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Respect in Rivalry: Interview with Mike Fraioli & Steve O’Donnell

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When I say sports rivalry what do you think of? Most teams that jump to mind are the Red Sox & Yankees, Celtics & Lakers, the Packers & Bears – you’re not thinking of high school lacrosse.

Since joining the RIIL in 2009, my alma mater Moses Brown has battled against sports juggernaut, La Salle Academy on the lacrosse field; the two typically sharing the #1 and #2 seeds respectively. Over the past decade La Salle and Moses Brown have met up in the finals seven times, but their regular season games are just as tense. As an alum, I was interested in watching these two academic powerhouses clash head-to-head on the lacrosse field, but it wasn’t until my son was a member of one of those teams did I understand the impact these coaches and programs as a whole have on these young men.

In the show, we come to learn that neither Mike nor Steve was born with a lacrosse stick in their hands; in fact, they both picked up the sport around high school. What they did have were polarizing coaches who imparted their teachings on these two men who now “carry a part” of what they learned from their youth and high school coaches with them in their day-to-day.

It’s when we began to talk about the rivalry that exists between the two programs that I uncovered something interesting. Most rivalries are based on dislike, or even hatred, for the other team. You learn the other team hates you just as much and you’re fueled by the fact that the rivals are the antagonists of your story trying to take you down.

The La Salle & Moses Brown rivalry is different. It’s a rivalry built on respect. Respect for the other team, respect for the other teams’ coaches, respect for your own coaches and mentors, and respect for opportunity the other team has given you to prove yourself on the field.

The boys know each other, they know the work put in by the opposing players matches the work they put in and they respect that. In some cases, these boys who share a love for a sport find that common ground and become friends; even though they play for rival schools. These two programs share the belief that the field an extension of the classroom where winning and losing are secondary to the lessons learned through being on a team. It’s the expectations of the programs and the coaches who hold the players accountable that sharpen these young men and provide them with the lessons and experiences needed to succeed.

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