Using the platform of lacrosse to build and teach the concept of team and foster a supportive environment for the players are at the core of the boys’ lacrosse team’s mission. Now in his second year as head coach, Keith Wilford and the coaching staff, which includes Hunter Euler P ’23, Tom Hoopes ’83, Annelise Jennings ’16, and Ely Fall, are intentionally building a program grounded in empathy, accountability, a sense of communal responsibility–and hard work.
“I love to compete, but not as much as I love the idea of what it can do as far as connection and community,” said Keith.
Putting a four-quarter training plan into place at the conclusion of the 2022 season, the team has practiced nearly every Sunday morning since the fall. During practice, players give each other affirmations during each workout, whether through words of encouragement or a quick low five after each score attempt.
“The season itself is only eight weeks,” says Keith, “so we had to find a way to cultivate the concept of team before the season starts.”
The training plan extends far beyond weekly practices. Each player keeps a journal to track daily life tasks and goals, like making their bed or taking out the trash. The team read The Hard Hat Book by John Gordon and discussed its message of what it means to be a teammate. They bonded through team activities like go-karting.
They also traveled to Baltimore over spring break to visit and practice with area school teams, including Johns Hopkins University and McDonogh School, one of the top high school lacrosse teams in the nation.
“We had the opportunity to practice with elite teams, see how they practice, and bring it back to our team,” said Drew Mirarchi ’24. “We learned we can compete at a high level as long as we take ourselves seriously.”
While in Baltimore, they also volunteered at Strength to Love Urban Farm and with the Volo Kids Foundation, an organization which builds community and supports children through athletics.
“We have a team saying– “change your best”– we’re always looking to be better, and thinking about how we can be better people the next day,” said Drew. “I think that ties into Quakerism– trying to be a good person all around,” said Drew.
“We all have a drive to win,” said Akshay Frabizzio ’24. “We’re all putting in the work and it’s made for a great atmosphere. We’re making lifelong friendships.”
The coaching staff emphasizes the bigger picture of what it means to play the game, instilling an appreciation for the sacred history of the sport, which originated with the Six Nations community. The Six Nations flag is printed on the back of the team’s helmets as a way of honoring the indigenous roots of lacrosse. “This sport – it’s called the medicine game. It gives to us. We’re playing on stolen grounds. It’s their sport,” said Akshay.
The team has also partnered with Harlem Lacrosse, a national non-profit which uses lacrosse as a vehicle to empower and support students in under-resourced communities, to host training clinics on campus.
The lessons athletics teaches about collaboration, self-reflection, and growth ground Keith in his calling as a coach. He believes in leading with empathy; last year, after a particularly difficult loss, he wrote each player a personalized note of encouragement. “I want my actions to speak,” he says. “I want to empower my team.”
“There is a high level of excitement about the program,” said Athletic Director Kurt Ruch. “Keith’s experience and knowledge allows our students to grow as players and as people. The team has been putting in the work since the fall and will be exciting to watch this spring.”
“I’m excited to compete,” said Akshay. “We’ve been putting in so much work in the offseason and we’re still putting in work every day. I’m excited to play, have fun, and make memories.”