Boys Lacrosse: Brother Rice, Providence College team up to develop sport
Updated: April 5, 2012 10:20PM
Brother Rice lacrosse coach T.D. Paulius wants his sport to take off at the Catholic League school.
More than that, Paulius wants lacrosse to take off all over Chicago’s south suburbs.
So when the opportunity presented itself to aid both causes, he took his chance.
Preparing for a Big East showdown at nationally ranked Notre Dame this weekend, the Providence College Friars used Brother Rice as their practice facility this week, also running a lacrosse clinic Wednesday night for fifth through eighth grade students.
“If we want to develop the sport, help it survive and get better, we need youth programs to help develop lacrosse skills,” Paulius said earlier this week. “There is not a lot of lacrosse (locally) at the youth levels. Until it gets better, it’s tough as a coach because 90 percent of the team can be newbies [to the sport].”
On a brisk, windy Wednesday night, the Friars and Brother Rice welcomed almost 50 grammar school athletes to the clinic with stretching, warm-ups, drills and a game. Also in attendance was many of Rice’s varsity team. The Crusaders are in their first year as a varsity program after competing at the junior varsity last season.
“[Watching Providence], you see what the level of play is, what you want to work toward,” Rice junior Tom Witte said. “Look at your position and see what they do. You can go out and do the same things, the same moves you saw them do.”
Witte is a captain on the varsity squad.
The practice and clinic arrangement came about this past December when Rice assistant coach Drew Stevenson [former head coach at St. Ignatius] met Providence coach Chris Burdick at a coach’s convention. Burdick told Stevenson they were looking for a practice facility for the Notre Dame trip, and from there the wheels were in motion.
“We were really excited to have the kids come out and watch the end of practice,” Providence coach Chris Burdick. “You fall in love with a sport and athletes [watching]. That’s how you end up playing a game. It’s been great Brother Rice taking us in and giving us the opportunity to practice.”
Providence (1-8, 0-3 in the Big East) will play at Notre Dame (7-1, 2-0) this Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The Irish are currently ranked ninth in the nation.
Seeing a Division I program practice in front of them this week will no doubt provide some motivation for Brother Rice. But for now, the Crusaders are taking things slowly and working their way up. Four games into the young season, Rice is 1-3 following a recent loss at St. Laurence.
“We’re trying to build on basic fundamentals,” Witte said. “This year we’re not out there to win many games. We’re trying to develop the program and build a foundation.”
As a program in their first year at the varsity level, the Crusaders had 57 athletes come out for the team, a number Paulius expects to increase to 70 by next season. Coaches and their teams hope to see lacrosse’s popularity at the high school level grow as the sport seeks IHSA status which Paulius, a Brother Rice (1972) and Notre Dame (1976) graduate, admits could take several more years.
“People, both coaches and players, bring a ton of passion to the game,” Paulius said. “The St. Laurence coach (Dennis Foley) said he wants to see a state champion on the Southside. There’s work to be done, but I agree with that. It’s a possibility.”