By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Closing in fast is Trevon Hamlet, one of Jaden's best friends. The two are well matched. In the game tomorrow, Tre will land a picture-perfect, behind-the-back shot on goal, a move Jaden's still trying to master. Tre's also uncannily bright, having landed a full academic scholarship to Kent two years ago — although that doesn't stop him from hopping on a cross-town bus right after Kent's lacrosse practice so that he can play with City Lax.
Joanne, taking a break from the eighth-grade girls' team practice the next field over, cheers on the duo when she's not making fun of Steven O'Malley, one of the top sixth-grade players, for nicknaming his stick "Fluffy." It was hard in seventh grade when Joanne and the other girls learned that they'd no longer be playing on the boys' team, no longer be able to flatten guys on the field and then see the looks on their faces when everyone removed their helmets after the game and their targets discovered they'd been knocked on their butts by a bunch of girls. But then they realized that girls' lacrosse, which doesn't allow much checking, would make them more nimble and skilled than the boys. When Jaden or one of his buddies tries to take a shot on goal with a girl's stick, which hardly has a pocket, the ball usually sails five feet shy of the net.
On the field, Kei'zuan Rudd gets the ball and does something funky to get around a defender. The kid's bursting with creativity, from the blisteringly raw verses he pens in his journals to the stuff he tries on the field. José Martinez, the eighth-grade team's unstoppable wall of a goalie and its quiet leader, isn't at practice today, so the coaches have grabbed a replacement from the girls' team: Jada Bonner, who's so passionate about the game that she cries when they lose — but also packs one of the meanest body checks out there to make sure they don't.
Everyone out here is hungry. José Pereyra, who surprised his coaches last year when he wanted to switch from attackman to defender, and now rarely lets anyone get past him. Patrick O'Malley, who has the friendly smile of his mom, Denver Clerk and Recorder Stephanie O'Malley, and the size and power of his grandfather, former Denver mayor Wellington Webb. Marjoya Ellidridge, the giggling free spirit on the girls' team who can catch a pass from out of nowhere. Speedsters like Isaiah Hogeland, Kris Jackson and Tarik Murphy; power players like Kristoffer Taylor, Miles Holland and Mann Preston; guys brimming with potential like Drake Wheeless, Luis Cotto, Edgar Llaguno and Micah Norwood.
But the hunger is different than it used to be; now it's calibrated and polished. That's thanks to their coaches, who stepped in when Rod and Erik pulled back after coaching City Lax's inaugural season. Both are still very involved, though. Erik now coaches the third-grade girls team on a different field, but he often stops by these practices to report on what he's heard, like how so-and-so's grades have been dropping because he's been skipping school. And Rod, now the commissioner for the Colorado High School Lacrosse Coaches Association, is always here, making sure everybody has a ride to the coming games, figuring out which players are late for practice because they missed the Route 38 bus that rolls by the field, collecting the $25 City Lax registration fee from new kids showing up for the first time (a fee he has a habit of overlooking when players show up empty-handed).
Rod and Erik's successors on the sidelines aren't the type of coaches attached to many youth lacrosse teams, those well-meaning dads who want to help out. No, City Lax's coaching team features a level of talent most college programs only dream of.
"You're giving up!" booms George Moore, one of the eighth-grade coaches, screaming like this Friday scrimmage is the biggest game of the season. At times he's got the temper and bearing of a drill sergeant at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he was the first African-American to play on the lacrosse team. George's fellow coach, Karl Wimer, is more down to earth but no less accomplished: He was the first Colorado lacrosse player to make All-American at a Division I university.
Down the field, Mac Freeman towers over the sixth-graders he coaches, imparting some of the wisdom he's learned as senior vice president of business development for the Denver Broncos and founder of the Denver Outlaws. Since Mac's schedule is so busy, he's got some more-than-capable help: Brad Johnson, a former Hall of Famer at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, and Ryan Zordani, a young guy who's played for both the Outlaws and the Mammoth and captained DU's team.
On the other field, Gregory Crichlow is running sprints with his eighth-grade girls' team. A longtime youth lacrosse coach who's trained some of the top Colorado players, he's been chosen to coach one of the state's best girls' teams this summer. Still, he's the humblest of the City Lax coaches, and refuses to make his players do a drill he won't do himself right alongside them.