My recent piece and blog post: “The making of Ol’ Skool” reminded me of a situation a few years ago to revisit and revive the days when shafts were either aluminum or wood, heads were not offset and REAL stringing was “traditional”. Having such things today and going against the current trends sets the definition of “Going Old School”.
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
I was the assistant varsity coach of the Poly Prep School in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and we were in Orlando, Florida for pre-season training in the early-March days. Our hotel accommodation at The Disney Wide World of Sports complex, was one of many housing numerous high-school lacrosse programs in the country for the same reason, that the turnover of teams checking in and checking out was at a fast and steady pace. Due to that circumstance our rooms were not ready for us to settle in, thus we had some time on our hands. To make time pass, some kids “tossed the rock” in the parking lot, while others spent time listening to their iPods or did whatever their individual creativity opened up to.
A little over an hour went by and we received word that our rooms were finally ready to occupy. The players, along with their roommates rushed into their designated rooms, some of them bumping into the housekeeping staff that just finished their work. It was at that moment one of the staff got my fullest attention by asking me,
“Coach, does this belong to one of your players… I found it near the trash bins?”
Having no idea what she had found, she held in her hand an original, white, scuffed, scraped, unstrung, STX Excalibur head – one of the MOST popular and BEST lacrosse heads ever produced!
My response to her, “YES, it DOES!”
Who would’ve thrown such a thing away or leave it behind?
I decided to take it. By doing just that I gave it a new life but keeping the traditional, old school characteristics that I remember. The following series of photos portray the revival of the STX Excalibur “going old school”.
STX Excalibur. Strung traditional, wide, 6-diamond, nylon shooter lace and two hockey laces on a wooden shaft.
Some more from my “Old School” experience:
My STX “Crooked Arrow” shaft. This was used during practice sessions in high school.
“Player of the World–Brooks Sweet”
With Brooks Sweet (All-American, UMass ’80. Member of Team USA 1982—“Player of the World”). Currently, Head Coach of The Poly Prep School (Bay Ridge, Brooklyn).
“The Trio” (Jon Hess, Chris Massey, Jesse Hubbard). Considered the BEST attack unit college lacrosse.
With Chris Massey (Princeton ’98) and his son Oliver, during the screening of the USA/Canada 2010 World Games Championship game at Brother Jimmy’s in Manhattan.
Winning the New England Championship title – May 1995.
Remember when you added that “extra” foam chin pad for intimidation purposes, but had no idea why anybody would do such a thing – especially goalies?
Remember when equipment padding was vinyl coated and barely thick enough to protect you?
Remember when the leather palms of your L33/L35 gloves got so dry from sweat, that you splashed water on them during warm-ups just minutes before the opening whistle on game day?
Remember when the compression shorts/spandex were longer than your actual game shorts?
Remember when a simple, cotton t-shirt was all you wore underneath your equipment pads?
Remember when stringing a stick took numerous times, hours and even days? We’re talking TRADITIONAL stringing – MESH isn’t considered stringing!
Remember when the choices for a shaft were only; wood or aluminum? Plus those “dowel-shafts”?
Remember when the heads had no “pinch” and no “off-set” design?
Remember when people called the lacrosse company “STX” not by saying “S-T-X”, but by it’s real pronunciation “STICKS?”.
Remember when you played ONLY ON A GRASS FIELD?!!
A little shout-out to all the Dads for yesterday being, Father’s Day.
I think I can count in one hand the amount of times my Dad (Vicente Ricasio) saw me play lacrosse – Four. He was not against playing and/or watching sports. Rather, he was always focused on working extremely hard to make sure his children had the opportunities for a better quality of life. Better than what he and my Mom had before immigrating to the United States. Those opportunities were to be hard earned with strict lessons learned.
Back in 8th grade, I was playing at a youth lacrosse festival in Long Island. At the days end, I slung my gloves, pads and helmet on my goalie stick that rested on my shoulder, and headed with my Dad to the parking lot. Passing the game fields, I saw in the far distance a bucket of lacrosse balls by the substitution box that was partially full, with nobody around. I looked at my Dad, who was about 10 yards ahead of me, his attention grabbed by talking to some parents and yelled that I ‘would meet him at the car’. I quickly dropped my equipment on the ground and ran towards the bucket of lacrosse balls in the interest of taking a few home. I searched for unused or hardly used ones while the worn-out, “slick” or “glossy” ones didn’t grab my attention. Regardless, I grabbed about six lacrosse balls in total.
I ran back to see my lacrosse equipment already taken from the ground and found my Dad waiting for me in the car. I hopped in the passenger side, placed the lacrosse balls at my feet and buckled up. On the return trip home, I noticed my lacrosse equipment wasn’t in the back seat, where it usually was. I asked my Dad if he placed [it] in the trunk. He shook his head, ‘NO’. My false of stealing lacrosse balls gave way to my lacrosse equipment being stolen.
I argued why he did not take care of my equipment and he answered by telling me that, that was NOT his responsibility. He eventually told me that there would come a time where people, or strangers, would not know or care what’s really important to you. It was tough love he dished out but I eventually understood it. I made sure that my equipment was always taken care of, always in my sight and under my fullest responsibility.
Hindsight is 20/20. Lesson Learned.
Look, it’s pretty simple, now that I’m an adult. If something is VERY important to you, you really need to be accountable for it. My Dad set the self-reliance factor at a high-bar and at an early-age. It might have been unconventional, but he was RIGHT. In lacrosse, just like any sport, you have to be accountable for your actions. Most importantly, that definitely goes correctly for your decisions and actions off-the-field.
When I started The Art of Lax™, I had no clear idea how the venture would start, but I knew NOBODY was going to do it for me.
(L-to-R: Vicente Ricasio & Vinnie Ricasio, family trip to Harbour Island-Bahamas. Jan. 2011)
“A true friend freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.” – William Penn (Quaker leader and Founder of Pennsylvania, 1644-1718)
“You need a LIFE, outside of your life.” – Phil Dusenberry (former Chairman, BBDO-North America)
2002. Something was just missing – more like lacking. It was driving me nuts and realized that I had no OUTLET from my day-to-day, week-to-week… that sort of thing. Bar meet-ups with friends and co-workers were routine (and getting old), considering I just graduated from college two years ago, back then. That OUTLET or RELEASE was in a form of regular athletic competition and camaraderie that work couldn’t fill.
“Good things happen when you meet strangers.” – Yo-Yo Ma (cellist and composer)
I was walking around the Union Square-area of Manhattan on a chilly, late-March weekend, and happened to pass by Paragon Sports – the (overpriced) place where my parents purchased my first lacrosse stick in grade school. Having time to kill, I decided to enter and peruse their sparse selection of lacrosse sticks and equipment, in the interest of seeing ‘what’s new’. I looked at what they had and nothing caught my interest. A customer next to me said out loud,
“the material today is way different than my time during the 70’s… I’m Drew by the way…”
I shook Drew’s hand and noticed an STX Lacrosse cap on his head. We discussed our lacrosse backgrounds/experiences and I wondered if this was the ONLY lacrosse-fan in my hometown of NYC (besides myself). Drew insisted to exchange numbers to keep in touch and I found that a bit strange at first, but I eventually agreed. Drew left many messages on my voice-mail asking to see if I wanted to “throw the lacrosse ball around” but I never responded. Weeks and months passed and Drew called again (among many times prior), but this time I decided to acknowledge his phone call at the least. He mentioned getting word of a pick-up lacrosse game that was to happen the weekend coming up at the City College of New York (at one point, one of the oldest, continuing lacrosse programs in the nation!). I was excited with the news and agreed, and we decided to meet-up and travel up to City College together. I collected my lacrosse equipment at my parent’s place, which I was happy they still kept! The feeling of playing in a big game the night before, regardless of a simple, pick-up game, returned to me.
Drew and I met in front of Paragon Sports and entered the subway going uptown to 137th St. Sticks and bags lying on the subway car, we got so many cold and strange stares from the ‘jaded New Yorkers’ around us. We got off at 137th St. and Broadway, got above ground and walked up a hill towards City College’s athletic facilites on Convent Ave. The tall stadium lights started to appear from the distance and upon our arrival, we reached an old astroturf-field, marked with lacrosse-field lines, two orange goal-cages and about 35 lacrosse players of different ages – stretching and throwing the lacrosse ball around. They were all NYC-based.
My life totally changed for the better, right there, at that moment!
Thanks to Drew, I finally found what was missing.
(With Drew Andreotti – center. 2005 NCAA Div. 1 Final Four)
(‘Throwing the rock’ on the Parade Grounds/Prospect Park – Brooklyn, NY)
It was all the rage/hype at the Johns Hopkins University “Blue Jay Lacrosse Camp” during my time in high-school in the early-to-mid 90’s, because Doug Knight (UVA) kept on doing it & doing it. Maybe those extreme “Mountain Dew” commercials, back then, were to blame? It was one of the wildest things seen and coolest way to score instead of a “BTB” (behind-the-back) shot. But as a goalie, when I saw 2 “keepers” at camp get hurt from attackmen/middies crashing into the net, I was more scared of “The Dive” than facing the 95-100 mph shots coming at me!
When asked to portray this in a rendering for Jim Rood’s business, “In The Crease Lacrosse” based out of Maryland, my mind went right back to this personal time and experience of mine on the field. However, off the field, I did remember doing an earlier version of something like “The Dive” for a customer in Melbourne, Australia (Mr. Alan Lewer/Altona Lacrosse Club):
Mr. Lewer not only hung the piece up in his “bar room” at home, but got it permanently “inked”…
I got approval from a quick sketch, but needed original reference pics… I just couldn’t “execute it cold”. So an early morning pose on the living room couch simulating “The Dive” was done.
Final piece. Pen & Ink, 8″x12″, 3 hours total time.
“Packing up, Resigned, Terminated, Let go”.
Different words, but the same meaning. The recent and huge ‘shifts’ of Div. I coaches: Tony Seaman (Towson), Richie Meade (Navy), Jim Stagnitta (Rutgers) and the overlooked programs at Wagner College and SUNY-Binghamton, reminded me of a very personal, yet VERY important experience and lesson – being FIRED.
Winning is memorable. Losing is UNFORGETTABLE!
1996. We were defending a New-England Lacrosse Championship title in our league. The first full-time start against The Gunnery School my senior year in boarding school and I had a very strong 1st quarter (about 6 saves in). Soon enough, I “tanked” and folded like paper – letting in about 15 goals in total at the end of competition. Head down and disappointed, I was at the front of the line to shake the opponent’s hands. Coach Brande pulled me aside from my teammates, who were all heading to the fieldhouse, and told me “as the captain, you really need to look at yourself in the mirror and question your performance…”
I’m always asked what spurred my starting The Art of Lax™. Yeah, I might’ve been drawing lacrosse players during English class in boarding school or my failed attempt for a “senior thesis” in art school. But I think there was something else behind it.
Having enthusiasm shows. Not having any enthusiasm shows, too.
2005. There was not a lot to like about that current job, looking back, but I knew I hated it. The work was more of a job than a career step. Regardless, I thought I did my job well but my boss didn’t see me in that situation, thus my reviews weren’t spectacular. I was told of a meeting with my boss was to come and I knew what that meant. I talked to my parents for advice and my Dad mentioned that back in World War II, the 2 most successful, yet feared U.S. Generals by their enemies (Gen. George S. Patton by the Germans & Gen. Douglas MacArthur by the Japanese), were both eventually fired by their superiors, Gen. Eisenhower and Pres. Truman. My Dad, being a very laconic person, left it at that for me to figure it out.
The Mirror Test.
As the meeting with my boss got nearer, I decided to meet up with some friends of mine at a bar to “take things off my mind” – that was easier said than done. I showed up about an hour early and sat down at one of the ‘red & white’ checkered tables at Dorrian’s Red Hand in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. With a blank sheet of paper and a pen, I questioned “if I had to describe myself in 5 words to somebody, what would they be?”
I don’t remember what order these two words came in but they were definitely the first 2.
3. History - AP History in boarding school and always known for watching The History Channel more than ESPN. Ironically, Art History never appealed to me in art school.
4. Food - Cooking (and dining out), another thing I do a lot during the week.
5. Travel – Love to travel Internationally and experience/learn the many different cultures of the world.
“Getting into hot water hurts, but hot water keeps you clean.“ – Malachy F. Cleary (former assistant Headmaster, St. David’s School – NY, NY)
I looked at Art & Lacrosse and realized the very rare combined interests of two polar opposite audiences and genres. That rare combination, I thought, could be unique. It turned out to be the BEST decision to have ever happened to my professional career. Eventually, I had that meeting and I was “forced to resign” but that felt more of a relief, rather than a disappointment.
Hindsight is 20/20. Lesson Learned.
2011. Of those 5 words, the first two, simply put, describe me the most and the venture I decided to embark on. Somebody told me “you have to do the things you do not like in order to find the things you do…“. That situation, forced me to look at what I really LOVE to do. Looking back, I shouldn’t have waited for something negative to have happened first, rather I should’ve drawn the line and “fired myself”. But making mistakes is how you learn and if I wasn’t “let go” I wouldn’t have known what I wanted and wouldn’t have accomplished the many things to this day with The Art of Lax™.
“It doesn’t matter what happens to you in life, it’s how you react to it.” – David Neeleman (former CEO, jetBlue Airways)
“You don’t have to be the BEST team in the league, just the BEST on game day!”
Yup, it’s about that time where I make my decision(s) & publicly display them for the 2011 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament, which starts tomorrow at 12noon EST.
I have my upsets in mind/listed on here. Call me crazy on some of them but that’s the best thing about sport – anything can just happen.