Tournament is special for fathers, sons Cockeysville Invitational draws 4,000 to lacrosse fields at St. Paul's School


For three years now, John Sprole, Tom Albertson and Larry Wexler have chosen the tough road when it came to Father's Day weekend.

Instead of kicking back and letting their children dote on them, they shepherd their sons -- along with more than 20 other boys -- from their hometown of New Canaan, Conn., to Baltimore County for the annual Cockeysville Invitational Lacrosse Tournament.

The three men coach their sons' team, the New Canaan Bantams, and have 25 boys, ages 12 and 13, under their care on the trip.

Their jobs are especially taxing because only half of the players had parents accompanying them. The coaches often have to act as surrogate fathers when boys start hurling pancakes off hotel balconies, making prank phone calls at 2 a.m., or tipping over room service trays.

"Oh, we have a lot of chats with hotel security," Sprole said, laughing. "They're 13-year-old boys; their aim in life is mischief."

"They're almost like 25 sons," Albertson added.

The seventh annual tournament, which began yesterday morning and ends this afternoon, attracted 91 youth lacrosse teams, about half of them from out of state, according to tournament founder John C. G. Boyce Jr.

About 4,000 players, coaches, parents and spectators turned out yesterday at the playing fields at St. Paul's School in Brooklandville. This year's event drew the most teams ever, Boyce added.

It was an event that many men and their sons took as an opportunity for quality time during Father's Day weekend -- especially those who had to journey from faraway places.

Dr. Jeffrey Dietz, a New Canaan psychiatrist, said getting away with his 12-year-old son, Andy, and driving 4 1/2 hours to the

tournament has drawn them closer.

"He shared stuff with me on the way down that I didn't believe he would tell me," said Dietz, who noted that this is their first year at the tournament. "He asked me lots of questions like, 'What were you like when you were my age?' 'Did this ever happen to you?' 'What did you wish you did but never did?' It's a chance to find out where he's really at in life."

Standing by the field, waiting for his son's Eastern Shore All-Stars team to begin playing, Kevin Maynard of Salisbury said the tournament gives him a good excuse to drive to Brooklandville to spend the weekend with his father.

"We used to come up here, but as the kids have gotten older, it's been harder to come up," said Maynard. "Now he enjoys having the kids up here."

"This is a father-son thing," said New Canaan real estate investor Lee Cotton, who drove to the games with 13-year-old son Sam and two other players. "We get to do guy things like go eat hamburgers, go to bed whenever we want to. They feel that they can say swear words and stuff and fathers aren't supposed to notice."

Cotton said the boys were looking forward to the team's Saturday night tournament weekend tradition of visiting the Inner Harbor Hooters.

Their mothers "aren't too impressed by the tradition," he said. "Especially when the boys were 11."

As these fathers took their place on the sidelines at New Canaan's 12: 45 p.m. game against a team from Arlington, Va., Sprole, Albertson and Wexler swung into action, cheering their boys on, yelling at them to pass or check, and handing out pats on the back whenever players came off the field.

Boyce said it can be hard for fathers to coach their sons.

"Dads sometimes push it too far, demanding too much of their child," he said.

But the three New Canaan coaches on the field yesterday said they strive to be fair.

"It's hard to coach your own kid," said Sprole, an attorney, whose son Russell is a midfielder. "They don't listen to you."

Their sons don't have an easy time either, said Wexler, a business consultant, whose boy, Scott, plays on the team.

"I tell him that to be a coach's son you have to set an example," he said, "that when he's in a huddle he has to behave better than the other kids."

But 12-year-old Grant Albertson said it's "cool" that his father, Tom, is his coach.

"If your teammates are beating up on you and you have the coach at home, you can tell him all about it," he said.

There was no fighting yesterday as New Canaan took an easy 11-0 victory over Arlington. As the players shook hands and did a cheer for their opponents, Grant reflected on how great the weekend is for his father.

"He loves lacrosse and he loves coaching," Grant said. "This is a perfect gift for him."

And besides, Grant sheepishly admitted, he hadn't gotten a gift for Dad anyway.

Pub Date: 6/21/98

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