Lakeland Summer Leagues Serving Vital Purpose for Area Youth

By Ray Gallagher, Examiner Sports Editor @Directrays

Folks in our neck of the woods have no idea how fortunate they are to have people like Lakeland educators/coaches Sharon Sarsen and Tim Hourahan providing a summer outlet for field hockey preps and boys’ soccer players, respectively. Seriously, you have no idea. Every single summer Sarsen — the most decorated field hockey coach in state history (probably the country) — and Hourahan — among the most dedicated soccer coaches in NYS — provide Section 1 athletes with the chance to play competitive, well-organized, off-season sports in an effort to get them ready for the fall season.

Yorktown’s Peter Tinaj gets set to rip one of his four goals in Huskers’ win over Valhalla last Tuesday in a summer league game.

The Lakeland Summer Soccer League and Lakeland Summer Field Hockey League provide a one-of-a-kind opportunity for local communities from Rye (lower Westchester) to Mahopac (Putnam County), and all points in between, to gauge their programs and see what they have returning in September. Not only does it allow local coaches to see their own players in action, it gives them a glimpse of what they’re up against once the Section 1 seasons begin in earnest. From the top teams in the league, to those that may be struggling, everybody gets a shot to see what they have and what they need to improve upon.

“I’ll tell you this,”Hourahan said. “Class A soccer is absolutely loaded again, and the top teams are all playing summer league.”

This year, the league added a bunch of teams and has 15 programs playing summer soccer at Lakeland.

“These Class A teams are good and I would be shocked if one of the 10 teams playing in this league from Class A are not in the sectional finals come the end of October, if not two teams,” Hourahan said.

Section 1’s recent boys’ soccer champions return some of the top players and rosters going into 2021. Rye, Byram Hills, Somers and Yorktown all will be considered legitimate title contenders in Class A and all have shown great level of play already in summer league. Eastchester is an up-and-coming team in Class A and has the goods to beat any team this fall on any given day, including summer league wins over Somers and John Jay EF this July.

“There is always a team in Rockland in Class A to contend with, too, and recently it has been Pearl River,” Hourahan said, “but I am hearing a bit about Tappan Zee and even Clarkstown North, who just dropped down from AA. There is always Greeley as well, who remains in A, so with 30 total teams it will be one of the most competitive classes in any section in New York. That is for sure, and we have some of the very best getting after it already in our summer league.”

If it weren’t for coaches like Sarsen and Hourahan, this opportunity would likely not exist, and since my own daughter competes in the summer field hockey league I’d like to take this opportunity to say thanks! Thanks for going out of your way every single season to do right by our kids. Folks have no idea how fortunate we are to have coaches like these two kicking butt and showing up for all of us…

You wanna know how crazy it’s gotten out there when it comes to local sports luncay, helicopter parents and cuckoo coaches? Sure ya do, because we’re almost immune to these yarns about knuckleheads that can’t contain their emotions at 8/9U baseball games. These wackadoos think nothing of the fact that a coach in Putnam Valley was tossed for inappropriate behavior against an opposing coach and refusing to leave a field. (This actually happened in a recent Greater Hudson Valley Baseball League game)

Did you hear about that incident between Somers and Putnam Valley? The one where the opposing coaches had to be separated at home plate after exchanging F-bombs; right in front of the impressionable players. (Again, this actually happened in yet another Greater Hudson Valley Baseball League game in early July and these guys are still coaching)

I don’t seek these stories out, they find me… but I’ve seen them first-hand and can attest to the fact that many of these young kids are disgusted by parents’ and coaches’ behavior and have reached the tipping point in some cases. And it’s only going to intensify after the recent rulings regarding NCAA athletes being able to make money by selling the rights to their Name, Image and Likeness, or NIL for short. This new frontier — thanks to a decision granted by the U.S Supreme Court and the states that are supporting it — will have a trickle-down effect that could make coaches and parents even nuttier as they attempt to find ways to generate revenue from Junior’s likeness.

I recently asked an 11U kid I like, “Hey, where’s your dad?” “He’s over there,” he said, pointing to a distance. I said, “Oh, there he is. I didn’t ‘hear’ him like I usually do.” We laughed, and the kid said, “That’s because I told him I’m tired of his B.S. and told him to shut up at my games.”

Oh, from the mouth of babes. To his credit, the dad actually listened.

Why can’t today’s parents be more like my parents were in the wee ‘80s; invisible or silent as night? It is rare, though refreshing, to meet and chat with someone with an old-school mentality.

“My son is learning how to pitch BEFORE he becomes a pitcher; form, release point, follow through… every single thing about the art of pitching,” the father of a 12U GHVBL player told me Friday. “This way, when he’s strong enough to throw 80-85 pitches, he’ll know how to do it. I’m not just going to throw him out there at 12 and tell him to throw the ball as hard as he can to blow dudes away. Learn the ropes first, get stronger along the way, develop good pitching habits, respect your coaches, be a good teammate and then have at it.”

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, I replied, “But how can your kid earn a college scholarship with a dad that puts the well-being of his child before his own delusions of grandeur?”

The well-being of our kids, mentally and physically, is what it’s all about. Teaching them how to deal with adversity and how to bounce back from it are the important lessons parents and coaches should be teaching over berating umpires and fellow coaches, so we ALL need to understand and appreciate that it’s not about us… it’s about the kids. So, pipe down, y’all, and provide an experience that’s fun for all and free from negativity.

What we really need is more events like the Brew Crew 12U Invitational, recently sponsored by the Brewster Crush and Brewster Little League. The host Brewster Crush Orange edged the Mahopac Wolves, 3-2, for the title, but it wasn’t just about baseball for the organizers, including Coach Mike Subin.

“Our goal was to promote the local baseball communities that are representing their towns proudly with the help of volunteers and local businesses to make an event centered around a sport we consider to be the best in the world,” said Subin, the co-director along with Rich Anderson. “We strived to have an event that is positive, fun for parents, players and siblings. We had food trucks, dunk tanks, a home run derby and a live national anthem sung to kick off the event. We invited classy teams and programs; who understand what the true spirit of youth sports is and are helping pave a path forward for boys to become strong, independent men.”

Mahopac Wolves Coach Paul Cotter called the Brew Crew Invite, “The best coaching experience I’ve had in all my years coaching. Our kids and coaches loved it.”

Here, here! #MoreOfThatPlease!

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