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Q&A with Bill Andrews of Beverwyck Renegades Lacrosse

Bill Andrews, an alum of the Shaker HS (’84) and Siena College (’88) lacrosse programs, has maintained vital involvement in the Capital District lacrosse community.  His experience includes eighteen years as a coach, including the Shaker, LaSalle, and Albany scholastic programs, and the Bethlehem and Albany youth programs.  Additionally, he currently serves as academic and legal adviser to the UAlbany Club Lacrosse team.  Bill played an integral part in bringing the sport of lacrosse to the City of Albany and continues his efforts to grow the game throughout the Capital Region, particularly as the Program Director and Co-Founder of the Beverwyck Renegades Lacrosse program.

Beverwyck Lacrosse is a program within Youth L.I.F.E. Support Network- under the advisement of Bill and others the Renegades Lacrosse program was started.  Youth LIFE support network works with families and teens to make a difference in young adults lives to change their course and drive them away from gangs and violence.

Alongside Bill are:

Jamel Muhammad – Executive Director of Youth Life Support Network

Derek Gavin– Niskayuna (’07) and Siena College (’11) graduate who is a salesmen for United Rentals.  Derek is also the assistant varsity coach for Voorheesville HS.

Phil Iovieno: Played for Yorktown HS (’84) and Siena College (’88).  Phil brings experience running youth leagues and a passion for growing the game.

Jack Chaskey– Siena College (’74), fmr. Siena Assistant Coach, Jack played for Siena and was a Capital District Referee the first Head Coach of the Albany High program.

Andrews recently took the time to answer some questions for Capital District Lax.

Tell us about the Beverwyck Renegades Lacrosse program.

BA: Beverwyck Renegades Lacrosse program is an evidenced based, sports mentoring program.  We operate as a 501 (c)(3) not for profit anti-gang program.  We offer a youth empowerment program that is designed to help high-risk populations and neighborhoods, and provide them with a safe, fun environment where they can learn more about sportsmanship, themselves, and how to make good choices.  We serve youth in the cities of Albany, Schenectady, and Troy.  Last year, we took fifty kids to a number of elite lacrosse tournaments including UMass, and the Capital Clash resulting in recruiting exposure for at risk kids that otherwise never would have been seen by a college coach.  

When was the program founded?  

BA: We have been operational since July, 2015. We recognized we needed to be a regional program to include the growing programs within the tri-city area. The new Albany, Schenectady and Troy programs do not have the numbers to exist on their own at the moment. We opted to create the program to connect the programs together so the game will grow in these areas. The program is conceptually based upon several programs, an anti-gang basketball program run out of Rochester, an anti-gang prevention hockey program out of Juneau, Alaska, and the Harlem Lacrosse models, with its own program touches. We were able to field 50 players to several elite tournaments last fall, and as a result 19 players met with college coaches and discussed their prospective recruitment.  These players never would have gotten the looks they did without the Renegades program.  We are breaking their cycles of poverty and giving them a chance to pursue their dreams and goals despite their economic and social circumstances.

What ages does it serve?  

BA: We currently serve 5th graders to high school seniors.  We plan to grow that range into kindergarten to career (U24) within the next two years.

Is girls lacrosse also offered, or just boys at this time?

BA: National and regional Uniform Crime Incident Reporting data notes young males in urban settings are more susceptible to gang recruitment and are more likely to act out in school, engage in anti-social behaviors and commit acts of juvenile delinquency and crime, be truant, and act out without structure, mentoring and tracking.  We are therefore initially focused on addressing this population and providing them with means and opportunities.  We are connecting with the urban male youth prior to their being drawn into negative situations.  We need to firmly establish the structure to connect with them first.  Once we have completed the erection of that aspect of our program – we will be in a position to easily replicate it for the young ladies in similar situations.      

How is the program supported?

BA: Beverwyck Renegades Lacrosse is supported by the Albany Police Department PAL, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the YMCA, and several other organizations.  We recently were awarded two equipment grants that will assist in outfitting our players. The Bill Bellichick Foundation and COMLAX  lacrosse awarded our program as the only program in the country to be the recipient of a $20,000 equipment grant. Additionally, some of the local high school programs, including Guilderland, Shaker, and Columbia are supporting us with equipment drives so that we can continue to grow the game. We face many obstacles and barriers – yet despite that we are doing well. We scholarship our players who can’t afford equipment and other aspects of programming to participate with us  by performing community service hours for others in exchange for our allowing them to participate. This way they recognize nothing is free. We also enjoy the benefit of having a grant writing team that is actively solicits and writes funding opportunities for us to sustain our existence.

Tell us about the coaching staff of the Beverwyck Renegades.

BA: The varsity coaches from Albany Schenectady and Troy work within our program – and we are creating a Tri-City urban feeder program to support the high school experience. Our plan is to go from kindergarten to career.  We have partnered  with UAlbany, Siena, St. Rose, RPI, Union HVCC and UAlbany club players for help.  Those that can assist us help our coaching staff when time permits.

Other than lacrosse, what services do you provide to the players of the Beverwyck Renegades lacrosse program?

BA: Our program is much more than Lacrosse.  As Renegades we seek youth to break away from stereotypes and negative expectations, and pursue their dreams of success. We seek to change player’s lives and get them to dream and believe that they have a different trajectory in life that they can pursue and achieve.  We are helping them maintain academic eligibility and improve graduation rates. We established a tutoring-mentoring  program between UAlbany and Albany High School.  It is available to all Albany High scholastic players to help keep them academically eligible for the spring season.  Saint Rose is going to assist and enhance that particular program this coming fall. We are also setting up similar tutoring mentoring programs between Union College and the Schenectady High School program,  and RPI and the Troy High School program. In addition to lacrosse and academic support, we are developing college application support for players, an easy connection to the unions and trades, and in a non-in your face way – discuss leadership, self-reliance, community, anti-bullying, gang disassociation, and other character building concepts.

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We established partnerships with the local colleges to support our players who otherwise would not be able to afford to attend college.  For example Southern Vermont College offers us a $12,000 break per semester for anyone of our players who end up going there. It’s a perfect D3 school for our kids. In addition we look to promote our players to colleges like Messacordia, near Scranton, where that college specializes in helping students with economic, social and mental health disabilities earn college degrees.

We even have a reward program where players that excel are occasionally given bicycles. This gives the players independence mobility and status – and rewards good behavior. Player participation in the Renegades Lacrosse program has resulted in a 78% drop in juvenile delinquency, truancy, and in school incidents regarding those participating, according to Albany High School student tracking data. We have observed similar drops in Troy and Schenectady High Schools as well.

Tell us what the plans are for the program for the spring and summer:

BA: We currently have a learn to play program operating at the GWU Center in Albany.  It’s at the old YMCA on Washington Avenue in Albany. Our numbers grow each week.  For the post high school spring-summer season we will  again bring teams to local tournaments – like Guilderland’s Armed Forces Day Tournament, United’s Albany Summer Clash, and the Albany Power tournament RPI, as well as other house and competitive, elite level tournaments. In addition to this, we will offer regular skills sessions and a developmental program for all level players, as well as multiple teams in the ADK Summer league.  The skills sessions will be open to local players and will be run by local college athletes.

Tell us about the Renegades’ recent trip to watch the Army-Navy lacrosse game at the United States Military Academy.

BA: It was beyond incredible.  We took 75 students and 10 coaches and chaperones to an  amazing experience. Navy was ranked in the top five, and Army was top 20 at the time, and if Army beat Navy – aside from  regular bragging rights – they would have placed  high enough in the Patriot League to get an NCAA birth. We saw parachuters landing on the field and helicopters flying overhead as pre-game festivities; the modified level players scrimmaged each other and the Albany high school players acted as mentors  and introduced  younger kids to the game.  It was phenomenal.  Many of the younger players had never been on a field trip before, or even left their blocks – and they got to see amazing lacrosse, and dream of their own future and opportunities. We had some great support to pull the entire experience off – Albany HS’s Athletic Director, Kathy Ryan helped turn the event into a school field trip so the school could assist with transportation; Chief Cox and the Albany Police Department helped by providing a bus and t-shirts for the event; Lenny Ricchiuti and Gary Tucker of PAL helped get new kids to participate; Paul Stallings of Brighter Choice Charter School and Dave Graham, a community leader helped recruit new kids to the game as well. The kids left exhausted and satisfied.  It was a great experience to grow the game within the urban community.

 

Where do you see the Beverwyck Renegades Lacrosse program in five years?

BA: We see our program serving multiple levels- partnering with multiple organizations, and making a difference in as many lives as possible.  Teaching the game of lacrosse at a young age not only provides a level of structure, but also provides teamwork fundamentals that will be beneficial throughout life. We are developing a multi-level tutoring program that we will be rolling out in the Schenectady, Albany and Troy school districts within the next six to fifteen months. The program will offer study college student run halls for players, as well as skills sessions and player academic and social tracking.  This aspect of our program will be similar to the Harlem Lacrosse program – where through such programming- they have grown to an 80 percent student participation rate in all their partnering schools.  Assuming this aspect of our program takes hold, we expect to grow by 100-200 students per year over the next five years. There are 12,000 students in the Albany City School District alone.  We know these numbers will be sound once parents and younger players see how the program is improving player graduation and passage rates as well as decreased crime rates and juvenile delinquency numbers. In five years we are hopefully hosting our own tournament for players, road tripping players to Hampton College for recruitment, and have a 10 % player placement in college programs; a 95% player graduation rate; an established partnership with the unions, trade schools and culinary schools for players – because not everyone goes to college; and an established alumni mentoring program, where those who participated in our program are giving back to the game and helping grow the game – as mentors and coaches.    

How can our readers help the Beverwyck Renegades Lacrosse program?  

BA: We would be humbled and deeply appreciative of any assistance offered, including local player alumni from any program as the cities in the Capital District do not have an alumni player base to teach the game. Our college helpers are limited in their availability – so anyone willing to help teach the game to our players – we could use mentors and coaches. Most of our players cannot afford their own equipment, including sticks. Any equipment donations are welcome. We can recondition and restring it if you are willing to part with it. Of course we continue to seek sponsors and supporters. Our program is always looking for financial donations and assistance. The elite and other tournaments and equipment don’t come free. Sportsplex of Halfmoon and Afrims are both $200/ hour, and do not offer discounts for the economically disadvantaged. Our players cannot be seen if they aren’t able to get on the field to play. Economic barriers are our biggest hurdles. Sponsor a player, a team, or the overall program – we would be extremely grateful.  And of course – educational mentors, more people willing to be on our grant writing team – we are not shy.  We can use time, energy and any fiscal resources anyone is willing to offer!

BA: Thanks so much for asking about us and what we are doing!

For additional information visit:

Beverwyck Lacrosse

and

Beverwyck Lacrosse Facebook

Gary Govel
Gary has been involved in lacrosse in the Capital District for over 35 years as a player, youth coach, program administrator, parent, and fan. Gary launched www.capitaldistrictlax.com in November 2015 to report on lacrosse news and information of interest to the region, and to share his passion for the game. In addition to operating this site and associated social media, Gary is also a contributor to Inside Lacrosse.
http://www.capitaldistrictlax.com
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