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Putting the fun in fundamentals

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The Colorado Mammoth youth camp strives to continue growing the sport across the Rocky Mountain region

By Natalie Strom

The 100-degree heat of summer didn’t deter 98 lacrosse campers — 80 kids ages 7 to 15 and 18 high school-aged players — from soaking in all the knowledge given to them at Cornerstone Park.

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From simple skill sets to pick and rolls, Colorado Mammoth players imparted their wealth of knowledge at the team’s second annual lacrosse camp July 21-22 in hopes of furthering the rapidly growing development of the sport in the Rocky Mountain region.

“We’re just teaching them the fundamentals — ground balls, dodges, passing, catching, shooting,” Mammoth defenseman Mike McNamara said. “The younger kids, we kind of start from the beginning. For the high school kids, it’s more of an elite system. For them, it’s more advanced.”

The pro players were joined by Colorado State’s Kayden Porter, Sean Smith and Koltin Fatzinger, who served as assistant instructors. In all, there were 10 instructors over the two days. 

The high school-aged players are at an age where they’re just starting to make decisions about their future, Mammoth forward and team captain John Grant Jr. said. They’re focusing on their studies and starting to focus on their future, which could include lacrosse. They’ve already learned the basics, but now is the time to specialize on their skill sets. This is just another chance to help them reach their potential.

“They’re little sponges,” Grant Jr. said. “We’ve got four or five professionals plus some college people all teaching some of the things that have helped them to get to the level that they did, and the kids have picked it up. There has been crazy improvement in two days, especially with the younger group. They’re like an empty canvas. We’re helping them paint a picture.”

One of the older players was 14-year-old incoming Dakota Ridge freshman Gabe Mein. A member of Grant’s Junior Mammoth team, he accepted an invitation to the camp to hear coaches not only pick apart a player’s weaknesses, but to see how they can improve.

“It’s kind of fun to see how they approach the outdoor game as oppose to the indoor,” Mein said. “That’s what we play most of the time. It’s interesting just to see how they play it and how we can modify our game from it.”

The camp is the Colorado Mammoth’s way of giving back and helping the future of developing lacrosse players to reach their maximum potential, Grant Jr. said.

“It’s all about giving back,” said McNamara, a native of Hamilton, Ontario. “Growing up back in Canada, there weren’t many camps back then. For me, it’s about giving back and passing on what I know.”

But what is the meaning of the camp?

“I think the meaning is just to get out and enjoy the game. If they can learn a few things with different specifics of the game, I think it’s a successful camp,” Mammoth forward Sean Pollock said. “I think even the high level college kids, high schools kids they can always learn stuff. I think camps are the best way to do that as opposed to touching the ball 10 times in a game. You touch it hundreds of times out here.”

Another intent of the camp is to make practice not so much tedious, but rather to put the fun in fundamentals, Grant Jr. said.

“Our focus No. 1 is to have fun. Secondly, we like to work on the basic things. Just stick with the basics,” Mammoth forward Adam Jones said. “The good thing about this camp is that these kids get to have a stick in their hands. If they’re having fun, it’s almost guaranteed they’ll have a stick in their hands when they go home. We don’t want them to just pick it up when they get here and not use it when they get home. If we make it enjoyable to them, then we’re doing our jobs.”

Contact Michael Hicks at sports@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.