The Fairfield Warde Boys Varsity Lacrosse League brought their season to a celebratory close with a bang-up end of season party. The party took place in City Park. It was hosted by athletes’ parents, many who took the opportunity to show off their own skills. Matt Wilson’s father, Brett Wilson, owns a BBQ business called Smokey Goodness BBQ, and he generously provided scrumptious BBQ brisket, smoky bacon beans and grilled corn on the cob for 20 hungry teenage boys and their parents. (Brisket loving readers can check out Brett Wilson’s catering options for their own event at www.smokygoodnessBBQ.com.) The dessert course featured of an artistic creation by Samuel Kennington’s mother, Theresa Kennington, who crafted a white and gold cake featuring a fondant lacrosse stick cradling a candy ball. Not to be outdone, Mandy Frederick, mother of Billy Frederick, placed party favors at each place setting. Each guest sat down to a miniature lacrosse stick made with bright yellow pipe cleaners holding an over-size lacrosse ball. (The balls were actually Tootsie Pops.)
The slide show was set
After some brief welcoming comments by the head coach, Troy Manzel, the afternoon event kicked off with a surprise slide show of the Mustangs’ best moments. Collaboratively created by coaches and parents, the slide show was set to a soundtrack that had the kids pumping their fists and wondering which parents were cool enough to come up with all the great music.
The players were ready for some public recognition and acknowledgements
With the excitement of their season successes in the air, the players were ready for some public recognition and acknowledgements. The young men passed a lacrosse ball from player to player, and the person with the ball had an opportunity to say what was special to them about the season or to acknowledge someone who had made a difference for them. One player reminisced about the team’s antics at a hotel when they traveled to state competitions. One of the younger players acknowledged one of the seniors, telling him the time he took for post-game conversations with the rookie made a huge difference in the way I thought about the game and my plays.
The awards portion
The awards portion of the day revealed Steven Jackson as Rookie of the Year. Jake Martin was named Offensive MVP, while Jason Katz received the same MVP honor for defense. Brandon Brown walked away as Most Improved Player, and for his extra physical and mental efforts, Brian Gallant was awarded the Hustle Award. All the young men were given certificates with a list of season wins as well as a framed team photo.
A highlight of the evening was guest speaker Wilson Moore, a professor of sports psychology from Fairfield University. Professor Moore was formerly a lacrosse coach. Players and parents alike keenly listened as Moore spoke of mental toughness, reminding the players that their game was 90% mental.
The biggest surprise of the evening
The biggest surprise of the evening, however, was yet to come. Head coach Manzel was a hero to many of the young men on the team, and he was greatly admired by parents. In the previous months, players and parents had come together to brainstorm a special gift for him. Manzel was known for bringing together family and friends for hours of fun at his backyard BBQ parties, so a few parents volunteered to do some research and find top rated electric smokers. The parents generously pooled their resources and purchased a smoker for Manzel. As the finale of the event, the athletes took turns telling Manzel what he meant to them. Phrases such as role model, best coach ever, and the dad I never had moved Manzel to tears. He was speechless when the young men presented him with his gift. When he could talk again, he said they would be the first to sample the new smoky tastes, and he invited them all to his next family BBQ. After all, he said, this team is a family. It was a fine end to a fine event full of celebration, friendship, comradery and team spirit.
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