When a youth player's lacrosse shot bounces off a goal-pipe on just about any practice field in Howard County this spring, the ka-chunk sound pays tribute to Arnie Elmore.
That's because Elmore, 55, a retired, disabled Marine Corps veteran who uses a wheelchair, makes sure that each of the 25 fields he oversees is properly equipped with goals, painted lines, and everything else needed to play.
"Arnie Elmore is probably the single most influential person in the development of youth lacrosse in Howard County," said Bob Minutoli, a former commissioner of the Howard County Youth Lacrosse Program. "He's the kind of person every youth program needs."
Added Kevin Campbell, organization president: "He does everything the people don't see. The kids don't know who he is. The parents don't know who he is. He's the basic infrastructure guy. Without him, we wouldn't have a program. Right now, he's probably sitting home putting Velcro on the nets."
When spring rolls around, Elmore puts in 12- to 16-hour days.
"It makes full-time look like nothing," he said. "When a coach comes to play a game, there will be a job box [containing everything used during a game, such as a scorer's table, clock, etc.], four lacrosse goals, and the stuff [to] lay out and stripe your field. Coaches don't have to bring anything but the key to the box."
To move goals from field to field, Elmore calls on a longtime network of contacts to find volunteers with trucks.
HCLP's coordinator of operations and logistics jokes about "circle lacrosse," a training technique that sets up a circular field with two-on-two, three-on-three, or four-on-four players shooting at an upright basketball goal in the center of a "crease."
"You can address all your skills," he said, adding that the advantage is that he can have 20 or more circle games running at one field. Give him a piece of turf of any shape, and he'll set it up for circle lacrosse, in which players often are limited to playing left-handed or passing right-handed.
Elmore has been involved in youth activities since the early 1970s. He was one of the pioneers of Howard County's youth basketball, baseball and football programs. As the decade ended, he said, he realized that the county lacked a dynamic lacrosse program.
In 1980, he was part of a group that merged several fledgling programs to create the countywide HCLP, which he's seen grow from 100 boys to some 1,300 boys and girls this spring.
"I know we'll see the day when we have 2,000 kids playing lacrosse," he said. "Our coaches now were our players back in 1970. And if they're not coaching here, they're coaching wherever they are."
Elmore has never been able to sprint across the fields he maintains. While a Marine Corps platoon leader in 1968, both of his legs were badly broken in a car accident in Quantico, Va. Transported by helicopter, he became one of the first patients of a new, little-known facility at University Hospital in Baltimore that has evolved into today's renowned Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
"I was the worst case possible and the first viable success of Shock Trauma," he said. While recovering, Elmore lost his right leg to gas gangrene. Health problems from the accident that nearly killed him still dog him.
Having raised four children in Howard County, Elmore, who lives in Wilde Lake village, delights in watching his grandsons -- Shane, 11, Chase, 7, and Blake Hueur, 5 -- start lacrosse careers.
He loves the sport, which he never played. "The game itself -- it's comparable to basketball. It moves quickly. It has the dynamics of a dance stage. It has an almost magnetic pull. If you see it, you'd like to play."
He explains his contribution to the sport this way: "I'm very geared toward service. You just can't find people to coordinate operations and logistics. There's no money and no glory, and you're lucky if anyone knows what you're doing."