Taking up where Rusty Red Lacrosse left off, Zach Brenneman, the former two-time collegiate all-American midfielder who starred for the East Hampton High School team before going to Notre Dame, oversaw a well-attended camp for kids at East Hampton’s Stephen Hand’s Path fields this past week.
The campers, who ranged in age from 6 to 12 years old, had fun while learning the game’s fundamentals.
One of Brenneman’s assistants was his former Bonac coach, Ralph Naglieri, whose two sons, Jack, 9, and Danny, 8, were among the 77 attendees.
Naglieri, who started East Hampton’s program in 1999, remarked appreciatively on the fact that young men he’d once coached — including Jared Bowe, Mark Simmons, and Tyler Maguire, whom Brenneman had asked to help out as well — were now coaching his own children.
Interestingly, none of the above began learning the game as early as their charges. “I didn’t know what lacrosse was until my sophomore year in high school,” said Bowe, a solid defender now on the University of Delaware’s team.
Brenneman and Simmons, who’s the starting goalie at Wesleyan, a Division III school that he’s very happy he went to, picked up sticks when they were in seventh grade. The next year, Naglieri brought Brenneman up to the varsity. “Zach’s first game was with North Babylon,” the former coach recalled. “I remember it well — it was a bloodbath.”
Brenneman himself, who is in his second year as a pro — last year with the Long Island Lizards and this one with a barnstorming pro tour in California — told the campers last Thursday that if they wanted to improve they must work hard.
“I was the second all-American in East Hampton’s history. I was highly recruited, but when I got to Notre Dame I was at the bottom of the roster. And though I played all four years there, and worked hard, there were 50 guys on my team and I wasn’t the best — I still have a terrible right hand.”
His 100-mile-per-hour left-handed shot — deadly from 15 or so yards out — has served him well, however: In 2010’s N.C.A.A. Final Four Brenneman scored six goals — three in the semifinal and three in the final with Duke, which Notre Dame lost in overtime. This year, Notre Dame lost 7-5 to the eventual champion, Loyola, in the semifinal. Tyler Brenneman, Zach’s younger brother, who is spending the summer at the London School of Economics, was one of Notre Dame’s midfielders in that game.
Simmons, the first goalie Naglieri had ever started as a ninth grader, told the kids they shouldn’t just think of going to D-1 schools like Duke, Maryland, or Notre Dame inasmuch as there were many D-II and III institutions that had strong lacrosse programs. He had wanted to go to an Ivy League school, he said, Brown in particular. “It was between me and another guy, and the other guy got the scholarship. I was hurt at first, but I ended up going to Wesleyan, a fine Division III school, and I’m playing there. The moral of the story is that when one door closes another opens. You can’t stay mad, you’ve got to keep going, you’ve got to keep hustling.”
“I’m so proud to be able to work with Zach,” said Bowe, an English major with a minor in journalism who has two more years of eligibility at Delaware. “It’s great that he’s spreading the word way out here.”
Likewise, Simmons has two more years of eligibility. He said in a separate conversation that the goalie who played ahead of him this season “had a 75-percent save rate, the highest in all of college lacrosse. At least it was at one time. Anything over 60 percent is good. He was the captain too.”
When Simmons, in his talk to the campers, said he had a 65-percent save rate when in high school, his best friend, Brenneman, said, with a smile, “Forty-two.” He had also scored a goal, Simmons told the kids, in a game with Islip. He’d run up the field, no one picked him up, and he fired the shot in from about six yards out.
As for playing goalie, Simmons, a film studies major, said, “It’s definitely an interesting position. Having an older brother probably helped. You have to be aware you’re going to get hurt . . . you have a split second to react well or poorly.”
Brenneman’s father, Tim, who also helped out at the camp, said, “We were very thrilled with the turnout. Next year, maybe we’ll have girls and boys. This year, Zach just wanted to start out with what he knew.”
The younger Brenneman, who when he’s not playing or giving camps or private lessons is a sales representative for Adrenaline, a lacrosse equipment company, said in parting that he would help out his friend and former Notre Dame midfielder, David Earl, with a camp the latter is running at the Westminster School in Simsbury, Conn., this coming week, after which he’ll return to California. He would continue to play professionally as long as he could, he said.
Asked to sum up the week, he said, “The kids had fun and learned the fundamentals.”