Tech Valley Lacrosse Founder and Program Director Eric Padelford graduated from the La Salle Institute in the mid 90’s. Although his primary sport was hockey, he played many others as well and found a love for lacrosse upon learning about the sport while in elementary schoolHis formal participation in lacrosse began when he transferred into La Salle as a junior. After high school he stayed near lacrosse and hockey, playing in competitive leagues in both sports.
Eric got involved with coaching about ten years ago as his children began playing sports, and has been very actively involved in youth football, wrestling, hockey, and of course lacrosse since that time. He offered, “I wouldn’t shy away from any opportunity to coach or help a youth sports organization and have served on boards for many.”
Professionally Eric runs an IT Consulting business focusing on database and web/application development.
Eric recently took the time to answer some questions for Capital District Lax.
Tell us a little about Tech Valley Lacrosse.
EP: I started Tech Valley Lacrosse as a winter indoor league program in the fall of 2009. My oldest son and many of the kids I coached were asking me for lacrosse opportunities over the winter months and, at that time, nothing existed. I created the program with multi-sport athletes in mind. We kept our time commitment to just once per week and scheduled our sessions during a day and time least likely to conflict with other sports. My goal was to give the kids an affordable lacrosse program that was fun.
I started the program by calling many of the local coaches I had met during the spring 2009 season and asking if they would be interested in playing indoor once per week and the response was excellent! We had over 120 kids our first session from several different towns and from three age groups (3rd-8th grade which mirror our local spring youth lacrosse league).The feedback from parents , players, and coaches was great! Over the years I continued to run the indoor program and even added a late fall session as well.
By 2012 we had quite a few kids looking for more lacrosse during the summer months as well and we decided to do a light summer tournament schedule. We traveled out to Rochester and down to Long Island to play in events. Kids had fun and benefited from seeing and being part of that level of play.
That same year I started working really hard on a box lacrosse program. I was convinced that playing box lacrosse would be a great development tool and difference maker for young lacrosse players. I spent countless hours researching and making contacts from Canada, Native American reserves, Philadelphia, and Boston.
By late 2013 we had identified a league to play in and requested to become part of it. The league was very unique in that they are comprised of Native American reserve teams from New York State. They were also the only ones in the United States playing the real box lacrosse game. They brought our request to their board and in February of 2014 they voted to include as an associate member of the league. We became the only non Native American organization in the league!
In our first year of box we ended up with over 45 kids and 3 age groups. We practiced at Union College in the Achilles Ice Rink and played games in Tonawanda and Onondaga.
We have just completed our 4th year of doing this and it’s been an incredibly great experience! The kids who play this style of lacrosse love it and improve by doing it.
EP: Almost all of our players also play field lacrosse for their school teams or town teams. One of our greatest challenges over the years has been schedule conflicts with the player’s school or town teams. This is because our league runs during the same period of time as spring school and youth lacrosse. (This is when we have rinks available to practice and play).
We make it very clear that our box lacrosse program is a supplemental lacrosse program and that their priority should be with their school team. We have worked hard to minimize those schedule conflicts as best as we possibly could (such as inquiring with town teams about practice and game schedules and looking at the Section 2 master schedule many months before planning our schedule with the league).
Tell us a little about Tech Valley’s coaching staff.
EP: We are fortunate to have some very talented and dedicated men helping us coach our program. Our head of coaching is a guy named Joe O’Neill who lives in Western Massachusetts. Joe has many years of coaching experience with the Catamount lacrosse club and high school lacrosse. Joe has been playing, coaching, and studying the box / indoor game for lots of years. Joe is in charge of vetting the other coaches we bring in as well as practice planning, in-game coaching, and pretty much all matters related player development. Also from Western Massachusetts is coach Charlie Edwards. Charlie is a high school head coach in Amherst as well a high level club coach with Catamount lacrosse club. All of the the other coaches who help us have lots of lacrosse background as well. We have all of our coaches go through box lacrosse coach training with the Canadian Lacrosse Association in order to help them understand the nuances of box as well as the rules that our league plays by.
Sometime we are fortunate to have guest coaches. In the past we have had Tim Soudain (current head coach of the Rochester Rattlers). For the last couple of seasons we had Ryan Hotaling (current professional NLL player for the New England Blackwolves).
How did this season go for Tech Valley’s travel box teams?
EP: The 2017 season was our largest yet! We had over 65 players at 4 different age groups. Our age groups are birth year based and we have players ranging from 2000 – 2009. We began practicing once weekly in March and then our league games began in May.
The basic format of our season is that we play each of the other 5 organizations twice (home and away). However, this year we opted to condense our schedule and play both of our games at our opponent’s home facilities. We did this to minimize our schedule conflicts and maximize the amount of lacrosse each family got while traveling. We think it worked out very well this year!
While the wins columns didn’t look as good as we would have hoped this year I will say that all of our teams were competitive. Where as in previous season we may have lost games by 5+ goals this year we were right down to the wire ending up just on the wrong end of a 1 or 2 goal game with our teams.
Our peewee team (for kids born 2005 & 2006) actually made the playoffs this year! We face Onondaga this Saturday at 2:00 PM (July 8th) out in their facility. (The entire league playoffs are being hosted in Onondaga this year).
EP: We played Onondaga twice this year. We lost both times. One of those losses was a close and hard fought game. The 2nd game against them wasn’t as competitive but that was our first day of games for the 2017 season. I expect our boys to compete hard this weekend! Should they win the semi-final game Saturday they will play in the championship on Sunday.
How has the team been preparing for the playoffs?
EP: Part of the challenge with our program is that we try and wedge our season in during the school / local youth season and before summer travel lacrosse starts. With that in mind we ended our regular season games the first weekend of June. We are going to hold a practice this week more as a box refresher and walk-through of game strategy but all of our kids have been playing lacrosse with their respective travel teams and summer leagues since that time so no player should be coming in to the playoff game cold.
Will your playoff roster be affected by summer vacations, or do you expect all players and coaches to be available?
EP: Surprisingly our roster is in GREAT shape for this weekend! We are only missing a couple of players. We just found out that we qualified for the playoffs last week and I was nervous that we wouldn’t have enough players but fortunately we have great families and they are very excited to watch their sons play at least one more box lacrosse game this year!
What’s next for Tech Valley Lacrosse?
EP: We are most excited for the 2017-2018 fall and winter! We are doing a full fall and winter box travel lacrosse team for the first time in our program history. We will be playing in 3-4 events from late November through March in locations such as Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Western NY. We will do camp style practices a couple times per month leading up to each event (to minimize schedule impact for families).
We are also VERY EXCITED to announce that we are joining US BOX LACROSSE ASSOCIATION! We will the only USBOXLA sanctioned organization within 150 miles! This is a tremendous organization which provides coaching and referee education as opens up numerous playing opportunities regionally and nationally!
Our first USBOXLA sanctioned event is in August out in Rochester at the Rochester Knighthawks Upstate Invitational.
We have limited spots available in that event for kids in 5th grade through 10th grade (16-17 school year)
For more info, click to visit the Tech Valley Box Lacrosse Facebook page.