Former Buffalo Bandits helping keep the tradition of lacrosse alive
These days, some former players are helping to keep that tradition getting stronger and stronger.
A group of highly-experienced coaches, including former Bandits Joe Smith and Frank Resetaritss started Champion Lacrosse about three years ago.
"We got together and we saw a need for some quality coaching of guys that have played at the highest level," Smith said. "We put them through basically college practices, and the other aspect is taking them to recruiting tournaments."
Smith and Resetaritss, a Hamburg native, started Champion Lacrosse along with former Johns Hopkins University standout Jordan Jayson about three years ago.
Smith played with the Bandits as well as the Rochester Knighthawks and Rochester Rattlers, winning the Rattlers 2007 Unsung Hero Award. He was also an assistant coach for Team Italy at the World Games. Before all of that, he helped Towson University to three CAA championships and a Final Four appearance in 2001.
Resetaritss, the 10th leading scorer in NCAA history with 240 career points at the University of Albany, also played for the Bandits, Long Island Lizards and San Jose Stealth. Jayson led Johns Hopkins to a pair of Final Four appearances.
Also on the coaching staff is Brian Lalley, a former Ohio State University standout.
Those guys have been through a lot on the lacrosse field and now they're sharing that knowledge with the area's future stars.
"We push them pretty good in practice," Smith said. "We try to call it a college prep team. We try to give them a taste of what a college practice is like at Division I, Division II, Division III would be like. So when they do go to college, their eyes aren't all wide open."
With dozens of lacrosse players representing Western New York at the collegiate level and a bunch more on the way, the sport continues to emerge. And that growth is expected to continue.
“More kids are playing and more opportunity for kids to play after high school,” Smith said. “Especially at the Division III level, a lot more schools are popping up with lacrosse.
It’s really growing and growing in this area and it's great for our coaches and our program to be a part of that direction.”
This year, Champion Lacrosse also started girls travel teams. They were led by Hamburg High School coach and former University of Connecticut standout Katy Ryan, Amherst High School coach and University at Albany alum Jodi Battaglia and Frontier junior varsity coach and Canisius College graduate Megan Portka.
"That's our mission to give them the best coaching we could find - and we have three that played at Division I level," Smith said. "It's an extension of the ideas of what we did with the boys. The girls game is growing just as fast as the boys game, if not faster."
The travel teams enjoyed a plethora of success this summer. And Champion Lacrosse has a lot more to offer.
“We do private lessons or we can do groups want to get a bunch of their buddies or teammates together for group lessons,” Smith said.
For more information, visit www.joesmithlacrosse.com.