Road Trip Dad – A Book Report: Dom Starsia's I Hope You Will Be Happy
Dan Witmer | November 18, 2019
Over the span of my 33-year years teaching high school English, I read more than my share of scholastic book reports. Good or bad, enthusiastically detailed or perhaps “fabricated” a bit, they included books I’d previously read myself as well others I’d never heard of.

Well, as further evidence that everything comes around full circle if you wait long enough, today I’m writing my own book report. And somewhere out there, dozens of my former students are snickering and smiling…

This wasn’t an assignment. I chose to read this book on my own, and I set my own deadline. Maybe that’s why this was such a fun week...

Mind you, my feet are still tapping after hearing Mike Powell play at the Oswego Music Hall Saturday night, and my paternal psyche is content after speaking with both sons on the phone in the past few days – Eric from Colorado, and Brian from Hawaii. And I also sit here basking in the knowledge that, after receiving nasty emails from US Lacrosse informing me that I had lost my membership and forfeited my coaching and reffing certifications because I had not completed my mandatory background check, I received a more recent email a few days ago stating that I had – phew! – finally been cleared and was now in good standing…

Throw a new, 265-page lacrosse book, written by one of the game’s very best people, into that mix, and you’ve got a good snapshot of my week.

As you know, there aren’t a whole lot of good lacrosse books out there. My shelf includes the Bob Scott Lacrosse (the definitive “Bible” of our game), Richie Moran’s memoir, the great Ten Bears , the children’s book The Great Ball Game, The Spirit in the Stick , Carl Runk’s Along the Way , and Sue Powell’s A Knock at My Heart (as I’ve written previously, when the mother of the Powell boys writes a book of family stories, that’s a book I want to read, and it definitely goes on the same shelf as my other lacrosse books). I probably have more books written by basketball coaches than lacrosse mentors.

Lacrosse authors are indeed a rare breed. Pete Lasagna, the head coach at Bates College in Maine, is one of the very best; I’ve always maintained that I turn to his back-page piece every time I get a new issue of Inside Lacrosse . I used to enjoy Bill Tanton’s articles in Lacrosse Magazine , and his recent passing means one less good lacrosse writer.

So I was excited to learn that Dom Starsia had written and published a book. I’m not going to list his credentials or summarize his successes; if you don’t know who he is, I don’t know why you’re on this website.

In a crowded group of iconic peers, like Jack Emmer, Bill Tierney, John Danowski, Tony Seaman, Paul Wehrum, Ray Rostan, etc., Dom Starsia is the man . I’ve been fortunate to not only meet him, but to actually become friends, exchanging emails and phone calls on occasion, dining at the same table, and sharing a conversation in a convention elevator.

Spoiler alert: if you don’t want to know anything about Dom’s new book, because you want a blank slate in front of you as you sit down to read it, stop here and go order a copy for yourself. Now. It’s available on Amazon or it can be ordered from any good bookstore.

But, if you are the least bit curious about the book, I invite you to please keep reading…

The title comes from the response offered by Mrs. Starsia, the coach’s wife, when Dom mentioned to her in casual conversation in 1992 that Jim Adams was retiring from the head coaching position at the University of Virginia. They had never talked about leaving their home in Providence, where he was the head coach at Brown University, so Krissy just replied casually, “I hope you will be very happy.” Fast forward a few months, and the Starsia family was indeed setting up camp in Charlottesville, VA, as Coach says, “probably doubling the Italian-American population in this sleepy southern hamlet.”

The book is comprised of 50 separate articles, most published previously in various sources. I found that about half of them seemed fairly fresh in my mind, but then again, I probably read more lacrosse articles than the average Joe – especially pieces written by legends like Coach Starsia. Still, even if you have read many of the articles before, it’s nice to have them all in one place, bound in paperback, sitting on your bookshelf.

The subtitle of the book is “Leadership Lessons from a Lifetime in Lacrosse,” and there are 11 articles dedicated to that specific topic in the second section of the collection. The other sections go by headings of “Letters,” “Lacrosse,” and simply, “Life” (that’s a lot of alliteration for a book about “L-L-L-Lacrosse”).

I spoke last week about taking a highlighter to Legacy as I read James Kerr’s book about New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby club. If I were to take my yellow marker to Coach Starsia’s 11 articles about leadership, I’d probably be highlighting entire pages. Those (roughly) 110 pages include just about everything you’ll ever need to know about leadership. A junior varsity soccer coach, a middle school Student Council advisor, and a Wall Street CEO would all benefit from those pieces... they’re that good.

Most of the 50 articles appear to be written in the past four years or so, since Coach Starsia’s departure from the UVa sideline in 2016. My only gripe is that the articles aren’t dated; I think that additional information would help remind the reader of where he was and what he was doing at the time.

UVa fans will appreciate the many stories of his successful teams, players, and seasons; so will Brown alumni and followers. But Dom also tells stories about recruits he landed (and others he didn’t), about his own introduction to the game, his Long Island roots, his ties to Native American friends and box lacrosse, pro lacrosse, the World Games, and even his Lake Placid experiences. He describes his years spent on the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Committees, his many awards, and his opinions about lacrosse’s reputation for elitism and partying.

In short, there are plenty of great lacrosse stories for everyone.

I chuckled at the story of a UVa player who couldn’t finish his required two-mile run in time. Not wanting to make an exception, but needing him to be able to join the rest of his teammates in practice, the solution was to have the player run a straight 2-mile course (instead of making eight trips around the track), and the course started at a top of a long hill that led down to the finish line. The player beat his time and became practice-eligible.

I also laughed at Dom’s confession that he is not the best-dresser, and when he was set to appear at the ESPY’s a few years ago, concerned UVa parents got together and presented him with a gift certificate for a new suit!

When I saw an article titled, “I’m Not Interested in ‘Grow the Game,’” I flipped ahead and read it out of sequence. What has become a pretty common and valid rallying cry for our game was being challenged, and I wanted to read his details why. Turns out that Coach Starsia’s point is that we should be more concerned with “Growing the Child” than growing the game itself – and he makes a very strong case.

Full Disclosure: I’ve been considering putting together another “Best of Road Trip Dad” book, this time, probably a collection of previously-written pieces about coaching – drills, rules, experience-based policies, philosophies, etc. There were times when I was reading Dom’s book when I felt like he was beating me to the punch, but I don’t think there will be as much overlap (or repetition) as I feared. In my eight years of writing RTD, I have gotten (stolen?) ideas from Dom’s articles, and it’s possible that he has gotten ideas from me (I said “it’s possible ”). The bottom line is that even if there are some overlapping themes, that never stopped the likes of Dean Smith, John Wooden, Pat Riley, Jim Valvano, Phil Jackson, Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim, or Mike Krzyzewski (among many others) from writing their own books.

Like I said before, there aren’t enough good books written about lacrosse, especially coaching lacrosse. Coach Starsia’s latest is a huge step in the right direction, and I strongly recommend that you pick up a copy and enjoy a good read. It will also make a great Christmas present, so you might want to buy more than one.

Especially as we approach the Holiday Season, please, please, please… drive carefully!

- Dan Witmer daniel.witmer@oswego.edu

Dan Witmer is the author of two books.  The Best of Road Trip Dad – the Laker Lacrosse Collection  is an accumulation of 45 articles written for JustLacrosseUpstate between the years 2012 and 2018, about the history and traditions, the people, and the stories of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program. The book is available on Amazon.com, and at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, the SUNY Oswego College Store in the Marano Campus Center, The Sports Outfit on West Genesee Street in Fairmount, and Geared 2 Sports in Cortland.  ...and piles to go before I sleep - The Book of Wit  is his memoir describing his 33 year career teaching HS English and coaching at Hannibal Central School. It is available on Amazon.com and at the river's end bookstore.