Formation of KMS lacrosse team has broad impact on student-athletes 

Courtesy of KMS

The Killington Mountain School boys’ lacrosse team went from an enjoyment sport to have great value.

KILLINGTON — What began as a club sport aimed at providing enjoyment and cross training quickly grew into much more at Killington Mountain School this spring. The Killington Mountain School boys’ lacrosse team has cemented its place in the school’s program and brought a great deal of value to those who have chosen to take a spot on the 16-man squad.

Assistant Head of School and lacrosse coach Dave Willis shared, “We started this team with the idea of cultivating a fun, club team. The intent was to give a few students who had played in the past a taste of a sport they really enjoyed, but it quickly exploded into a full-fledged team with many first-time players.”

He continued, “We went from the notion of potentially scrimmaging with other teams a few times and having a practice or two, to playing three games, two of which were against other ski academies who have had teams for years. With only two of the lacrosse athletes graduating this spring, we are already more than excited for next year. Everyone is learning the flow of the game and working on enhancing their Lacrosse IQ.”

Regarding his coaching theory for the team, Willis said, “The risk with a team like ours is that you could just let the few players who have played before dominate, but KMS is playing like a team and giving everyone a chance to play and improve. The guys who are veterans understand the power that exists when the entire team is contributing. The refs and other teams’ coaches alike have commented on how we play like a team and about how impressed they are to see what we have accomplished in just five short weeks, with only a handful of practices under our belt.”

Snowboard athlete Matt Miller has taken on the new challenge of playing goalie for the team. Willis shared, “We can’t overlook the contribution of Matt Miller who stepped into the position of goalie having never picked up a stick at all, in what is arguably the craziest position in sports. The goalie wears no padding and is blocking very high velocity shots.”

Head of School Tao Smith is coaching the team as well, with additional help from faculty member Eric Kuntz. Smith shared his thoughts on the impact the of the sport at KMS: “The boys are super excited to have this opportunity, this team. It has brought the school together in many ways, and provided an important off-season activity for the group. KMS pride has been on display at school and on the field, as the few games we’ve had have pulled a large and enthusiastic following. Many thanks to the parents, faculty and students who have come out to support the fledgling team!”

The idea to start a lacrosse team was not a new one, but a few critical factors aligned this spring to make this dream a reality. Several boys who have matriculated or were considering matriculating from winter to full-term students had a background in lacrosse. They were the driving factor in recruiting players, designing uniforms, and procuring equipment, and then they brought the concept to Smith and Willis, who both have a background playing and coaching lacrosse; the two were receptive and only too willing to collaborate with the student-led effort.

Smith said, “The kids know that this is a building year and are approaching their learning curve with poise and balance, and they have exhibited great sportsmanship both on and off the field.”

Long-time lacrosse player and KMS sophomore John Bianchi shared his thoughts about the new team. “I wasn’t really expecting too much with more than half the team having never played before,” he said. “I’ve been incredibly amazed at how far the newer players have come in such a short time. The positive energy throughout the school has been awesome, with everyone amped for games, practices, or for just going out front to shoot on the net. My choice was to go back home to Hingham for lacrosse or to stay here, and I’m so glad I stayed; this has been so much more fun. The experience working with Dave, Tao, Eric, and all the athletes has been unbelievable.”

PG athlete Ryan Znamierowski discussed the impact that being a member of the team has had on him. “It’s been an awesome experience! The growth of the team and level of play has been outstanding. This has also brought a close group of guys even closer and has helped integrate people from teams who don’t get to work together often. Overall, it’s been hugely successful and will continue to become a very important part of the school’s off-season in years to come.”

KMS junior Bobby Ryan spoke of the benefits of bonding outside sport disciplines.“The team has added a new element to what makes the Killington Mountain School experience unique. Until now, each of the disciplines has been divided based on their sport; they train, travel, and compete together. This contributes to a special, close-knit bond that each team shares, which carries over into team building. The lacrosse team has led to the first opportunity for all of the disciplines to mix together and to practice and compete as one entity. The experience has allowed students to learn a new sport and compete together. Skiing and snowboarding are mainly individual sports, and the lacrosse team brings the ‘team aspect’ into the forefront of the KMS experience. Our coaches have said they have never seen all the boys so excited to be together as a team.”

Ryan continued, “I have always watched lacrosse and wanted to play, but I have never been able to because I choose to focus on skiing. Having a team here at school has allowed me try something new. This is the first time that I have competed with many of these kids, and it has developed into what is a very special relationship.”

Alpine Coach Pavel Stastny has been a loyal supporter of the endeavor, traveling to watch games and encouraging the boys to participate. He views the positive impact of the team as undeniable and multidimensional: “Number one, the group has improved a lot tactically and very quickly, they have become very strong. The muscle memory, coordination, and technical aspects they are honing here will be used in training too. This multi-lateral development is priceless. Secondly, and most importantly, these boys are now a team. They are building an incredibly strong relationship. They support each other as friends, and the atmosphere is very positive. Before this they were more individual, and that has now changed. The relationship they are forming now as team will now continue on the hill during training and in competition, and that is truly great.”

The team’s next game is Wednesday, May 18th at 5:30 p.m. on the turf at Rutland High School. All are encouraged to attend and cheer on the new KMS Black Bears Lacrosse team.

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