A Weekend with Whales Lacrosse
We cannot thank you enough for making this whole thing happen. The Clarks fit in with Whales like they had been with the Ryan family since day 1. They were so nice, fun, funny and just a pleasure to be around. Kabe is a stellar player which was simply a bonus, as we didn’t care how much experience he had. The players thought he was the GOAT.
The weekend started by Debbie Smith and her son Bennett picking up Kabe and Derrick from the airport. Debbie and her husband Travis have three kids and two of them are the same ages as our kids. The Smiths are very close friends of ours and I knew they would be the perfect “Whales Uber.” Their oldest daughter is 2020 and played for the girls Whales team. Bennett (2022) was on Kabe’s Pod 10 team and Brady Smith (2024) was on my son Henry’s Pod 9 team. Everything was very smooth (minus some horrible traffic after the pick up) and after Debbie dropped everyone at the hotel she went to the store to get Derrick and Kabe grocery/water supplies for the weekend. That afternoon we had a “meet and greet” casual practice and the players received their swag bags. We had very generous sponsors who donated Adrenaline jackets, Strong4Sam/Whales t-shirts and GripRX for every player. Whales kicked in hats, phone wallets, wristbands and Adrenaline socks. It goes without saying the players were over the moon with this assortment! It was approx. 90 degrees all weekend and jackets were worn all weekend (slaves to fashion…ha!!) which tells you how excited they were.
Both teams went undefeated all weekend and won the championship for their age divisions. Both of these teams were strong enough to compete well at a high level tournament but unfortunately 3/4 of the teams at this tournament were not that strong. We had a couple games where the score could have been 30-0 if we hadn’t put on the brakes. We had parents from other teams come up and thank us for not humiliating their team, as they could see we had enacted a strict passing policy after half. Pool play competition was weak for Pod 10 and moderate for Pod 9, however playoffs stepped up the competition and the championship games for both teams were very tight. Pod 10 beat a strong 3d 2022 Oregon team and Pod 9 went into a nerve-wracking OT situation before they won (with a sweet no-look assist). Kabe was a MAJOR contributor. I can’t tell you how many goals and assists but there were many. He is an unselfish and smart player. I can safely say every teammate loved him! BTW, one random fact about the weekend: since Whales was created by a teen it is “social media heavy” and Jimmy had the brilliant idea of creating SnapChat filters for the event. At both the field and hotel the team could access Strong4Sam/Whales filters so that was huge hit. You will see the filter in some of the pics/videos.
Sam Taylor and his family came to the team dinner and spoke to the team to thank everyone for the enormous amount of money raised (as of last Friday we were over $21,000). We championed money for the Strong4Sam Foundation, a non-profit started by Sam’s family that forwards all donations to the brain tumor cancer research division of Fred Hutch where Sam’s doctor works. Dr. Olson and his team have had major breakthroughs in recent years, including the invention of “tumor paint” a technique that makes tumors glow so no good tissue is removed during surgery. Dr. Olson and his team are passionate about finding a cure and share all of their findings with anyone who requests it. The players also watched a 10 minute slideshow about the history of Whales. Meeting Sam and watching the slideshow gave them a very clear idea of why they were playing and what Whales was all about.
Despite our content message about our mission, sometimes things go amiss … Which brings me to a story about Kabe that brought a silver lining to an unfortunate situation. When players are selected for Whales we look for character as well as talent and make it VERY clear thought the process that we do not tolerate bad sportsmanship by parents or players. We had a rare and ugly situation where a Pod 9 player retaliated after being victim of a dirty push-from-behind that went unseen by the ref. Instead of just shaking it off (as we instruct) he decked the guy who pushed him and got ejected. Jimmy and I were HORRIFIED by the incident, as were the boy’s parents. The 11 year old player was ejected but, for some reason, not forced to leave the field (probably because of his age and it was the last game) and literally cried the last remaining 10 minutes of the game because he was so mad at himself. The instant it happened our coach loudly reprimanded our player and made it clear to all watching that we do not tolerate that behavior. Our coach’s quick action diffused the situation between the two teams. After the game our player found the other player and apologized, in addition he apologized to Jimmy, the coach and myself. During the 3 minute man-down situation our team went from being up 4-2 to a tie game and OT required. It was a nightmare and clearly showed all of the reasons you must have impulse control. I was really upset about the situation! When the we won and the whistle blew Kabe rushed over to the boy and put his arm around him. I told Kabe I was really upset with that boy but how nice it was for him to be so considerate. Kabe asked me if I wanted to know what he told the boy and of course I said yes. He told him that he had done the same thing in a game a while back and was horrified when he realized how his impulsive actions had hurt his team. He told the boy his story of that situation and explained how much he regretted what he did; it was a lesson he will never forget and he now knows that he would never allow himself to do that again as he hurt his team so much. All I can say is “WOW!” Kabe knew exactly what to say and was thinking more clearly than I was. He was an asset to our team in every conceivable way.
After both teams won the championship we had a rush-tour of Seattle planned for the Clarks. The tournament took place in between Tacoma and Lakewood, WA (45 min south of Seattle). Let’s just say its not a “scenic” area and we did not want them going home thinking that was the west coast. The tourney ended at 3:00 and and my son Jimmy (2018) scooped up Derrick and Kabe and took them to the famous Pikes Market in Seattle (sadly the show of tossing the fresh fish was closed for the day but they saw the original Starbucks & had a casual dinner). After Pikes Market they rushed over to the Space Needle and got photos at the top. After the quick trip (Jimmy still needed to drive back to Portland …3 hours south) he dropped them at the hotel. We had made arrangements with a Pod 9 dad and his son to take them to the airport this morning. Jimmy, Kabe and Derrick had a blast on their short whirlwind sightseeing trip.
One thing we did was purposely not drive Derrick and Kabe to/from the fields so they could get to know various families on the drive. Each day we requested a volunteer and, as expected, had plenty of offers. Everyone wanted to be involved! I also gave Derrick the job of passing out the Pod 10 rosters so he would meet each parent.
It was a great weekend!