Cromwell lacrosse is a dream coming true

For the first time ever, lacrosse was played on the Cromwell High School campus, when the boys’ JV team played its first home scrimmage on April 7. The field – which is referred to as the “practice field” — didn’t even have lines or markings until the day of the friendly vs. Amistad Academy.

Coach Nick Gaeta, who has played lacrosse since he was in fifth grade, had a dream of staring a lacrosse program. While in college, he was an assistant coach at Xavier High School, and around the time he was nearing graduation he realized that coaching is his passion, and that his intended field wouldn’t be conducive to that. So, he made a switch and went back to school to become a teacher.

Gaeta had the fortune to be hired at a school that didn’t have a lacrosse program, but did have a group of players chomping at the bit to be part of one. Gaeta started at Cromwell High and soon began a makeshift club of about eight students, who talked about lacrosse and did some light drills after school.

Soon the administrators got behind the idea of starting a program, and in the second year, more students showed up for the after school sessions, and a club team was formed.

“It snowballed in a good way,” Gaeta said. “Kids kept becoming interested.”

Another boon came last fall when five members of the class of 2017 came to the school with youth lacrosse experience under their belts. They had played in other towns like Middletown and Rocky Hill, because of the lack of a youth program in town. With the student interest, and backing of the school, it was time to get uniforms and officially have a team.

“This has just been the perfect storm of getting this program up and running,” Gaeta said. “I wanted it, the kids wanted it, and the administration wanted it.”

This year, 30 players are on the team. While they could play varsity in other spring sports, they choose lacrosse, and don’t regret it.

“It’s a very physical sport – It’s a mixture of my favorite sports – soccer, hockey, and basketball. It takes skill. It’s not a sport that anyone can just play, so it’s kind of a challenge,” said Nevin Picard – a senior (and one of the original eight) who won’t have a chance to play varsity lacrosse, but still believes whole-heartedly in furthering the program, and feels that it will help him just as much in college and on resumes. “I think getting this kind of program started will be seen later on,” he said.

“It’s cool. It’s the fastest sport. I love it. It’s so much fun,” said junior Nick Painchaud, a converted soccer player.

Both players had high praise for their coach.

“He’s very understanding,” Picard said. “We’re new, but he knows how to handle that pretty well. He doesn’t push us too much, but he pushes us to the point where we need to be.”

“He’s awesome,” Painchaud said. “He makes it fun. We look forward to it. We like learning. We like getting better.”

“They were so excited that this is the reality – that this is coming to a head,” Gaeta said of his players as the season began. “They’re stoked.”

The goal for this season is to play as many games as possible, getting the players as much experience as possible. Six more are scheduled (with a couple more pending) with other upstart programs like Amistad, and a few more-established JV squads.

“It was something they were into,” said CHS Athletic Director Andy Kuckel. “Next year, we plan to play a full JV schedule of 16 games, and a varsity season in 2016.”

Kuckel added that Gaeta is the right person for the job.

“He knows what he’s got to do,” Kuckel said. “He’s got his vision for where he wants to take the program. We have the talent here, and there is no doubt in my mind that it is going to attract more athletes.”

“It’s all about experience, skills, and commitment,” Gaeta said, adding that improvement is the team’s ongoing mantra. “They are actually getting better every day. The goal is to do that – to improve on something every day, and that’s been happening. We’ll take a little step back and we’ll get a little frustrated sometimes, but we can keep moving on. We can progress. We’re not stuck. We started off with the basic fundamentals. We spend the first 45 minutes of every practice just working on stick skills. We try not to stand still. We try to move around with the ball in the stick, so they are always utilizing skills.”

“The kids are actually learning extremely fast,” Picard said. “We knew we were a beginner team, and wouldn’t be that great, but from the talent we’re seeing here, we think we have potential here.”

Gaeta said he’s not in a rush to have a varsity program. While CHS would be eligible to go varsity in 2015, he’d rather see the program have more strength and depth before jumping into the fray, in order to have a more-respectable showing.

Gaeta said another intermediate goal is to get a youth program started. Parks and Recreation officials are working on getting camps together, to build (and gauge) interest, and hopefully germinate a program. Gaeta is also speaking to middle-schoolers about joining the squad next season. There are also girls who have begun to express interest in a team of their own in the near future.

“We just get the word out however we can get it out,” he said.

Painchaud is hoping to make more strides in his senior year, and then go on to play Division III lacrosse at Endicott College.

CCSU-bound Picard, who plans to play in college, but may put it off until sophomore year, is optimistic about the Cromwell program’s future.

“If we get a youth program like they are talking about, the talent will get better,” he said. “I have no doubt that within ten years that our varsity program will get a state championship. I think it’s pretty safe to say that.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *