Zach Brenneman, a former all-American midfielder at Notre Dame and pro who’s embarked now on a career in the financial world, has not entirely put lacrosse behind him: This week he and eight other coaches, most of whom he grew up playing the game with, oversaw a camp at East Hampton High School that drew 53 kids between the ages of 5 and 12.
Afterward, Brenneman, who was helped by, among others, his brother, Tyler, who captained the Notre Dame team that recently lost to Duke in the N.C.A.A. final, Will Schumann (Connecticut College), Drew Falkenhan (Quinnipiac), and Ralph Naglieri, who introduced the sport here at the turn of the last century, said this year’s group was the best he’s had in the three years that he’s had a camp here.
Local representation among the 5 and 6-year-olds was strong, though somewhat slim in the older groups. Why this was was a bit of a mystery, given the fact that the high school’s fields are full of youngsters playing lacrosse in the fall and spring. Maybe they were at the beach.
“This is the recipe — these kids are playing together year-round from an early age, which is what they do up the Island,” said John Pizzo, who coaches the P.A.L. K-1 team here.
As he looked on, along with his wife, Mimi, and Yale-bound lacrosse-playing daughter, Maggie, from the fence that encloses the high school’s turf field, Pizzo named the local kids he saw practicing. “There’s our son, Finn, who’s 6, and Henry Cooper, William Tintle, Jackson Carney, Joey Baum, and James Corwin. . . . It’s a great group. They all come off the field with a smile on their face.”
“I’ve never had a 5-and-6-year-old group that was so attentive,” said Brenneman. “They want to learn — they’re not staring into space when you’re talking to them. They’re all business.”
“They began the week with some agility testing and drills, but went right into scrimmaging pretty quickly,” said Pizzo, adding that, “happily, the weather’s been cooperative. It’s not been too hot — there’s been a breeze.”
Naglieri, who coached the Brenneman brothers, Schumann, and Falkenhan when they were the ages of the present campers, in whose number were his sons, Jack, 11, and Danny, 10, said, “I’m hearing these guys saying the same things to these kids that I used to say to them. ‘Move the ball!’ ‘Spread out!’ I remember helping Tyler with his helmet at Ralph Pepe’s camp at Southampton College. He was in third grade, I think.”
“Time flies, Jack,” said Naglieri, who, though he continues to work as a psychologist at East Hampton High School, helps coach the boys lacrosse team in Westhampton Beach, where he lives.
“Just playing in the heat is a huge step for these younger kids,” he said. “There are no criers.”
“Not like in Brazil.”
“Not like in Brazil.”
Tim Brenneman, Zach and Tyler’s father, who grew up playing baseball in Pittsburgh, but who never pushed that sport on his sons, provided water, orange slices, and brownies that his wife, Debbie, made during the breaks, and ice pops at the end of each day’s 9 a.m.-to-1 p.m. session.
“We went to 112 out of 114 of Notre Dame’s games,” the elder Brenneman said. “Maybe, as you say, we should have bought a house in South Bend.”
“It probably would have been cheaper,” said Zach, who works with a financial consulting firm in New York City, where he shares an apartment with Schumann and Eric Doran, a former Conn College teammate of Schumann’s, who also was one of the 28 lacrosse camp’s coaches.
Zach Brenneman, whose shot registered 101 miles per hour on the radar gun this past week, wore number 28 throughout his Notre Dame career, which ended — as did Tyler’s — with a narrow loss to Duke in the N.C.A.A. Division 1 final. Both he and Tyler, who, in contrast to his older brother, was a defensive midfielder, were captains of their teams.
After this year’s tournament, Tyler said Notre Dame went to Italy, where, near Lake Como, it played teams from that country, Norway, and England. It was nice, he said, to see interest in the game spreading.
It is, of course, in this country too, as is evidenced by the fact that Denver made it to the 2014 semifinals. In the past few years — though not this summer because of work — Zach Brenneman has barnstormed up and down the West Coast with other pros under the LXM Pro Tour banner. He does continue to teach privately, though.
As for Notre Dame’s playoff run, the elder Brenneman said, “They went into the A.C.C. tournament this year needing to win some games, which they did, beating Maryland and Syracuse on the way to the championship. It was their first year in the conference. Tyler played before 35,000 in Baltimore in the national final. Tyler, and Ryan Shaw, who handled the face-offs for Providence College all four years, and Austin Heneveld, who scored a bunch of goals for Navy this year, were D-1 players. A pretty good number to have come from little old East Hampton. And Brendan Damm [SUNY Plattsburgh] had a very good year in Division III . . . and I’m sure there are others.”
And with that, Tim Brenneman had to excuse himself so that he could go fetch the ice pops.