Road Trip Dad – Happy Seventh
Birthday, RTD!
Dan Witmer |February 5, 2019
Who’d a thunk this would last seven years?

It started out back in 2012 as a therapeutic outlet, giving me something to do in the void left by no longer being the part-time head coach at Oswego State. I was wandering aimlessly in the lacrosse world, volunteering as an assistant coach at Oswego HS, evolving my role at the Lake Placid Tournament, and hitting the road to watch my sons play at SUNY Brockport, my schedule finally allowing me to do so.

Then it hit me.

My relationship with JustLacrosse.com had started a few years earlier as a voting member of the Casey Powell Lacrosse D-I Poll, and I contacted the powers-that-be about writing a weekly blog about my travels – kind of a “Lax Dad telling his stories from a veteran college coach’s perspective.” My proposal was not only accepted, but encouraged, appreciated, and supported beyond expectation.

According to my archives, the first RTD entry was dated February 22, 2012. Back then – never dreaming this would go on for one year, let alone seven – I simply numbered each entry. After a few weeks, however, it was suggested we name each article. I went back and entitled that inaugural post “The Beginning” (clever, eh?). Most of the first 10-12 blogs detailed my journeys all over upstate New York watching the Golden Eagles battle through their season.

2012 was an unforgettable lacrosse season, as both my sons were playing on the same team for the last time in their college careers. Brian was a senior midfielder and Eric was a sophomore defender. Sometimes neither of them would get on the field; sometimes they both played – but it didn’t matter to me. Going to their games meant quality time. Prior to 2011, I missed a lot of their games. I’d guess I got to about 40-50% of their high school games, but the only college games I saw Brian play his first two years were when I scouted Brockport, or on game day vs. Coach Wineburg and Co.

But in the spring of 2011, my schedule was wide open. Eric was a freshman and Brian was a junior, and I don’t think I missed a game. It was fun, but there was still something missing...

And that’s when RTD entered the picture.

In 2012, I followed my boys and their teammates all over New York again, but now I was taking notes (that were no longer scouting notes). Now I wrote down things parents said, memories of favorite and less-favorite parts of the state, and impressions of sportsmanship, talent, and rules issues I saw as I trekked across the state… and there was never a shortage of material.

I was at Medaille on a weekday afternoon when Brian scored his first and only collegiate goal, and I was at Cazenovia on another weekday afternoon when Eric scored his first and only. Neither was a game-winner, but they might as well have been to me. I proudly watched as they celebrated with their teammates and coaches. I started to realize the truth in that maxim “When one door closes, another opens…”

But then, suddenly, the season was over. It was May, and it seemed like the road trips were done for the year. What now?

Forced to come up with something different, I wrote about the NCAA playoffs. I followed the season through Memorial Day Weekend, and wrote about that road trip. That extended the ride a little longer, but what about June?

I wrote an NCAA wrap-up and another piece summing up the trip to Gillette Stadium. Then I wrote about taking an OHS team to my first-ever Fort Niagara Tournament. One way or another, I found there was more to write about than just me chasing my kids around the state.

July was slow, I guess, and my only RTD blog that month was a Lake Placid preview. Once I hit August, though, I got back to the keyboard – I wrote six articles that month, three of them from and about the LP Summit Tournament.

The last article of the month was a precursor for a series I’ve continued for the past six years. “Advice to Freshmen” has been followed each August with pieces like “Droppin’Off Johnny” (2015), “What Every Sophomore Laxer Needs to bring to Campus” (2016), “College Coaches’ Advice to their Returning Juniors” (2017), and “An Open Letter to All the Parents Taking Their Sons Back to College” (2018). I promise; I’ll write about seniors this coming August.

I continued to write weekly blogs from there on, diversifying my range of subject matter from Laker memories to Hall of Fame ceremonies, fall ball tournaments, Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving pieces, and then, finally Christmas and New Year’s. I came up with “The Night for Lax Santa” that first December, and it’s become an annual “tradition” of mine to share it every winter.

Somehow I managed to make it through to the following spring, and RTD was celebrating its first birthday. On February 17, 2013, I submitted my 50th blog.

By my count, this week’s edition is entry #375.

Who knew, in 2012, that my road trips would only get longer, and that in the following seven years I’d be taking trips to Denver (three times), Canada, Israel (didn’t drive that one!), and places everywhere in between. Baltimore, Boston, and Six Nations. Cornwall, Ontario… Parker, Fort Collins, and Durango, CO… alumni games at Brockport… cheering for the Rochester GreyWolves, the Parker Rangers, the Rochester Rivermonsters, the Nova Scotia Privateers, and the Glasgow Clydesiders…

And of course, Lake Placid. What started some 12 (?) years ago with all three of us working score tables at the planet’s coolest lacrosse tournament has somehow morphed to the point where it has become our reunion point every August. Today, Eric is in Denver, Brian is in Prague, and I’m (still) here in Oswego, but in August we’ll all be at the North Elba Athletic Fields – Eric working full-time for Summit Lacrosse Ventures, Brian (probably) refereeing boys’ and men’s games, and me, doing whatever I can to make myself useful. Lake Placid has become a kind of Mecca for the three of us, a Holy Land where we reunite for a week of laughs and memories (many, many thanks to George Leveille and SLV for allowing this to magically happen).

So the road trips continued, and they continue still. Brian wants me to be at the FIL Indoor World Championships in British Columbia next September, where he’ll be serving as GM of the Scotland team. Then he wants me to be in Europe in 2020 for both the European field championships and the FIL U19 World Championships in Limerick, Ireland. I haven’t ruled any of this out…

Eric and SLV have their own plans for me. They’ve hired me for four tournaments again this summer – the Northstar Capital City Classic, the Lake Placid Youth Tournament, the Saratoga Shootout, and the grand-daddy of them all, the 30th annual LP Summit Tournament. I can’t wait.

And in the past seven years, I’ve diversified my lacrosse portfolio even more. I worked for 3d Lacrosse for three years profiling recruiting prospects. I was the head JV coach for Oswego HS for two years, and this spring will be my fourth year as varsity assistant coach. I got certified to referee in 2017. I wrote a few pieces for LaxAllStars. For the past few years, my February Florida trips to visit my parents have now included lacrosse side trips… Jacksonville, Tampa, Boca Raton…

Now, maybe more than even that first year, there’s plenty of material. I can write about people. I can write about rules and rule changes. I can write about Oswego State experiences. I can write (carefully) about coaching high school. I can write about refereeing. I can write about college, high school, pro, international, box or field. I’m not an expert, necessarily, but maybe a “Rennaisance man” – I know a little about everything. That was definitely not the case when I started writing RTD in 2012.

Over the years, I occasionally got creative. “Lax Santa” was one example, but there was the imaginary conversation among the 2014 US National Team coaches as they made decisions about roster cuts, my all-time fantasy lacrosse team comprised of pro athletes, my annual “Christmas letters” from the imaginary Turner Family, and tributes to every one of our four dogs.

I even published a book – 45 RTD blogs about the people, the history, and the traditions of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program (The Best of Road Trip Dad – the Laker Lacrosse Collection, available on amazon.com). I might re-group other articles and come up with more collections – Great and Favorite Lacrosse People, Old-School Lacrosse and the Way it Used to Be, and maybe one about Chasing Brian and Eric Around the World. With 375+ blogs to choose from, the possibilities seem endless…

In any case, Happy Birthday to us – me and Road Trip Dad. Here’s to another seven years!

Thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Marty Goldberg, who passed away this week. Mr. Goldberg was my varsity soccer coach and a social studies teacher at Lynbrook HS, and he went on to Allegheny College in PA where he became a well-known and respected track and field official. I talk fondly and frequently of the amazing role models I had at LHS, great teachers and coaches, and Coach Goldberg was among the best.

Also, I’ll be in sunny and warm Florida for the next three Sundays, so the usually-reliable timing of these RTD articles could be in jeopardy. Nonetheless, I plan on seeing lots of lacrosse while I’m down there, and I plan to share my experiences with you while you enjoy an Upstate month of February…

Drive carefully, everyone!

- 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.