Year-Round Training

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FCA’s Year-Round Training Enhances Competitiveness and Fosters Relationship-Building

For the nearly 300 athletes who participate annually in FCA Northeast’s Lacrosse Program, the time-commitment is not insignificant. In a 52-week year, the coaches and staff are in contact with the players for 33 of those weeks.

“Our FCA program is invested in bringing our athletes through not only the year, but also the program, with a goal of supporting our kids at every level and through each level,” said Sol Bliss, Regional Camp and Community Coordinator.

Bliss cites several benefits to the program’s schedule. “With our year-round program we have a consistent, on-going relationship with the kids, and we aren’t always having to restart. There is an entire process set up for the 33 weeks we are with them where our coaches reinforce all of the strategies we implement, and continue to build on them from week to week.”

“If we didn’t have that amount of time with them, we would have to concentrate more on just preparing our teams for the tournaments when we’re together, but this structure allows us to focus on the development of each individual player,” Bliss said.

Paula Mitchell, girls lacrosse coach, stated, “We understand that performance on the field is often impacted by relationships being nurtured off the field. Having time to grow as a team during the “off season” is critical to building team trust and comradery.”

Another unique part of the FCA Lacrosse teams is our Training Camp at the beginning of our summer season. This training camp is a three day overnight camp with intense instruction and training. Watch the highlight video from the boys camp this past year.

According to Tony Rorick, whose son Chase plays defense for the Northeast 2020 team, one of the positives of FCA’s year-round lacrosse program is the development of strong bonds among the players. “FCA is a family, a brotherhood for each team and for the program as a whole. The players lovingly accept new talent to their teams and play together during many seasons together as a bonded unit, which naturally helps strengthen their skill as teammates as well as their friendships. Our son wants to return to his team, to FCA, to his ‘brothers,’ year after year,” Rorick said.

Shannon Smith, whose son Hunter is a defenseman for Rochester Navy 2022 team, is also a fan of the year-round training philosophy: “From a competitive standpoint, year-round opportunities are absolutely critical. The bonding of players, and having consistent coaching points centered on basic offensive/defensive schemes, will lead to individual and team success.”

For Scott Barnard who has been the head men’s lacrosse coach at Hamilton College for the past decade and has been involved with FCA as both player and a coach, stresses the value of consistency in having the kids for 33 weeks of the year. “With this schedule, the others coaches and I have the opportunity to watch them grow as we are involved with them on a regular basis. FCA’s program has a pretty similar message across the board that stresses character, attitude and perseverance. And the kids are all hearing the same message from multiple people week in and week out, as they learn that they are not just representing themselves, but the whole organization and God,” Barnard said.

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Since 1954, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has been challenging coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to use the powerful medium of athletics to impact the world for Jesus Christ. FCA focuses on serving local communities by equipping, empowering and encouraging people to make a difference for Christ – to see the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.

More information can be found at FCA.org.

Our Coaches

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For FCA Lacrosse Coaches, Sport is Just Part of the Picture

If these words of Dr. Billy Graham hold true: “One coach will impact more young people in one year than the average person does in a lifetime,” then FCA’s lacrosse coaches are having a huge impact on a lot of youth in the Northeast Region of our country.

FCA’s Northeast lacrosse coaching ranks have grown by over 500% since the start of the program in 2010. This summer’s 67 coaches come from a variety of levels of coaching experiences, with 12 coaches in the program who either currently coach at the college level — or who have coached it in the past, 14 varsity level coaches, and 26 college-age coaches.

According to Sol Bliss, FCA’s Regional Camp Coordinator who oversees the Northeast lacrosse program, FCA’s coaching staff is second to none. “Our coaches are invested in teaching their players how to play the game correctly so they are establishing good patterns and quality fundamentals. They are not just coaching to win; they are coaching to make better lacrosse players. We see coaches who come up with gimmicks that will help them win the game, but that doesn’t always translate into good lacrosse.

“Our coaches are always pushing our kids to go to the next level – they prepare our older kids for college-level lacrosse, our middle schoolers for varsity and our youngest kids for middle school level. Yet, at the end of all of it, is the knowledge they each have that sports is only part of the picture when they coach for FCA,” Bliss said.

The other part of that “picture” to which Bliss refers, can be summed up by Tom MacMillan who began coaching FCA in 2014 when his son Gunner showed an interest in playing lacrosse for FCA. “In my 24 years of coaching I had never experienced what FCA was about, and it is something that has been needed for a long time, so I became very interested. Coaching in FCA is special because there is something unique that happens when these players put on the FCA jersey and the God Squad helmet. They forget about the individual and become part of a team that plays with selfless determination and act as if they have been playing together forever. You have to witness it to appreciate it!” MacMillan said.

Bliss, who has coached all levels of lacrosse from youth to the MLL, says the FCA coaches have a work ethic that is very program-focused: “Our coaches each have their own teams to coach, yet they always want to know how they can sacrifice to help the entire FCA program. At all the levels I’ve coached, I’ve seen those coaches who will just sit back and roll the ball out, but our coaches don’t do that. Instead of doing things the easy way, they are careful to take time to do things the right way and give great attention to detail in everything from warm ups, to how they handle game strategy, to practice planning.

Ann Marie Leondardi expressed, “We made the decision as parents to have our kids Andrew, Nicholas and Gianna to be a part of FCA because they are not only taught lacrosse by accomplished athletes that truly know the game but are also taught sportsmanship and being a good person on and off the field.” Girl’s lacrosse coordinator Paula Mitchell adds, “It is so important to find the right coaches to lead and mentor this special group of athletes and their families.”

“And, they not only care about the players, but each other and they are constantly networking with each other. They will often ask another coach to ‘give me a different set of eyes to work out a play,’ and our younger coaches might not have the experience of our more veteran coaches, but they have a fresher view of the game to offer the more veteran coaches, and our more seasoned guys like helping our younger coaches grow,” Bliss said.

For Leanne Rorick, whose son Chase has played defense for the Northeast 2020 team the past two years, it is the caliber of the FCA coaches, and the way they impact the players on, but especially off, the field, that makes it a standout sports program. “Huddles — where the coaches and players inspire the best performance and leadership from one another, and where they can safely and excitedly share their common love for Christ and His teachings — are what set FCA apart from other teams Chase plays with.

“Chase’s FCA coaches are mentors and stewards of faith, and our son can count on them, on and off the field. The coaches provide player-centered support to athletes, encouraging them to improve, inspiring them to do their personal best. This inspiration is contagious, and the kids begin to encourage one another in the same way,” Rorick said.

Since 1954, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has been challenging coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to use the powerful medium of athletics to impact the world for Jesus Christ. FCA focuses on serving local communities by equipping, empowering and encouraging people to make a difference for Christ – to see the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.

More information can be found at FCA.org.

As Program Grows, FCA Lacrosse Focus Remains Unchanged

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Our focus is on spiritual, personal, and athletic growth.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes Upstate lacrosse program grows every year, yet its focus remains the same: developing the player and working through coaches. This year’s program, which includes 17 travel teams of 300 players spanning ten graduation years, reflects nearly a 20% increase in the number of players, plus two new teams.

“Amidst our growth, we remain dedicated to the mission of FCA, which is to lead every coach and athlete into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His church. Our aim is still to continue to make each kid a better lacrosse player and a better person, and although we are growing, we do not lose sight of our focus to not only improve kids’ lacrosse skills but also to develop their character,” said Solomon Bliss, boys program director.

A popular FCA mantra continues to permeate on and off the fields where FCA teams play: The coach’s one job is to love the players and the player’s one job is to love each other. “Our coaches know the kids and truly care about them. As we grow, we have made an effort to continue to have at least three, and most of the time four, coaches who stay with a team all summer long starting with FCA’s unique Training Camp. The caliber of our coaches continues to improve as we remain focused on bringing in the best quality coaches that are passionate about coaching the game of lacrosse, but about developing relationships with the kids in their program,” said Bliss.

Paula Mitchell, girls program director, shared a great thought on our focus when she said, “It is a privilege to wear FCA on my shoulder on the sidelines. Not only are we held accountable to represent Christ to our team, but also serve as an example to our opponents and referees as well.”

Shannon Smith, whose son Hunter is a defenseman for the Rochester Navy 2022 team, believes that a contributing factor to FCA’s growth is that it addresses the critical needs that are important to any sports program. “FCA fulfills all of the things I look for in a program for my child — outstanding communication and organization, positive and consistent coaching, moral guidance and trust, and competitive teams with a team focus,” Smith said.

Sean McNamara, who serves as VP of Field Ministries for the Northeast, began his tenure with FCA in 1999, as the National Director of FCA Lacrosse. As the first FCA full-time staff person to oversee the lacrosse ministry, he is encouraged by how it has taken off across the country, and especially in the Northeast Region during the past seven years. “FCA is in a season of growth, and it is exciting to see how God is using this program to impact the lives of coaches and athletes, and a growing number of communities and sports in the Northeast Region,” he said.