FLEMING ISLAND – Fleming Island High lacrosse coach John Hawley has slowly built his Eagles’ team into a regionally strong unit with interest growing more and more in north Florida in the sport. …
FLEMING ISLAND – Fleming Island High lacrosse coach John Hawley has slowly built his Eagles’ team into a regionally strong unit with interest growing more and more in north Florida in the sport.
“We started three years ago just trying to keep the interest level high here,” said Hawley, a Naval Academy standout and a recent US Lacrosse North coach of the year recipient for his 2018 season. “The previous coaches here, like previous coach Jeff LaVangie, now at Shorter University, set a high standard for the kids to learn the sport and we have just tried to keep that momentum.”
On Mon., July 2, Hawley, who took over for LaVangie in 2016, landed Florida Launch offensive coach Brian Duncan in Fleming Island to discuss and coach a summer session to a large group of Fleming Island lacrosse players. Florida Launch is part of the professional Major League Lacrosse league based out of south Florida.
“Brian is a great guy, has been coach at Flagler College, and is interested like all of us to spread the game of lacrosse,” said Hawley, who finished at 9-3 with a midseason eight game win streak with wins over three eventual district champions; Bolles and Fletcher. “He is here to give us some fine points of lacrosse that can better our kids games. We have kids from six years old to some Fleming Island alums; Justin Safranski and Jason Kunath, here tonight.”
Duncan, in his second year with the Launch, brought his vast experience; at Florida Institute of Technology where he guided the team to a 12-4 record and a Sunshine State Conference championship game, plus landed seven All-Conference players in that historic year. Duncan also coached at Bolles in Jacksonville and Jacksonville University.
Prior to Jacksonville, Duncan, a midfielder at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, spent 10 years at Community College of Baltimore County where he won a junior college national title in 2004 earning him NJCAA National Coach of the Year honor.
“I’m trying to pinpoint the fine points of lacrosse at a high level to these kids because coach Hawley has started from the ground up with his summer programs and has progressed to feed the high school programs with kids genuinely wanting to get to the next levels,” said Duncan. “North Florida is a good breeding ground for lacrosse talent and more and more schools are finding ways to include it in their athletic programs.”
Fleming Island High is the lone school in Clay County that offers lacrosse with some talk of expanding that into other schools.
“It’s a great sport to develop footspeed and awareness of teammates and defensives quickly with split second decisions moving the ball downfield,” said Hawley. “This is a very football-centric county and it’s tough to crack that code. If the coaches saw how much running we do, lacrosse might be a good supplemental sport for football and soccer guys. A lot of strong lacrosse areas have the football coaches as lacrosse coaches because of the crossover.”
Hawley runs a summer schedule of three days of practice a week with informal scrimmages and a day of conditioning.
“We go very fundamental; zero Xs and Os, just a way to keep the sticks in their hands and have some fun,” said Hawley. “We have a skill development day, a speed day and a conditioning day. Wednesday is mainly a light scrimmage day.”