No offense, but I think it’s refreshing to know that not every high school lacrosse coach in New York is a former PE major from Cortland State.
Have you heard the one about the Hall of Fame high school lacrosse coach who was an art teacher that had played college baseball?
Arty Waugh, a member of the US Lacrosse Adirondack Chapter’s Hall of Fame, graduated in 1960 from Colonie High School, where he had played football and baseball. He attended Syracuse University, where he was a member of their baseball team…
But there was this other sport, he told me in a recent phone call, that had caught his eye. He hadn’t ever seen lacrosse until he was on the SU campus, but he was fascinated by its speed, contact, and beauty. By the time his college baseball career ended, there wasn’t enough time to learn this new game and try to make the Syracuse team…
So Arty found a teaching job at Guilderland High School and started his career there in 1968. He told me the two things he loved the most were art and sports, and he went on to teach art at Guilderland for 34 years.
One of his colleagues there was Russ Ferris, who was coaching lacrosse at Siena part-time. Arty was “drawn” to the sport (sorry!) and volunteered as an assistant coach for Ferris at Siena, and later, in 1975, he joined the staff at UAlbany. He was enjoying this game that was still new to him, but he was also starting to get the stink-eye from his administrators at Guilderland.
“They came to me and said, ‘If you like coaching lacrosse so much, why don’t you start a program here at Guilderland?’” So in 1976, Arty Waugh was the first lacrosse coach at Guilderland, which was no easy task. “The AD was also the varsity baseball coach, so he wasn’t crazy about the idea, but we showed him that we had 175 kids playing fall sports, and fewer than 100 playing spring sports, so the numbers convinced him to give it a try. That first spring, we had 46 kids signed up for lacrosse.”
The “First Four” boys lacrosse programs in Section II were Columbia, Colonie, Shaker, and Guilderland, led by founders Harry Auble, Marco Tomaso, and Mike Ryan, respectively. A few years after those four programs became established, around 1980, Albany Academy (under the leadership of Andy Monin) and Shenendehowa (under Tom Heinzelman) were next to establish varsity programs.
“I was coaching varsity football, too, and by 1981 I was the head coach of both football and lacrosse, which is pretty unusual for a high school art teacher. I figured something had to give, and I decided to drop lacrosse, which was a very tough decision.” Still, he continued to serve as a volunteer, JV, or modified coach.
And summer league legend.
“I was 28 when I played in my first lacrosse game, as a defenseman for the Mohawk Lacrosse Club. Then I played in the summer league. Then one day we had no goalies show up, so I volunteered.” My math suggests he started playing around 1970, and he tells stories about playing at the annual Cobleskill Native American Festival from 1986 through 1991 (“the highlight of my playing career”) – which would have put him in his 40s.
Todd Zahurak (Oswego State ’96) was a captain of arguably the most successful Laker lacrosse team ever, and conference Player of the Year his senior year. He was probably the most versatile player I ever coached – he started out as a man-down short stick and defensive specialist, and then evolved into a man-up threat, ground ball hawk, and all-around Swiss Army knife kind of player – we used to joke that he wasn’t allowed to come off the field till the end of each quarter.
He was also a Guilderland grad, who had these memories of Arty’s influence: “Arty inspired me; he actually told me to play LSM in college. He always drafted me on his summer teams while he was still playing (which would have put him in his 50s) – and he always encouraged me to break long on saves. He could throw DIMES! And he was super intense; I mean, off the charts. Back in the day he had a nasty temper, and would let you know when you made a mistake. You didn’t want to be that guy.” He added, “Arty was a goalie coach for us in high school and bounced between the JV and varsity teams a lot. He was always encouraging to everyone. Last time I was in Lake Placid, he was sitting in the middle of the fields just taking it all in, cooler next to him, easy chair under him, so I stopped and talked with him for a while. The amount of people who stopped to say hello to him was astonishing. Everyone, from the super-grand masters to the U-9 kids running around, all stopped and paid homage to him while he was there. And he knew EVERYONE by name and had time to see all of them. Arty was THE MAN.”
Kevin Leveille grew up playing in the same Mohawk summer league, and enjoyed an All-American career at UMass, graduating in 2003 – and then went on to the pro box and field leagues and served as captain of the 2014 USMNT in the Denver FIL World Games. Today he’s the Event and Brand Manager of Summit Lacrosse Ventures, which runs tournaments from coast to coast, headlined by the annual Lake Placid Summit Classic. In a 2017 profile of Arty on the SLV website, Kevin wrote:
Arty Waugh has always been a Legend to me. He was one of the first lacrosse players that I ever met and uniquely, one of the first that I ever played with. During the summer months as a single-digit youngster, I'd always look forward to Sundays and heading to Guilderland HS to "shoot on Arty" with my Dad. And, that's what we'd do. After a quick toss for a warm-up, Arty would hop in net and we'd just shoot and shoot on him for what seemed like hours. He took every single shot seriously and was always aiming for a shutout. On days where he'd be in the zone and stopping everything, to days where things were squeaking by him, he was always happy to be playing the game.
I was able to witness that determination and enthusiasm and passion for the game through hundreds of Mohawk Summer League games in Albany, NY, and countless 'Placids' over the years. Arty was a leader from the crease, and his leadership usually resulted in a stingy defense, which paired nicely with a potent offense at the other end. This formula led to many Cloudsplitter Championships in Lake Placid, in multiple divisions. Arty was the always the backbone of the success.
Arty was inducted as an inaugural “Legend of Lake Placid Lacrosse” as part of the 25th Anniversary of the Summit Classic, and we recently took a few minutes to catch up:
Do you still attend the LPSC?
Yes, but just as a spectator.
What is your first memory of the Lake Placid Summit Classic?
First year, 1990.........7 teams! We knew the Tournament was on the way up (7 in 1990, 255 in 2017!!!).
What is your fondest memory of the Lake Placid Summit Classic?
Best memories are all of the great Cloud Splitter teams – the wins and teammates along the way.
If you had to name one quintessential feature of the tournament, that we should always maintain, what would it be?
Championship Sunday compares to the NCAA's on Memorial Day....outstanding!!!
What is your favorite thing to do in Lake Placid, off-field?
Golf at Craig Wood Golf Club.
What is/was your favorite LP restaurant or establishment?
Jimmies and Mr. Mikes........then a few hours at Mud Puddles in the old days.
Who was the best player you played with and/or against in Lake Placid?
With....lots, highlighted by Casey Powell, Ken Fougnier, George Leveille and Al Brown. Against.....lots, highlighted by Dave White, Doug Smoke, Greg Tarbell, Bob Griebe, Mike Del Grande
In what year did you first attend the Summit?
In the first year, 1990.
Do you still play lacrosse?
No. No more bruises.....really miss the total experience....so happy to have some terrific memories.
What line of work are/were you in? Are you retired?
High School teacher and coach for 34 years....now retired.
What are your current hobbies?
Golf and painting.
Colleges and/or HS teams your root for?
Syracuse and UAlbany.
Favorite sports moment (personal)?
Six-year span of being Mohawk goalie vs. Iroquios in the '80s at Cobleskill.
Favorite sports moment (general)?
Introducing scholastic lacrosse to Section II in the 70's, and seeing how far it's come, with lots of D-I A-A's, a Tewaaraton winner, pros, and USA players.
Today, says Arty, there are 30 varsity boys’ lacrosse programs in Section II, including 2015 Class A State Champions Niskayuna. Talent continues to pour out of the region, as Albany-area grads including Stephen Rehfuss (sr/A from Shaker) and Lucas Quinn (jr/M from Niskayuna) dot Syracuse’s roster, and Hogan Fox (fr/A Glens Falls), Sam Swingruber (jr/M Ballston Spa), Darien Lapietro (sr/M Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake), and Wil Pepe (so/D Shaker) are on the 2021 UAlbany roster.
At the risk of omitting some pretty good talent, I’ll rattle off the names of some of Section II’s finest and most successful: Blake and Cort Kim (UAlbany), John Keller (Union), Mike Tesoriero (UAlbany), Kurt Randall (UAlbany), Mike Regan (Butler), brothers Dustin, Seth, and Jordan DiNola (Navy), Bryan Adams (Naz), Luke Goldstock (UNC), Kyle Marr (JHU), and 2008’s Tewaaraton winner, Mike Leveille (SU). Not a bad Who’s Who…
Retiring in 2000, Arty’s playing and coaching days are well behind him now, but he continues to follow the game he helped bring to the Capital District. He was inducted into the Adirondack Chapter of US Lacrosse’s Hall of Fame that same year, and in 2014, he was inducted into the Legends of Lake Placid Lacrosse – in its very first class of inductees.
I didn’t know Arty until he introduced himself to me one summer at Lake Placid, but he’s made a point of seeking me out and saying hello every summer since. If you know Arty or have ever met him just once, my guess is that he made a pretty good impression on you; I know he did when we first met.
Arty, thanks for your help in writing this piece; it was a pleasure speaking with you and listening to your stories. Enjoy every minute of your retirement, and I speak for a bunch of others who look forward to seeing you in Lake Placid again this summer.
Artie Waugh – the OG of the 518.
Thanks for reading. Please drive carefully, and stay safe, stay smart, and stay kind.
- Dan Witmer
Dan Witmer is the author of three 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. His third book, The Best of RTD – A Lacrosse Coach’s Handbook, has just been released at Amazon.com. It contains more than 55 weekly Road Trip Dad blogs spanning 2012-2020, featuring Xs and Os, highs and lows, and even some Dos and Don'ts, and plenty of advice for coaches of all levels.