interest is there, we certainly would be interested."

And so we shall see what we shall see. And for the record, "Moonlight" won out over "La-La Land" for the Academy Award for best picture and the P.C. powers-that-be behind the local push for LAX certainly don't seem to be in la-la land when it comes to planning how to get the program off the ground and seeing it through to a successful launch. However, on a cautionary note, the first lacrosse summer training camp at the Port Chester Middle School in the summer of 2015 drew around 200 participants from all over Westchester, but only one from Rye Brook and none from P.C. despite scholarships available for Port Chester residents. But then nobody ever expected it to be easy to launch a LAX program hereabouts.