Changing Planes

While the enrollment has been booming at Colorado State University-Pueblo, so has the opportunity. Things have been changing fast around the campus and so have the faces. Now that the school has been looking for multiple expansions of the athletic department, the university wants to add sports that will attract more students to Pueblo, Colorado. One of those sports is Lacrosse.

Why not pick a sport that seems to be booming as well? With teams being added all over the country, one of the newest teams adding 35 people to the campus, from all over the country, is lacrosse.

“It all started for me in my hometown,” Jamil Modaffari said, junior and transfer from Pen Yan, New York. “In my part of New York, lacrosse is how football is to Texas.”

This melting pot of players is coming from places as far as New York and as close as our own backyard of Pueblo. In an effort to add more opportunity at CSU-Pueblo, the college has hired Sean Blair as the head coach and he has had to build an entire program from scratch. At one point, Blair was the only piece of the puzzle and now everything else has fallen into place through hard work.

Coach Blair and players | Photo taken by Felix Cordova
Coach Blair and players | Photo taken by Felix Cordova

“We needed to do everything. I mean everything,” Blair explained. “From assistant coaches to players and every other part of a program that you can think of, but we made it happen.”

For Blair, it was obvious that he needed to put his main focus on one area and that was attracting players to come to CSU-Pueblo. Recruiting wasn’t going to be easy, so he contacted other collegiate coaches to see if he could contact players who wanted to play. He told them about the new program and with his luck, he was able to gather a few prospects and others started to trickle in.

Though there was uncertainty about where the team would play, things quickly turned around for the new program. Instead of building an entirely new stadium, the university thought it would be better to revamp an existing facility and it was a decision that positively affected the soccer program as well.

When word came out that the university would have a men’s and women’s lacrosse team, some generous donations made it possible to provide a new stadium for the teams. The facility, which was once just a soccer field, is now the newly renovated facility called Gonzales Stadium, naming it after longtime supporters, Art and Lorraine Gonzales. The $3 million went toward an all purpose turf field, 450 seat bleachers, a concession stand, offices and locker rooms. Now, the lacrosse team has everything it will need to have a great season.

“None of it is possible without a team, so recruitment was step one,” Blair said. “We just had to get a couple of guys to come out and I knew they would like it. We were able to put together a good first year team.”

Working with a first year team isn’t something new to Blair. He was an assistant coach for the newly formed lacrosse program at Hope College, in Michigan, and helped the team to an 8-5 record in 2013, and a fourth place finish within their division. He has been able to go through the trials and tribulations of a first year program, so that made it easier for him to get past the roadblocks that might appear for this new program.

Blair is coming from an area that’s not only popular with lacrosse, it’s the birthplace and origin of lacrosse. Many Native American tribes played a version of the sport around the Great Lakes area, and the tradition of the sport has lived on through the many teams that exist today. Just like modern day lacrosse, they would take a stick with mesh tied on the head of it and then they would throw a rubber ball with it. The point was to get the rubber ball to the other side of the field and then throw it into a goal. Though the version you see today might be a little bit more professional, the sport hasn’t taken on too many changes, making it the oldest team sport in North America.

Lacrosse isn’t a sport that’s biased or prejudiced against any kind of player. Tall, short, big or small, any size player can earn his or her way on to the team. It’s a sport that requires hard work and dedication.

“I love the fact you don’t have to be a specific size for this sport. When I went into college as a football player, my size put me at the bottom of the depth chart,” Sean said. “That’s when I decided to play another sport that I could be better at and the rest is history.”

After having a successful career as a collegiate athlete, he ended up moving  to coaching. It wasn’t until he had coached lacrosse that he realized he really loved the sport and that there wasn’t going to be another career path for him.

“My life is lacrosse,” Blair explained. “This was a great choice and I don’t regret it.”

Since moving to Pueblo, Blair has made major headway with the program and the team will set out to make some noise within the division as the season will be in full swing for the month of March. Though Blair has had to face some adversity with late recruitment, the players have been progressing within the last few months.

“We’ve been training for a couple of months now and they are pushing us hard,” Hunter Thompson explained, freshman from Greenwood Village, Colorado. “This is new to me, but I really feel that we are coming along. It’s going to be a great season.”


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