March 11, 2009


CHS grad White, teammates show that ‘Cuse Cares —

Smith embraces lax heroes

VisitBob Ellis/staff photographer
Members of the Syracuse University lacrosse team look on as Cortland High graduate Joel White holds the mic for a Smith Elementary School student to ask a question of the team during Tuesday’s visit from the defending national champions.

Staff Writer

Maureen White got to be a teacher and a proud mom at the same time, her son Joel got brief trip home and the students at Smith Elementary School got to spend time with some national champions.
It was a win-win-win situation Tuesday afternoon as Cortland High graduate Joel White, a sophomore long-stick midfielder, and almost all of his Syracuse University lacrosse teammates — three in full gear for demonstration purposes — spent the afternoon at Smith, where Maureen, his mother, teaches physical education.
“I’d read where the team had gone to other places with what’s called the ‘Cuse Cares Community Service Program — and brought the idea of their coming here up to Joel first and asked if he’d mind. He’s only going to be there so long,” Maureen said. “He liked the idea. I also talked to (SU assistant coach and former SUNY Cortland head coach) Lelan Rogers, whose son Casey is a student here, so there were a couple of ins.
“It worked out well, because they usually just send players who can find the time in their schedules, but this week they’re on spring break so it was a bit easier for them to come. Since they’re playing Johns Hopkins Saturday, we wanted to give them a good sendoff, so we decorated the school and a lot of people wore Orange.”
Syacuse and Johns Hopkins will meet at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Carrier Dome in a rematch of last year’s championship game won by the Orange.
Joel White had to arrive and leave with his teammates, with no extra time at home involved. “I got to see him for a little while,” Maureen said, grateful for the break in her son’s busy schedule. “It was nice to talk to him.”
“It’s definitely nice to get back home,” Joel said with a smile. “I haven’t been here in awhile. And it’s good to see the kids, good for us to interact with them. A lot of the kids have been to games. My mom has told me that kids will come up to her in school to tell her that they’re going to a game.
“We’ve been looking forward to this,” he added. “Since it’s Spring Break, we have more time to concentrate on lacrosse, and this helps break up the week full of practice and films with the big game coming up Saturday.”
After mingling with the students at lunch and recess the defending NCAA Division I champions, currently 3-1 and ranked second nationally, came into the orange-tinged, heavily-postered school gym, where their young admirers were waiting and gave them a loud reception.
After his mother started things off, Joel took over as the MC. Each player introduced himself, and the three captains present talked briefly about such topics as responsibility, how being a student comes before being an athlete (the importance of academics) and working through adversity. Joel then took the microphone back to lead a question-and-answer session before the visit ended with the players autographing everything that was put in front of them.
“Giving back to the community is a big thing at SU,” Lelan Rogers said. “It works out nice because Joel can come home to visit this school. It’s also a chance for the players to mingle with kids who look up to them, and for the players to help them realize that without academics, desire and commitment playing sports is a lot harder.
“It also helps the players realize that they have to do the right things as role models, and helps the kids understand that you don’t get where these players are without doing the right thing.”
“It was cool to come in here and see Joel treated like a celebrity,” said Dan Hardy, a senior midfielder from Tully. “The kids just surrounded him. Like when we were at my school, we visited kids I’d seen growing up, and they were excited to see us. It’s a lot of fun. The kids know more about us when you go to the hometown of a player on the team; I’d rather have kids with a connection to the team. They made a poster for each player. The energy they have is fun to see.”
“This was great, especially since I know Joel’s mom and now I’ve met her students,” said John Galloway, a sophomore goalie from West Genesee and Joel’s roommate. “He’s like a hero to these kids. This is my fourth or fifth time doing this, and it’s always nice, especially during the season when the kids know what’s going on. It’s also nice to get a break leading up to a big game. It makes it more fun.”
As a Child and Family Studies major at SU, Joel has an extra interest in dealing with youth. “It’s fun to teach the game; I want to be a counselor for kids and a coach after I graduate,” he said. “I’ve played under the best coaches and with and against the best players and learned a lot. I can talk to kids about what I’ve learned, and about things that I’ve been through. Things are headed in the right direction.
“This was cool. They wanted to know about the different kids of sticks and other equipment. You could tell some of them knew about the game and had an interest already,” added White. “One kid wanted to know if at age seven he was too late to get started, and I told him that’s the perfect age. There were good questions.”
“I think they’re awesome for giving me lots of autographs,” said Tanner Bradshaw, a second-grader. “I’ve got 33 right now. I’m kind of a fan; I’ve seen them on the news. They’re bigger than I thought they would be.”
“I like Syracuse and so does my older sister; I got autographs for her, too,” said sixth-grader Travis Wood, who estimated that he’d collected 45 signatures. “I like watching lacrosse, and was excited when the players got here. I was playing four-square, and had to go see them. They’re very, very, very big, bigger than I thought.”
“This is great,” Maureen White said as the program wound down. “I was a little nervous about this part (the players signing autographs spaced around the gym as the Smith students wandered among them), but the kids are doing great. They were good; there were some great questions.”