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Thinking Outside The Box

Mike Murphy is in his eighth season as an assistant coach with the Army lacrosse team. Under his tutelage, the Black Knights have consistently been ranked among the nation's top defenses, while he has also guided some of the most prolific goalkeepers in Academy history. A native of Beverly, Massachusetts, Murphy graduated from New Hampshire in 1996 where he was a three-year lacrosse letterman for the Wildcats.

March 29, 2011

Resiliency, Responsibility and Raiders

As I do most Monday’s, I came in today a little early to start hammering out this week’s blog.   My new “thing” these last few weeks has been the three word title.  I try to come up with two words that have meaning from the week that just past as well as for the week ahead, and the last word is some variation of the name of our up-coming opponent. 

For most of yesterday I could not decide if I was going to use words that began with the letter “C” or the letter “R.” 

I am sure you are saying to yourself, “man you got a little too much time on your hands don’t you there ace!”

You are probably right. This not an editorial for the Wall Street Journal, but my blog has become a very special part of my contribution to this group of players and our fans.

I decided to use the above three “R” words. While the last one was easy, the first two were not. As I mentioned above the words are usually words that are a reflection of our team. I would be remiss if I did not share with our fans a moment that will make you not only proud to be a fan of Army lacrosse, but a fan of the Army’s future leaders.

As we prepared for Lehigh early last week, Coach Cassese, the Lehigh head coach, called Coach Alberici and let him know of a situation that the Mountain Hawk family was dealing with.  

In last week’s blog, I noted the connection between Coach Cassese and Coach Alberici. Coach Cassese told Coach A that one of his player’s dads had passed away after a long battle with cancer. He just wanted Coach A to know, and I am sure get a little mentoring from someone he really respected.

The game itself was a hard-fought contest between two very similar teams. Two teams battling for a big conference win. At the end of the game Coach Alberici brought our team in and gave them his usual brief on the field post game speech, but he then let the guys know about what the Lehigh team and one person in particular was dealing with. 

I don’t think I would do the moment justice, so here are the words of a Lehigh parent:

I am certain Bernadette and her family are aware of a remarkable gesture of respect Tuesday night that occurred at the conclusion of the Army game. But I want to share with her and the rest of our Lehigh family how much that moment meant to me.

At the end of a well fought Lehigh-Army game, the teams lined up for the traditional hand shake.  As they assembled, I noticed Dan and Army's goalie Tom Palesky deep in conversation.  They continued to talk even after both teams were queued and ready to proceed. Then, as Dan and Tom shook hands, Tom embraced Dan and gave him a hearty hug and pat on the back.  I considered as they hugged, that goalies are a breed apart and certainly empathetic to one another. However, the next player to shake Dan's hand also paused and spoke for a moment and then gave Dan a hug and pat. As the procession continued, every player on the Army team stopped to give Dan a word of condolence and a hug.  About half way through the team handshake, I began to realize something I've have always felt but could never quite articulate and that is I now understand lacrosse is far more than a game, it is a tribe. It’s a culture that instills a discipline and spirit that forges the players into a unique fraternity.

In the world of Division I men's sports, it is almost anachronistic that a young man can be both a warrior and a gentleman, but Tuesday night illustrated that West Point continues its long tradition of creating both officers and gentlemen of character. By the end of the team handshake, as I watched through teary eyes, I knew as a Lacrosse father and an American, that I have never prouder to be both.

Thank you Army and I look forward to seeing you again in the playoffs.

I hope I am not stepping over a boundary sharing this email, but I thought it was important to share this email. College athletes in general are often put under microscopes for their missteps, but I thought it was important to show you two groups who came together for one of “their” own.

Dan’s resiliency was amazing, he played a great game and I am sure made his family proud. I am sure his dad was smiling down on him and is very proud of his son, and selfishly I hope he is proud of our boys as well.

This past week has been a great example of the responsibility that goes with being a member of a team and a family.
I think Dan showed great courage playing with a heavy heart, but he knew his Lehigh family needed him. I would bet the Carr family takes great pride in watching Dan play for and with his team.

Most team sports you never will have everyone on your team play the “perfect” game.  Somewhere during the course of a game, or maybe the entire game, a member or members of the team may not be at their best but it’s the responsibility of his teammates to step their individual games up.  I think we saw moments like that in both our games this week.

Tuesday night, I know a certain young man who will remain nameless was very disappointed in his overall performance.  This young man puts a lot of pressure on himself all the time, but especially for this particular game because of what had happened in the past. But his play on Tuesday was a little off, however his teammates that had come to count on him to bail them out were now raising their games to help him and secure a tough conference win.

The same can be said for Saturday’s game with a very talented Lafayette team. On a day that saw both goalies play outstanding, goals were coming far and few and ball possession was critical. 

And again we had some guys who just seemed not to be able to get on track, or were making uncharacteristic mistakes. But one or two guys don’t win lacrosse games, it takes a resilient TEAM to take responsibility for its actions and achieve victory.  
The entire team may not have been at its best and that is more a credit to Lafayette than anything else, but we did get an outstanding performance from a young guy who in his first college start had to guard the Patriot League’s most dangerous shooter. Drew Kearns was fantastic guarding Tom Perini and held him scoreless. 

Overall we did what we needed to, the offense did their job in scoring one more than our opponent, and the defense made that goal production stand up for a Black Knight victory.

Our face-off unit and D-Mids were excellent in the Lehigh game and were honored as players of the game for their efforts Tuesday night.  Drew’s performance on Saturday earned him the POG for Lafayette. Tom Palesky won the PPOW for his hard work during practice. Congrats to all those guys.

As we strive to improve as a team, we are going to have to continue to get outstanding play from unusual sources. Good teams rely on all their parts, the attack playing unselfishly and not pressing, the midfield playing hard on both sides of the ball and the defense playing smart. If we do those things, then everything else will take care of itself.

Oh by the way, you know that guy who was not at his best on Tuesday? He came out Saturday and “flew” pretty high redeeming himself and saved his best to help our team secure its second league win. 

So for you guys who felt you did not play at your best on Saturday, it’s okay. Be thankful your teammates were there for you because you have been there for them on countless other occasions. Rededicate yourself to getting better. Learn from this one, and let’s get the next one.

We have a HUGE game coming up this Saturday as we leave the friendly confines of Michie Stadium for a date with the Colgate Raiders and our first road Patriot League game. 

The Raiders have been playing some great lacrosse this season and put an exclamation point on their season so far with a hard-fought win AT Navy. They are the only Patriot League team to ever beat Navy in Marine Corp Stadium. It will be a great test for our team.

Colgate is playing great defense with outstanding goaltending, and offensively they are a very explosive group that can score from anywhere.

We again have to bring our hard hat and lunch pail to work this week, its Colgate for #3.

“If you want unusual results, you need unusual behavior.”

Coach Murph

Previous Entries

Oct. 14, 2010
Jan. 27, 2011
Feb. 4, 2011
Feb. 10, 2011
Feb. 14, 2011
Feb. 22, 2011
March 1, 2011
March 8, 2011
March 15, 2011
March 22, 2011


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