Inner City Lacrosse League Started in the Self Expression and Leadership Program

Landmark Forum Graduate Sean Mckeon is a teach and coach at Manual Arts high school in Los Angeles. While a participant in the Self Expression and Leadership Program, he created a community project called LAX in LA. [googlevideo][/googlevideo]

Here is a story by Dan Heimpel a journalist and former lacrosse player who was so inspired by the project he became the assistant coach of the Manual arts team

Spirit of the Toilers: Building a Program in Los Angeles

by Dan Heimpel

There is now a varsity lacrosse team in South Central Los Angeles. Three years ago, Sean McKeon came to Manual Arts High School and built a program.Their school consistently ranks low in the Los Angeles Unified School District in terms of graduation rates and exit exam scores.

Manual Arts is no different than any other inner city high school, rife with problems but also full of hope.

This fall I joined the Manual Arts Toilers as an assistant coach. They won their first game, after 30-some losses, at the end of last season. I’m here to help keep that streak alive.

IN THE LONG SHADOW of the Los Angeles Coliseum's faded gold lies Manual Arts High School. A square block of fences, creaking buildings and one gloriously brown, muddy and fully-functional field compose the campus. In the confines of this clumsy infrastructure, 3,000 students yell, low-five, curse and appraise each other. Teachers hold keys to wet-floored faculty bathrooms and gates that keep teenage traffic in check.

I'm here for the second day, trying to help Sean McKeon coach a lacrosse team. White-toothed and freshly married, Sean spends his day in a shack adjacent to the track and pitch of rutted grass. There he teaches video production to class after class of students. They etch silly monikers into the two dozen new Macintosh computers he petitioned the state for.

But the day of teaching is done, there is the field and the clouds are mixing with coming night.

When I first met the team last year, they were two games from the close of their third season. Optimism wasn’t high.

“We've been riding a three-year losing streak," Sean said.

I went to a game, and saw them lose. But the next week I got an email from Sean. The Toilers had won their first game.

Today, the team looks far from a consecutive win. Only three players have shown up for practice.

But Sean and I run them through line drills and groundballs.

"I've got a devious way to mix fun with sprints," Sean says.

He tells Edwin, Rogilio and Eduardo that they have eight shots. Every shot counts as a sprint.

If they hit the gloves, two sticks and helmet hung from the time-wheedled net they can knock off a sprint. Eduardo and Edwin suffer through the exercise, only hitting the targets once and twice, respectively. Rogelio hits four times. He only owes us four sprints.

I line up with all three guys. Sean says go, and we go. I'm surprised at Eduardo's pace. Once we’ve covered 50 yards, we line up again. Rogelio, massive and fast in his helmet and pads, speeds next to me for the second sprint.

"My stomach hurts," Edwin says after our third lap, his long black hair spilling from the back of his helmet. The air is cool and humid; the life on the turf is fresh in our nostrils.

We finish the fourth sprint and Rogelio lines up.

"You only have to do four," I say.

"I'll just keep on going," he says.

We line up. Eduardo, small and uneasy with his stick, overtakes me.

Fifty yards later, Eduardo has served his six sprints. Rogelio is still there.

"Come on Eduardo," I say and all four of us run to Sean. The day is done. We pull in for a ‘Manual’ on three.

"One… two… three…" Edwin yells, "Manual," we scream into the darkening sky.

I walk off the field and into my car. As I pull past the high school and the fast food marts (the real L.A.), I pass the Coliseum. I'm thinking about Rogelio. How on a day in fall when only three players are showing up for practice, he ran three extra sprints just because it was the right thing to do.

I can't wait for the next practice.

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