By Sandra Zunino
Founded this year by Chris Cianci of Easton, the Shore Strikers are more than just an elite girls’ lacrosse team; they are learning character building skills through innovative coaching techniques.
After coaching lacrosse teams for local parks and recreation programs, including his daughter Julia for several years, Chris decided a new kind of team was needed to cater to young, talented female athletes in the mid-shore area. “I’ve often felt like there was a need for this type of program,” he says. “Where you could teach lacrosse, but also do more regarding teaching life skills.”
At age 13, Julia had already played more than 140 games. Chris recognized that according to statistics, Julia and her teammates had reached an age where they were at a 60 percent risk of dropping out of the sport. He also realized that his daughter’s seventh- and eighth-grade age group might benefit if the team added a personal growth component while playing their beloved game.
“No matter how long they play lacrosse, whether through high school or into college, they are going to be contributors to society a lot longer than they play the sport,” he says. The parents of the other team members agreed and urged Chris to get the ball rolling.
Utilizing coaching methods from the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA), Shore Strikers now has 17 players, ages 12 to 14, from Caroline, Talbot, Dorchester and Queen Anne’s counties, with two more players from Kent County possibly joining.
PCA is a non-profit organization founded in 1998 within the Stanford University Athletic Department. Its mission is to create a positive, character-building youth sports environment for young athletes. Shore Strikers’ Head Coach, Danielle Kirk, Midfield/Attack University of Maryland Women’s Lacrosse 2010 NCAA Championship Team and Coach Lindsay Hill, also a college midfielder, are going through the process of becoming certified with PCA’s Double Goal Certification program.
“There’s just as much emphasis on winning as there is in any other method of coaching,” says Chris, “but this is actually a kind of a program where kids will be learning some life lessons along the way.” Currently, Shore Strikers is a compilation of some of the better players from the mid-shore, according to Chris.
“We are a little more selective regarding talent,” he says.
Effort, attitude and talent or E.A.T is one PCA acronym that defines team selection criteria. Coaches also refer to the phrase to keep players focused while in training. Another acronym, E.L.M. stands for effort, continuing to learn and improve, and not letting mistakes (or the fear of mistakes) deter athletes. “A lot of kids in the teenage years have a big fear of making mistakes,” says Chris. “The Alliance has tools and suggestions to help kids deal with that.”
Shore Strikers has been practicing only once a month through the winter, but will start training three times a week towards the end of May. Their next formal practice will be held on April 10 at Easton’s North Park from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The team is still accepting new members. If anyone is interested in learning more about Shore Strikers or trying out for the team, please call Chris at 443-786-0281 or email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.