Try taking 22 lacrosse players anywhere. Jack Kaley took as many across the planet on planes, trains and buses, picked up over 40 more players in Germany and after another train trip coached three full teams to impressive showings at the E-Lacrosse Amsterdam Tournament in Holland. This summer the New York Institute of Technology Coach Jack Kaley, traveling with his National Champion Bears' and two German national squads, performed some serious multi-tasking.
Kaley, whose Bears captured the Division II title with a 9-4 victory over Limestone College in May for their first championship since 1997, brought a summer squad of mostly NYIT players to Cologne, Germany for five days. Clinics and games were conducted before selecting the German National Team and a team of younger national hopefuls. Then, all three teams headed north, across the border, to the Tournament in nearby Holland.
His loaded Long Island squad boasted 14 current NYIT players, two alums and six performers from Division II rival and Long Island neighbor C.W. Post. The team eventually lost to the Crease Monkeys, 7-5, in the North American final of the event.
That, of course, wasn't the only team that Kaley coached in Amsterdam. The Hofstra University alum also guided the pair of German select teams, the more experienced Steuerbert squad and the younger group called Backbert. Steuerbert lost in the European final, 9-4, to UKLacrosse. Team Backbert was eliminated by the Italy United team, 6-2, in the playoffs.
New York Tech's presence at the tournament was impressive enough to draw media attention. While in Holland, when an American star was needed for a 6 o'clock national news interview, Tech defenseman Frank D'Agostino filled the bill as a US National Champion and All-American with knowledge of the game's history. D'Agostino and the other D2 guys in Holland were ambassadors for the US game to Europe and the Netherlands, which is great for D2 lacrosse and Long Island.
"Jack Kaley made the Amsterdam tournament a reality before we even had fields lined up. I was on my way to Amsterdam from Perth and we ran into each other in the airport" says E-Lacrosse's John Weaver, "I told him what I was up to and he committed New York Tech and two German teams right there. Before we'd even advertised we had a huge American lacrosse program and a couple German national squads as marquis teams for the event. Jack really gave us a big kick-start." But he's been Weaver's favorite coach since Kaley and NYIT lost the D2 Final in 2002. "He was the classiest and happiest runner-up I'd ever seen. He complimented each Limestone player honestly and with some detail from the game rather than the begrudging "good game" norm. From his demeanor, one might have assumed Jack won that game. And you could see that in his kids too. He rubs off on you. Now that I know him, I'm usually smiling when he's around. Don't get me wrong. Tech's got some attitude and mouth on the field - as much as anyone. But when the whistle blows, win or lose, they close with class. That's because Jack won't accept less. He's also excellent with the X's and O's. I saw him change gears so many times in Amsterdam, while coaching three teams with varying talent levels and goals. He coached a team to each of the Finals. He's been a very good coach for a very long time. He coached club champions on Long Island decades ago. Those were the best teams in the world back then. There was no pro ball at all."
Kaley's involvement in German lacrosse goes back to the 2002 World Games in Perth. He coached the Germans "down under" and then decided to visit his charges in their native land this summer. "I basically wanted the Germans to see the tempo of American college practices," said Kaley about the main reason he brought his Bears abroad. "It occurred to me they had never seen that. We wanted to reinforce the concept that practice has to be done at 100% speed because real games are won or lost when guys are fatigued and under a lot of pressure."
He staged clinics in Germany and then played some games, which, in part, was a preparation for Amsterdam. "It was an opportunity to expose the Germans to our brand of ball," said Kaley, who said he learned about the tourney through E-Lacrosse Owner John Weaver in Australia. "It just seemed like a great concept."
In Amsterdam, though, Kaley had to spread himself a little thin at times. He would coach half, say, of a Backbert game and then switch over to guide Steuerbert for a half. On the day of the Finals he coached in both back-to-back on the same field. He didn't allow conflicts between coaching NYIT and the Germans to become a major issue. The players all stayed together. He wanted them to experience each other as well as the lacrosse. The goal was to really position the Germans in the first tier among European sides while giving his younger NYIT kids exposure to life outside the United States. The only way to do that was to teach as often as he could during actual game experience, especially for the Germans. "I tried to give equal time to all my teams," said Kaley. "But I always tried to give the benefit of the doubt to the Germans. His Bears also helped Kaley counsel the Germans. "A lot of my players helped me coach," said Kaley. "I'd do the X's and O's and then my middies would talk to their middies and so on."
The trip, Kaley felt, was beneficial from much more than a lacrosse perspective. "Their players were a little older and more sophisticated," he admitted. "But we have New York kids who have been around the block a few times, too." Yet not many have been around blocks in the Big Apple like the ones in Amsterdam, a freewheeling cosmopolitan city known for its beautiful canals and bountiful temptations. "We treated this as a cultural learning experience for our kids," said Kaley. "They taught us about Germany and Amsterdam and we taught them about lacrosse." Kaley still raves about the Germans' thirst for learning all things about the sport. "I've never had a more coachable group," said Kaley. "They're like sponges. They want to know everything."
Kaley has been around the block a few times himself, in lacrosse terms. He's in his 11th year at NYIT and has compiled a stellar 124-22 mark at the Old Westbury, N.Y. school with a pair of D-II titles. Before that, Kaley was a fixture at East Meadow High School on Long Island for 17 years, mentoring present Hofstra Coach John Danowski, among others during his tenure. Kaley won three Long Island championships at East Meadow. He was part of at least that many as a player at powerhouse Sewanhaka High, which had a 91-game winning streak while he was there. Kaley even directed Long Island Lacrosse Club to the United States Club Lacrosse Association titles in 1973 and '74.