Historically, Riverdale High School lacrosse has been among the least successful programs in Lee County. It’s not for lack of effort. RHS teams have always been highly respected by others in the area for their endless enthusiasm and willingness to come out and try their hardest despite knowing they will not win. The boys team has a record of something like 8 wins and 110 losses. The girls is a little better.
Understanding why the program has not been successful is the first step to understanding how to turn the program around. There’s a tendency to point fingers when doing such an analysis, but that is counterproductive. There are a few realities that can’t be avoided but we can learn from them and move on to better things.
First and foremost, there is no lacrosse feeder program in East Lee County. While players at Fort Myers, Bishop Verot, and Estero have been playing the sport since age 9, Riverdale players take up the game at age 15. Imagine the success rate of a typical varsity football team if it was made up of an offensive line and quarterback whose first game EVER was the first game of the season. It’s impossible to do well. A feeder program is being planned for area kids starting in 2016.
Secondly, after its first season or two as a club team, RHS lacrosse has had difficulty maintaining coaching at a level or schedule consistent with that of other schools. There were lots of issues—family scheduling, other professional commitments, and a lack of available coaches—but we have to be thankful that those who were able to step in and help keep the program afloat did so. Lastly, because lacrosse is a late-comer to varsity sports in Lee County, there has never been a consistent way to do things as there is with other sports. Football players and their parents know what to expect from their programs: summer practices, spring football, prescribed weight training, off-season conditioning. That’s not the way with lacrosse in Lee County, though it is standard practice nationally and it is quickly becoming the case locally.
Coach Richard Williamson was asked to join the Riverdale coaching team when his Estero Wildcats played at RHS in 2015. After accepting the job, Coach Williamson implemented a new version of the same winning program he employed at Estero. The Estero team went from a 5-6 record the year before Coach Williamson took over to a 10-5 record in 2014 followed by a 14-3 record in 2015. Coach Michelle Williamson, who had been assisting with Estero’s fitness program and the Ballistic Lacrosse travel program, accepted the job as head coach of RHS’s girls team.
Both boys and girls lacrosse at Riverdale High School is undergoing enormous change. Starting with the 2015 boot camp, which was open to athletes of all sports, the Coaches Williamson started laying the foundation for a solid training program. Thirty students actively join the voluntary training that started at 8am three days per week in the summer and then changed to an after-school program once classes started. Riverdale Lacrosse is a serious sports program, and it will be structured in such a way that student athletes who wish to excel will be given the tools to do so and the opportunities to learn the game.
Riverdale Lacrosse Program Phases
There are two phases for RHS Lacrosse’s off-season conditioning: boot camp and preseason conditioning. Off-season conditioning is not mandatory, but it is strongly suggested.
Boot camp period
RHS coaches offer an end-of-summer boot camp program, that prepares players for the conditioning program that starts every year on or around October 1st. Boot camp is not required, but we strongly suggest potential players attend. It makes them part of the team and gets them ready for the physical and emotional demands of the conditioning and regular seasons. Most students cannot go from their summer activity levels to the conditioning levels.
Starting on or around October 1st, the RHS Lacrosse Conditioning Program is integral to success in the overall program. No preseason conditioning program can be required per FHSAA rules, but since our program sets extremely high standards for physical conditioning and proficiency at the start of the season, we recommend potential players attend two of the three days per week (66% attendance). it is very difficult for potential players to make the teams if they do not participate in this program. We will not do conditioning during the main high school lacrosse season, so your fitness during the tryout period is what will be evaluated relative to other players.
Beyond the physical fitness benefits of conditioning, it is also a team-building and morale-building opportunity. Team bonding is incredibly important to a successful program.
High School Season
The high school season starts in mid-January every year. Practices are five days per week. Attendance is mandatory. If you miss practice within two days of a game, you will not play in the next game. Acceptable excuses for absence is illness, injury, and scholastic events. Other excuses will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis but very few exceptions will be made.
There will be a tryout period at the beginning of each season. The tryouts will be from three to five days long.