Montgomery Magazine April/May 2017 : Page 32

Ryan Jones teaches lacrosse skills to kids in an after-school pro-gram at the Gwendolyn Coffield Recreation Center in Silver Spring. He got his start in lacrosse at the program run by Jeff Wagner. since he founded the club in 2000. The former All-Ivy League player at Brown University funds most of this program and a similar summer camp that he runs at the White Oak Center in Silver Spring himself, so kids like Jones might have an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have. Wagner opens the door and hopes a few of them will step through. “I love to see them get hooked,” Wagner says of the kids in the pro-gram. “We give them a little experi-ence here, and hopefully they can make their school team because they already have the fundamental stick-work skills.” But he knows that lacrosse in Montgomery County public schools is not played as competitively as pri-vate schools like Landon, George-town Prep and Bullis, and high schools in the Baltimore area and other Maryland counties. So Wagner knows that only a few of his kids who come through his program will be as successful in the sport as Jones. But he is opening a door to lacrosse for kids from some of the county’s poorer neighborhoods. “Jeff put a stick in a kid’s hands who never would have been able to play lacrosse because of the ex-pense,” Jones says autobiographi-cally. “Now, lacrosse pays the bills for me. In 2010, I coached my little brother’s team with Bethesda Lacrosse Club, and we ended up win-ning the division championship. Peo-ple started calling me, and now I coach pretty much every age group.” And as Wagner’s head counselor at the Rosemary Hills program, Jones is becoming the mentor that Wagner once was to him. For both, the Rosemary Hills pro-gram is their way of giving back to a game that has given them quite a lot. After playing at Brown, Wagner became an assistant coach at Harvard University and worked for lacrosse equipment manufacturer Brine. Con-tinuing his love of the sport, he has also been involved with Inside Lacrosse, the Chesapeake Bayhawks, the Tewaaraton Awards, and Harlem Lacrosse. Now 66, after 24 years with Com-cast SportsNet (formerly HTS), he is a partner at Wagner Kaulius Commu-nications, an ad agency in Bethesda. The lacrosse clinic at the Coffield center is part of its general after-school program. Each Tuesday after-noon, a few dozen kids are in the gym, excited to learn the basics of the game from Wagner and Jones. The kids can take part in structured skill drills, including shooting at the goal. It is more important, Wagner says, that the kids see what the sport is all about so they have a chance to pursue it at a higher level if they want. “I want to give them the chance to learn and play the game that many in the rest of the county have enjoyed for years,” Wagner says. “Our sum-mer and fall programs give them the opportunity that I and so many other more advantaged kids have had.” And if a few of the kids go on to the same success Jones has, both of them will have scored a goal. MM 30 // April/May 2017

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