By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
Saturday afternoon, the Washington Stealth gave this reporter an opportunity to know what it feels like to be a professional athlete for a day. I got to suit up with the team and for the first hour of a two-hour practice I was thrown into action (as much as I felt comfortable with) with some of the best lacrosse players in the world.
Needless to say, for a sports fan, getting to be on the same floor with the best players in the world is a dream come true and one of the more fun things I have ever got to do in my life. My co-workers Herald Writer David Krueger, who was there to film and tweet from practice and Herald Photographer Genna Martin, who was there to shoot my attempt to play lacrosse would probably tell you that it didn’t look like a dream come true for me or like I was having much fun at all, but that is only because they couldn’t get past the look of sheer terror on my face.
The story on the events of Saturday’s practice and how the idea came about will come soon enough, the long and short of it is that I survived — obviously, since I’m writing this blog post.
There was a lot of humor in watching me try to do something that I have never done in my life with players that can do it at the highest level possible. I think the players and the coaches had a lot of fun with it and I hope that my story will reflect that.
But in all seriousness, I want to take this blog opportunity not to joke about the events of Saturday, but to thank the Washington Stealth for nearly 2 1/2 years of making this reporter’s life easy.
When I took over the Stealth beat from former Herald Writer Mark Nelson, I didn’t quite know what to expect. It was the first time I had ever been around professional athletes of any kind and I really didn’t know much about lacrosse. The Stealth staff, from the top to the bottom made my transition easier that I could have ever dreamed.
Mike Kennett, the Director of Communications for the team at the time gave me a crash course on the game and made it easy for me to gain access to players and coaches for both game stories and features. I work with Vice President of Communication Mike McQuaid for those details now, but he has made it just as easy.
Aside from learning the game and having easy access, being a young reporter who had never worked with pro athletes before, I was still apprehensive and didn’t know what to expect.
The Stealth have been absolutely great in this area. Head coach Chris Hall couldn’t be easier to deal with. He is always good for quotes and he can talk for hours about lacrosse. He has never once had a problem talking to the media and I have got to know him well over the past two years. Assistant coach Art Webster I know well too and when Hall was out for much of last season battling throat cancer, Webster stepped right in a was great to work with.
The players are just as good with the media. Many of them I have gotten to know well over the past few years as well. defenseman Kyle Sorensen, who is in his first season as team captain, goalkeeper Tyler Richards, forwards Rhys Duch, Lewis Ratcliff, Cliff Smith, Athan Iannucci — I could go on and on, but all these guys are great and more than willing to talk.
It makes a reporters’ life that much easier.
On top of that though, as I have gotten to know many of these guys fairly well over the past two years. They are good guys too. They aren’t just good with the media because they have to be. But they are genuinely nice people. Do they care about growing their sport and are they extra on-top of their games with me because of that? Sure. But you deal with people long enough and you can tell who is putting on an act and who the good ones really are.
Stealth general manager Doug Locker said the team makes it a point to look at character of the individuals before they draft them or sign them and it shows.
That character extends beyond just the players. Hall, who I know best of the Stealth coaches is one of the nicest people I have probably ever come in contact with. As I have gotten to know him better over the past two seasons, he has become more of a friend-type than really a coach who I have to interview for my beat.
Maybe that is one of the reasons why Hall agreed to the story idea of having me practice with the team.
That is the biggest reason that I want to thank the Stealth, all the way from owners Denise and Bill Watkins at the top to whoever the lowest person in the chain of command may be. I know that practice time for these guys is limited and to have me come out to a practice, when I don’t know anything about how to play lacrosse and allow me to get out there and run with the guys is very gracious of the team.
They have a job to do and that is win lacrosse games, something that they are quite good at so far this season I might add.
And I have a job to do, try to provide the best coverage that I can for the team and provide story content that readers are going to find informative, interesting and fun. This story obviously falls mostly into that final category.
So to the Stealth players and coaches, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to go through practice. I hope I disrupted practice as little as possible because I know you all have a job to do and I have the utmost respect for what you do. To all of you who gave me a quick pointer here and there throughout the time, thank you as well. The last two-plus years working with you all has been a pleasure and I hope to have many more years to come.