Oct. 8, 2015
SOUTH BEND, Ind. "Never mistake activity for achievement." - John Wooden
That quote was the final message shared with the Notre Dame men's lacrosse team before unloading the bus in downtown Chicago at Harrison Park for the fourth annual Playing for Peace service event.
The goal of the event, which took place Thursday, Sept. 24, was not simply to be present, but to be fully engaged with the aspiring young lacrosse players in attendance at the free, instructional clinic co-hosted by O.W.L.S. (Outreach With Lacrosse & Schools) Lacrosse.
The Playing for Peace initiative uses sport to transcend boundaries and bring people together in pursuit of peace, justice and human understanding. This mission serves in accordance with all the community service efforts of the Notre Dame men's lacrosse program, which includes a long-standing relationship with O.W.L.S. Lacrosse. A not-for-profit organization, O.W.L.S. Lacrosse is dedicated to creating transformative lacrosse programs for inner-city schools and low-income communities.
Sam Angelotta, who founded O.W.L.S. Lacrosse and serves as its executive director, emphasized the importance of long-term community partnerships, such as the bond between the Notre Dame men's lacrosse team and O.W.L.S. Lacrosse, in providing at-risk youth an avenue for transformation.
"Simply introducing the sport isn't enough," Angelotta said. "Due to consistent and long-lasting relationships between O.W.L.S. Lacrosse students and Notre Dame lacrosse players, staff, and university affiliates, we are seeing an incredibly positive impact. Seasonal events like Playing For Peace in the fall, our spring trip to Arlotta Stadium and the Notre Dame Lacrosse Skills Camp in the summer give our kids something to look forward to.
"As a result we have seen a dramatic increase in program participation," Angelotta continued. "Exposure and enrichment are very important in getting kids to think about college as a long-term goal. When our kids take part in a campus tour or an essay writing contest with another Notre Dame player, they have a direct reference and `college' is no longer just a word. Lacrosse, scholarship and service are now part of the culture of our O.W.L.S. Lacrosse school sites. This is due largely to the relationship we have with Notre Dame and their foundation of culture, community and character."
As alluded by Angelotta, the relationship between Notre Dame men's lacrosse and O.W.L.S. Lacrosse extends beyond the confines of one brisk fall evening in September. The Playing for Peace service event tradition began in 2012 with an instructional clinic for O.W.L.S. Lacrosse, which was co-hosted by the Notre Dame, Bellarmine and Detroit lacrosse programs. To supplement their on-field instruction, Notre Dame student-athletes also built a lacrosse equipment shed at the O.W.L.S. Lacrosse flagship site of St. Malachy School.
From that point on, the Irish have developed the Playing for Peace service event as an annual tradition for the team.
"Every time we get the chance to go to Chicago and work with O.W.L.S. Lacrosse it's a great time," Conor Kelly, a graduate student at Notre Dame and goalie for the Irish men's lacrosse team, said. "It gives us a chance to give back to the sport that has afforded us so many opportunities, and hopefully help the next generation follow in our footsteps. Lacrosse is something that all these kids can rally around, and it's great to see them so eager to play and learn the game."
Last season, O.W.L.S. Lacrosse welcomed the Notre Dame student-athletes to St. Malachy School, breaking the tradition of holding the event at Harrison Park. The change in scenery offered the opportunity for new impactful activities, including a Playing for Peace essay writing contest.
Aside from the Playing for Peace initiative, members of O.W.L.S. Lacrosse have attended Notre Dame games at Arlotta Stadium. A total of 125 O.W.L.S. Lacrosse students and family members cheered on the Irish vs. Syracuse last season.
Traditionally, a select group of youngsters then return to campus for the annual Notre Dame Lacrosse Skills Camp during the summer. This is an incentivized goal for the aspiring lacrosse players, with scholarships offered for the overnight instructional camp.
"This is my third year working with the O.W.L.S. program and it's just been really cool for me to see how lacrosse can spread among kids from any background or area and become a passion," Shane Doss, a junior goalie for the Irish, said. "These kids genuinely enjoy playing and watching the sport, and I also think giving them that team experience is great and something every kid should get to enjoy.
"Having kids remember jokes we laughed about together a year ago was really eye opening to the impact our team has had and made the effort totally worth it."
The laughter as well as the music, courtesy of a live DJ, echoed throughout Harrison Park for the most recent edition of the Playing for Peace clinic. More than 60 children from the West Side and South Side of Chicago participated.
From an introduction to the proper athletic stance for rookies to faceoff technique for the more experienced players, the clinic instilled a variety of skills within the enthusiastic mentees. However, the lacrosse instruction took second rank to the more significant intention, building relationships.
"This was my first time working with the O.W.L.S. Lacrosse group and coming into it I had no clue what to expect," Drew Schantz, a freshman midfielder for the Irish, said. "When I arrived in Chicago, I was completely blown away with the amount of passion and excitement these young players have for the game. You could really see how much it meant to them that we were there. I really enjoyed being able to help these kids grow their love for the game. I am looking forward to working with them again."
For Schantz, his journey with the O.W.L.S. Lacrosse program is just beginning. Over time, he'll have the opportunity to develop lasting, impactful friendships of his own, which will be a key achievement and testament to the Notre Dame Lacrosse Experience.
"Events like Playing For Peace can be a large part of the solution in a community where you typically only hear about the problems," Angelotta said. "Personally, I enjoyed sitting back and watching our students' total elation in working with the Notre Dame players and staff. These positive experiences have a life-long impact, and I can attest to that.
"Organizations like O.W.L.S. Lacrosse are critical to the quality of life amongst our students, and the work needs to be done. Seeing the successes of our students on and off the field over time is more than enough inspiration. Each year we have higher participation, more students enrolled at college prep high schools, and this spring we will have two students playing in college."
-- by Ashley Albertson, Athletics Communications Assistant Director
The University of Notre Dame men's lacrosse team pursues excellence on and off the field through the three pillars in which the program is built: Character, Culture & Community. These three foundational values guide the promise of the program, which is to provide its student-athletes with the most compelling and enriching experience in all of college athletics. Through academics, competition, service and travel, the program aims to immerse its players in situations that enhance their student-athlete experience to help them become the people, students and teammates they aspire to be.
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