Youth lacrosse team getting ready for first season

The game of lacrosse can trace its origins back to the time of early native Americans. Tribesman of the Haudenosaunee, often known as the Iroquois, taught young warriors a game that for generations played an important role in communities across North America dating back centuries. Today, the spirit of the game is alive and well in Amsterdam, NY thanks to the Wishful Thinking organization and a grant from United States Lacrosse that provided a helping hand for 17 young men to get a jump on becoming the future of the Amsterdam High School varsity lacrosse team.

“This would not have happened without the grant from US Lacrosse,” said Wishful Thinking’s Matt Moller, who played lacrosse at Amsterdam High School in the early 2000’s. “Paul Furman encouraged me to apply for the grant and it came through.”

US Lacrosse, the governing body in the United Stated for both men’s and women’s lacrosse awarded a $15,000 grant to the Amsterdam youth lacrosse program that provided the team with the equipment necessary to compete in the Adirondack Lacrosse League this spring. Wishful Thinking was able to outfit the players with uniforms, helmets, lacrosse sticks, pads, etc. Currently 17 fifth and sixth grade boys make up the Amsterdam squad that will participate in round robin tournaments this season as well as games on weeknights.

“It’s a growing sport,” said Paul Furman, who coaches the AHS varsity boys team. “Lacrosse is fast paced, attractive, and fun for the kids.”

Furman and Moller are part of a group of former AHS lacrosse players that are coordinating efforts to bring the game to a younger generation with hopes of providing the knowledge and inspiration needed for them to continue playing through their high school years and perhaps even into college where more spots are open on rosters for lacrosse teams than sports like baseball and basketball. AJ Sainato has taken on the role as head coach of the young Amsterdam squad with AHS alumni Harley Beekman, Kevin Brown, and Brian Henderson as assistant coaches. Both Furman and Moller will help when not occupied with other coaching duties.

“Paul Furman has done a great job building the Amsterdam varsity and modified programs,” Moller said. “This is another asset for AHS sports.”

According to Furman, the Amsterdam team will play in the Adirondack Lacrosse League and compete against teams from school districts such as Johnstown, Scotia-Glenville, and Shenendehowa, where lacrosse has been an established sport for decades. The Amsterdam team will also have a chance to play against programs from other parts of New York when they take part in six round robin tournaments on weekends from April through June. At those tournaments the team will play multiple games on Saturday’s with at least one game guaranteed on Sunday.

“Now the kids have another option for a Spring sport.” Furman said. “They can go all the way trough to varsity.”

With enough players to field a team, and interest still growing, Moller began searching for a field for Amsterdam’s home games. The former site of Amsterdam Little Giants Football at Veteran’s field was given consideration, but didn’t meet the proper dimensions for a lacrosse field. Moller said that the fields at Amsterdam High School will be used for weeknight games. For a “round-robin” tournament tentatively planned for June 11, both the turf field at Lynch Literacy Academy and a field at the four diamonds near Lynch will be used.

The Amsterdam youth lacrosse program will also be hosting a fundraiser and alumni event scheduled on June 25 that will be held at Lynch Literacy Academy. A fundraiser scrimmage game between the Amsterdam High School varsity and junior varsity teams, and a game featuring AHS alumni will help the youth program raise funds for next season. Youth lacrosse games will also be part of the evening. There will be plenty of action, fun, food, and a 50/50 raffle. Moller said there are still spots open on the fifth and sixth grade roster, and the program is hoping to add a third and fourth grade lacrosse team in the future.

“We grew up loving the sport,” Moller said. “Now we have a chance to give back to the sport that was so much a part of our youth. AJ Sainato and I wanted to do something for lacrosse that our coach Matt Beck did for us back in 1999. He was an inspiration and role model for us. Now we’re planting the seeds for the future AHS varsity team.”

Lacrosse Trivia:

The term ‘lacrosse’ came from French missionary Jean De Brebeuf, who witnessed a game between Iroquois tribesman in upstate New York in 1657.

Lacrosse means “a stick curved at the end.”

The professional Major League Lacrosse (MLL) began play in the United States in 2001 with three teams. It currently has nine teams.

Lacrosse was an Olympic medal sport in 1900 and 1904.

The 2001 Amsterdam High School varsity lacrosse team was the first lacrosse team in school history with a winning record. The team finished with a record of 11 wins and only four losses.

It is believed that the game of lacrosse has been played as early as the 12th century. It’s older than baseball.

There have been many rule changes since the games’ early days. Originally, a wooden ball was used, and Native American’s fielded teams with anywhere from 100 to 1,000 tribesman. Games were played for three straight days, and were meant to be a ceremonial ritual not a substitute for warfare.

Scott Mulford

Scott Mulford has been covering local sports for over 20 years. He previously wrote for the Amsterdam Star and The Free Press of the Mohawk Valley.