Spring is now upon us and the full time Adrenaline family of 75 employees all prepare for the adjusted 8-4 coaching friendly spring office hours. True to our mission everyone employed (a couple of rare exceptions) by our organization is required to coach at some level. It is our firm belief that as a mission based company we must constantly be pushing to have a positive impact on our youth through the lessons taught by our coaches and the great sport of lacrosse. Honestly it feels really good to be able to provide employment for so many passionate mentors that allow them the ability to do what they love to do which is coach and play lacrosse. I know firsthand that nowhere is the impact of so many great coaches and mentors felt more than in one of our original programs Adrenaline Youth Lacrosse.
Bear with me on some of the dates it was a couple of years ago. AYL was started in San Diego in 2001 as the original youth regular season spring league for 1st-6th grade players its success and mission has since spread to Los Angeles and Austin. The goal was to provide a platform for young players to learn the valuable lessons that our mentorship based coaches can provide while creating a robust bottom heavy youth feeder system that is the hallmark of any healthy sports market. I’ll be the first to admit that there were certainly some selfish motivations at play here.
I became the head coach at Coronado High School in 2002. While the school had a rich history of lacrosse based on the efforts of some amazing early pioneers (Emory Chenoweth, Doug Murphy, Bill Parry) it had some fundamental structural and theoretical flaws in the feeder system that held it back from becoming a top tier program. Fortunately it was not starting from scratch as we did have a solid 7th/8th middle school program that was volunteer dad coached and run (those guys were pioneers and awesome thanks Lee Pontes). This team played competitively in the SDCLA which at the time only had a 7th/8th grade division. Much to my surprise and slight dismay we also only had a loose noncompetitive youth community clinic that involved neighborhood isolated scrimmages (this is still a hallmark of the program and around today but is now used for introducing new players to the game). This was quite a deviation for me and my asst. coach (Noah Fink). We grew up playing lacrosse in Maryland for The Landon School which despite having a graduating class of only 64 kids was and is still a top 25 national powerhouse.
The hallmarks of the Landon program were great coaches and, from day 1, playing with a team identity in a controlled but competitive organized league against multiple other teams in the area. Our organized and competitive games started in 3rd grade. As young athletes we loved it. It became something bigger to us. We were playing all the same teams as the bigger kids and with that little taste of competition we learned how to play with passion. Yes there was a scoreboard and as such it certainly mattered and meant something. It was probably one of the first things that had a bigger meaning outside of loving my family, friends, dogs and nature. Up jumps the people who say that competition is not good for players of this age. It depends…but mostly I just disagree. I remember for us as youngsters we always had amazing trusted coaches who were from the belief system of “it’s not winning or losing but how you play the game”. Notice that those words winning and losing are in there still. Terms that when framed by our coaches were not the epitome of good vs. evil for us but simply words that defined what the scoreboard said and how to think and react accordingly. Having coaches that can frame both successes and failures for young players allowed all of us to have some critical early development that helps put things into perspective. At Adrenaline these guys are what we define as beyond coaches, they are Mentors. This is what we strive for with Adrenaline Coaches and AYL.
Back to Coronado. Feeder initiative #1 let’s get some coaches. Some great guys who are still coaches for me today came on board, Dan Meehan, John Chrismer. Coaches Check. Ok Initiative #2 Getting kids out of the isolated community based scrimmage model. Let’s get these young kids playing in a league….and so was born AYL, and in many ways Adrenaline Lacrosse. In 2001 my business partner Steve Sepeta founded the Carmel Valley Middle School program which was the Torrey Pines feeder system. We combined forces and hence the birth of the first league of its kind that had young teams playing against each other just like the big boys. Fast forward 7 years to 2009 and Coronado has a robust feeder system of competitive teams from 1st-High School playing in the spring. The first class of competitive youth players are seniors and not coincidentally Coronado, the smallest public school in San Diego won its first CIF championship and achieved a top 25 national ranking.
I can say honestly that without the platform of AYL no chance this would have been possible. I believe in what we do and so do all of our employees. We have seen it work. We have seen the smiles and witnessed the growth of these youngsters as players and citizens. While the explosive growth has fueled massive changes for lacrosse I think what many still do not realize is that our goal at Adrenaline with all our programs including AYL is to foster the proper growth of lacrosse by being an enabler and support system for every lacrosse program in each of our communities. Some programs require very little while others require a lot of support to be successful. As a result our AYL services range from providing an organized and well run league platform to enhance the experience for historic and well run community programs, to building community feeders from scratch by doing grassroots demos, finding & training coaches, acquiring fields, donating equipment and handling all of the organizational logistics. As the largest lacrosse event company in the world we are set up organizationally with robust operations, marketing and programming departments to handle any task for any program no matter how big or small. We would love to see the markets we are involved in mature until all of them consist of robust and independent youth feeder systems.
Much has changed for AYL as a result of the success of Adrenaline. We now have amazing sponsors who support us heavily with prizes, equipment, sports drinks and giveaways for the players. Additionally we have started an in house funded coaches training program free to the community and mandatory for all of our coaches. The focus is to teach not only the x’s and o’s but how to frame success and failure and transcend the title of coach and become a mentor. As NCAA accomplished local heroes return from college that have gone through the Adrenaline system they are proud and eager to return and give back by coaching at various levels. This is very satisfying to us and reminds all of us exactly why we do what we do. This year we will be requiring all of our youth programs to activate in our Awareness program by giving back in some way to a charity cause. We are hoping this new addition will once again reinforce our belief in building a complete player. The Adrenaline Player.
I probably could ramble on about AYL and how much it means to us for hours. Bottom line if you are on a team, starting a team, a historic program, a parent or whatever, let us know how we can help you to spread this great game. We believe AYL is a great platform as a result of the many successes we have seen from the kids that started their experiences with us. Have a great spring everybody!
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