By Kevin Eickman
When Joe Vavala took over as the head Lacrosse coach at Milford High School four years ago, one element that he thought the local community was lacking was a youth program. It seemed that by the time most of the players arrived on the varsity squad, they possessed little or none of the skills essential for becoming a quality lacrosse player. “Milford needs a good lacrosse program, so that they can start learning the skills they need at an early age,” stated Vavala. “We have some great athletes here at Milford, but picking up a lacrosse stick at fourteen-years-old is tough.”
Former Milford varsity coach Tom Pickard, along with Tom Christie and numerous other volunteers are now entering their third year of just such a program. For the fourth year in succession, The Milford Youth Lacrosse Association is filling the void that coach Vavala talked about. Spread across three fields at Milford High School are large groups of players, of various ages and abilities, ranging from kindergarten through high school. The program has grown in popularity each year and this season boasts an enrollment of 120 players.
Each week the players engage in various training exercises designed to develop their skills and get a chance at game action to keep it fun. “It’s real important for players to learn their skills at an early age, and they need to keep on honing those skills every chance they get,” Pickard stated. Pickard finds the fun that the kids have playing lacrosse is something that gives him great joy. “When you see the look on a players face, when they learn a skill they have been working hard at. Or you see them do something they didn’t know they could do, it’s fantastic to see,” he stated.
There are numerous adults that help out, and without them Pickard says that the program would be nowhere. One such volunteer is Timothy J Millman, the Milford graduate and current University of Delaware student who is happy to lend a hand while home on summer break. “It’s great to be able to give coach Pic a hand, it’s great to be just a small part of it,” stated Millman. “Coach Pic taught me so much, not only about lacrosse, but about life. I’m happy to lend a hand.”
New to the program this year, is a separate group or girls. Currently Milford High School is without a girls’ program, so those wanting to play have to play on the boys’ team. While the two games are similar, the girls game has different rules. Stepping up to the plate to lead the girls program is David Baird, who enjoys working with the young ladies. “These girls all started out with little or no experience and to see how they have developed is fantastic,” stated Baird. “We started back in February and it culminated with a game back in the spring, they really enjoyed themselves.”
Talking to Pickard about the girls program, he hopes that it will continue to grow in the future “Girls lacrosse is rapidly becoming a very popular sport,” Pickard commented. “The sport continues to grow in this region, and I think it’s great that Milford has taken it’s first step in that direction.”