It's All About Coaching (Day Ninety-Three)
I met Joe Alberici in the Fall of 1989 when I was a freshman it Alfred University. We played lacrosse together there that year and came close to winning a division 3 national championship before losing in the NCAA tournament. Since then, our lives have gone different paths. Joe was an All American in a year that put the small town of Alfred, NY on the map and he stayed in the game of lacrosse as a coach. Not surprisingly, he has been very successful, and Joe is now the head coach for the Army Black Knights at West Point. After 20 years, the game of lacrosse brought us together once again two years ago when Joe allowed the Mercer Island lacrosse team, where I am the assistant coach, to play a game at Michie Stadium at West Point. BTW - we won the game! Early in The Ride, I let Joe know we planned to come to West Point. He told me to call him the week prior and he would set something up. Fittingly, that day would be Day Ninety-Three, our last rest day. What better place to spend it than beautiful West Point. What Joe set up exceeded my expectations. After meeting him at his office and getting introduced to members of his staff, I had the opportunity to address the 74 members of the Army lacrosse team, soon to be 2 teams, including a JV squad.
Joe introduced me to the team. I have never liked being introduced, but today I was proud to have someone I admire so very much say kind words and express admiration for what we have done with Team Jesse. The men I was about to talk to are young, but already extremely accomplished in their lives. I knew there were potential great future leaders in my presence. Men that would lead men into combat. I wanted to make an impression.
I enjoyed the opportunity to introduce Matt. He has done this so selflessly and with great passion throughout The Ride. Today it was my turn to talk about what he meant to me and The Ride. I even got a chance to tell the boys about Wimmer Solutions lacrosse, the best club lacrosse team in the world - bar none, something Matt takes great pride in which is a direct result of his hard work. I think I did an OK job making an impression on the boys. It was a tuff assignment. My focus was on what I looked for in my officers as a non commisioned officer and an enlisted man. Afterwards, Joe wasn't done. Our tour continued over out the weight room, where the boys went for strength and conditioning training. We met some great people over there, including General Peter Palmer (RET), who I will be following up with regarding our mission. Later in the evening, we were invited to Joe's house, where his wife Petra and five year old daughter Isabella were cooking in the kitchen. One of the day's highlights for me, was I trip to the basement, where Joe told stories to Matt, Adam and me about his coaching days at Duke University and Army. We spoke about players and memorable games, many of which we all recalled due to our love for the creators game of lacrosse. We were 'all teeth' leaving the Alberici home. It was an emotional day. One that was fitting given the magnitude of what is in front of us 60 miles to the south. If this wasn't enough, there was one more treat in store for us on this great day. Re-enter Coach Mike Groh, who we learned was 30 miles south on a recruiting assignment prior to the Alabama game against Penn State this weekend. Roll Tide! You all may recall Mike was with us in Telluride as a guest rider and has been with us in spirit the entire ride with his 'got to prove to her one day at a time' mantra that we have adopted based on his advice. I explained to Adam how much Mike meant to me, and his 'gassed it' down the Palisades Parkway like a man on a mission. We were able to spend about 45 minutes with Mike, which during Football season is a real treat. In typical Coach Groh fashion, he had the words of encouragement we needed to put the final two days in perspective. To have this man's support has meant the world to me.
It's all about the coaching - it really is!
To the limit,