Who’s in charge here?

High school coaches facing more intense scrutiny

One night, Mike Messere, a lacrosse coaching legend at West Genesee breaks the all-time record for national wins in front of hundreds of fans and dozens of alumni touched and affected by his principled leadership.

The very next day, and just a few miles up the road, Pete Birmingham, the coach who led Marcellus to a Section III Class B championship, is forced out of his position, possibly because he had the nerve to use the same principled leadership.

Is there any further, more vivid illustration needed than this to explain how high school sports has changed. And that we may never, ever see someone like Messere last as long, and do as well, in our ranks again?

From 1976 onward, a constant theme in Messere’s tenure in Camillus was discipline. The demands he puts on his players, right down to the plain white socks they wear, were clear to see. Either you went with it and accepted those occasional runs up and down the Westcott Reservoir, or you didn’t play for him.

Those that stayed turned into champions, including 15 state crowns. They also spread the gospel as college players and, in dozens of instances, established their own careers as successful coaches, taking all they learned from Messere and applying it to sports and, more importantly, to life.

One of those lessons, to think beyond your own circumstances and work toward a larger good, is applied even now. Two current West Genesee players, Teddy Glesener and Adam Higginbotham, organized a campaign to get used lacrosse equipment to fledgling programs in Iowa and Colorado. Together, they got more than 450 pieces, worth approximately $21,000.

In other words, it’s true that the wins and losses are important, and it’s true that every kid wants to play. However, lacrosse, and sports, will end for everyone at some point, so teaching the value of being a good citizen beyond the playing field is vital to Messere’s message.

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