Winning ways: Messere employs consistent approach to set high school lacrosse record for victories

first_imgMike Messere was never one to bask in the glory of individual accolades. The thought of personal pride violates every principle he believes in. The West Genesee head boys’ lacrosse coach prefers to deflect all of the credit for the success of his program to his players and coaching staff. Even after becoming the all-time winningest high school lacrosse coach, Messere remained steadfast in his core beliefs, praising others rather than himself. ‘It means a lot of kids and a lot of coaches have done a lot of work for a long time,’ Messere said. ‘It’s about our program and the individuals that won those games through the years. It’s something for them to be very proud of.’ Messere won the 748th game of his head coaching career against Oswego last Thursday, moving him past former Ward Melville/Mount Sinai head coach Joe Cuozzo for the most wins by a high school lacrosse coach in history. The record is a testament to the 68-year-old Messere’s expectation of commitment and structure from his players and assistant coaches that have led to unrivaled success for West Genesee since he became the Wildcats’ head coach in 1976.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text The West Genesee head coach’s newest mark is among a laundry list of numerous honors and accomplishments during his 36-year career. Messere has won 15 New York state titles and 29 Section III championships. He led the Wildcats to 91 consecutive wins between 1981 and 1984 and was inducted into the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1994. Messere’s West Genesee program has served as a launching pad for hundreds of collegiate and professional lacrosse careers. Messere has coached 96 players that have gone on to become collegiate All-Americans. Current Syracuse players Tim Desko, Ryan Barber, Joe Fazio, Collin and Dylan Donahue, and Luke Cometti all played for Messere at West Genesee. All his success on the sidelines can be traced back to his simple, team-first philosophy. ‘He’s more for the individuals on the team playing as one big unit,’ West Genesee junior midfielder Ted Glesener said. ‘He really discourages playing as an individual out there.’ Messere emphasizes unity as a primary component in West Genesee’s formula for success. It filters throughout Messere’s entire program and forms the foundation for many long-standing traditions and a sharp disciplinary code. Each year, players must meet specific standards before they can step foot on the lacrosse field. ‘They have to make a commitment, they have to have a strong effort every day, and they have to do a lot of hard work,’ Messere said. ‘You don’t get anywhere without hard work, and they understand they have to sacrifice a lot of things, get good grades, all those terrible things.’ Every player is held accountable and must be committed to the cause. Players are required to have good grades before they step on the lacrosse field. Messere assesses players’ performance in school at the midpoint and end of each marking period. Players with low grades are forced to meet with assistant coach Bob Deegan after school to improve their performance. Each player’s appearance is important as well. They are not allowed to have long hair. And as a part of the team’s uniform, each player wears high white socks just below the knee to symbolize that no individual is more important than the next. ‘I think what he’s done is he’s created a climate where kids know from day one this is what you’re going to have to do, and it’s teaching first,’ Deegan said. ‘You have to be a good kid, that’s the bottom line. You have to be a good person.’ Barber, a former player at West Genesee, described Messere as a disciplinarian, but he said that most of the running is done with the ball in the stick. He said he can count on two hands the number of times he had to run sprints during his high school career. Running for the sake of running is only performed in the most extreme circumstances. Otherwise, the arduous tasks are done during drills in an effort to build up each player’s skill sets. Messere has always focused on teaching first. In 1975, Messere founded and developed the Shove Park Recreational Lacrosse Program, which is still instrumental in garnering interest for lacrosse in the Camillus community. The summer program begins teaching children as young as 7 years old the fundamentals of the game. Many former West Genesee players return home and contribute as coaches in the program, helping to develop the next generation of lacrosse players in the community. ‘We’re one of the first ones around, even in the country, that had a large program like that to bring up our youth,’ Messere said. ‘We’ve had some outstanding players that have graduated from West Genesee and gone on to college to be so successful, come back and teach in the program through the years.’ The intensive summer program has been crucial to West Genesee’s success as many go on to play for Messere in high school. By the time players reach Messere at the high school level, their bad habits have already been corrected. ‘He has a great respect for the game and his players as we do him,’ said Barber, whose brother, Tim, is a captain for the current West Genesee team. ‘He’s a great teacher and some of the things I learned from him I kind of took for granted at the time, but now that I’m older, I realize the life lessons that he’s given us are pretty remarkable.’ At 68 years old, Messere is still giving life lessons while finding success on the lacrosse field. The Wildcats are currently ranked No. 23 in the Under Armour/Inside Lacrosse Top 25 Rankings. West Genesee lost its first game of the season Saturday to Jamesville-DeWitt, dropping to 8-1 on the season. Glesener said the energy at practice is as high as ever as the Wildcats strive to win their 16th state championship under Messere. The players have bought into Messere’s teachings and results have followed. ‘Usually, we’re sprinting around everywhere because he has a high energy and we feed off him,’ Glesener said. ‘Even at his age, he’s still running around demonstrating drills and could probably beat me in a footrace.’ His passion for the game and commitment to the cause has led to another successful team on the field this season. And his current players feel privileged to contribute to Messere’s historic feat. But Messere has already moved on from his most recent accomplishment. There’s no need to remain fixated on his record-setting triumph. With the end goal of the season still within sight, Messere is still preaching the same message to his players that he has for 36 years. ‘You just say you need to take care of what happens today and then the next day,’ Messere said. ‘You don’t want to ever be looking too far. You have your goals, you want to set those and then you focus on the step-by-step approach.’ [email protected] Published on April 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more