Our Coaches

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

If these words of the late 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 Upstate 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, the boys program director, FCA’s coaching staff is second to none. “Our coaches are invested in teaching their players how to play the game correctly so they establish 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, lacrosse 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 acts as if they have been playing together forever. You have to witness it to appreciate it!” MacMillan said.

Bliss, who has coached and played 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 the 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 Upstate 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. 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.

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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.