By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– A referee once told West Salem Lacrosse Head Coach Sean Litrakis that “Lacrosse is a savage game played by gentleman”.
And though he was bouncing around like a little kid during the Hoildays with his Rutger’s beanie on and holding his long, defensive lacrosse stick, the passion and fire was still there from his freshman year at St. Joesph High in Metuchen, New Jersey all the way back in 1987 as a defenseman for his own Lacrosse team.
It was the first day of Spring Practice for the Titan Lacrosse Team on the black turf and Litrakis was just as excited, if not more, than his athlete’s were coming out for their 1.5-mile run before the start of practice.
“This is what we live for man. I mean that’s it,” said Litrakis. “For us it’s late, everyone’s excited we’ve been chomping at the bit all year. The guys played their football and their basketball and now we’re getting ready to get out there and play some lacrosse.”
Litrakis eventually found his calling to coaching and eventually traded the New Jersey Turnpike for the ‘Five’, in the Interstate-5 highway, eventually landing in Corvallis before arriving to West Salem three-years ago to a Titan program already succeeding with conference titles and playoff appearances.
And though Lacrosse in Oregon is considered a non-State Sanction sport under the OSAA umbrella and is more of a ‘club’ sport, the lasting impression that the now Coach Litrakis is leaving is something just pretty awesome as wacking an offensive player who’s trying to go in for the tying goal and knocking him off-course in time for the win. All stemming from the love and the passion that Litrakis has for the sport.
“Honestly it’s a multi-faceted deal,” said Litrakis. “I love the sport but I honestly love the kids. I love seeing them grow, I love seeing them succeed. I love nothing more than parents or kids coming up to me after the season and saying, ‘hey, you changed my life. I learned discipline, I got to school that I wanted to get in to’.
“Or often times parents are often like, ‘oh I saw a change. They’re not screwing around.’ or ‘they take things seriously now’, that’s what we really do it for.”
Litrakis uses Lacrosse in a metaphor for life, in that you may not like every coach like you may not like every boss, but you just have to learn to deal with those who you work around with and that’s what he hopes to leave behind with those that come through his program year-in and year-out.
And he lives by that philosophy of being a man of honor himself being born and raised in New Jersey as he heard a kid slip up with a curse-word at the start of practice and he warned them of the effect of that he didn’t hear it and it’s the start of the season.
“We want to make citizens here and not just win games,” said Litrakis on developing more than just athletes. “It’s all about making citizens and it’s not about winning games although I’m just as competitive as anybody, I was born in Jersey so I was born with a F-Bomb in my mouth but if I can keep them quiet then I expect them to keep quiet.
“But again their kids and so you pretend not to hear it, we try to keep them in control, honest and courteous you know. We want to teach them how to be gentlemen as well.”
And as they prepare to possibly win their sixth-straight North Valley Conference, a league with schools like Sprague, McNary and South Salem, they won’t forget their four core beliefs that Litrakis gave to them:
Commitment, Class, Toughness and Trust.
Those four came way of a leadership program that Litrakis and Richard Norman came up with last year after Norman approached Litrakis with an idea of a leadership-esc course that eventually led to the kids choosing these core words to be put on their T-Shirts, their website, etc. Words to leave by.
“They figured they were the four principals that we can run our program and be successful and represent who we want to be,” said Litrakis. “We want to have commitment, we want to be classy, we want to be tough and we want trust. Trust in each other, trust in our coaches, trust in our program and that’s what we try to live by.”
As they walk off the turf for the night, Litrakis reminds his team to be ready to go by 7:55pm the next night so when the field opens up, they’ll be ready to take to it to prepare for their March 16 game versus Thurston at home.