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Veteran SLV Staff Heads to Israel for 2018 World Games

By Submitted Feature, 07/06/18, 6:15PM EDT

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Three SLV staff veterans recruited to assist with 2018 FIL World Games in Netanya

With about 45 years of combined experience filling various roles at the annual Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Tournament, three of our longtime staff members will be in Netanya, Israel next week to join the FIL World Games staff in an effort to help make Israel’s first shot at hosting an international sports event a success.

First hired was Brian Witmer, who had met and worked with Israeli Lacrosse Association’s director Scott Neiss in his recent years traveling around the world.  “I met Scott initially in Prague, and we worked in parallel roles in Budapest and on the Onondaga Nation and a handful of other events,” said Brian.  “When Israel won the re-bid for the 2018 World Championships, Scott asked a number of the people who have lived in and know the community of international lacrosse, and I was fortunate enough to make the cut.”

Brian starting working at Lake Placid around 2008, when he was graduating from high school, and his job duties ranged from working score tables, to supervising the Horse Show Grounds or Northwood fields, to data entry, and, last year, providing media coverage working with Lax All Stars. 

His vast experiences with both field and box lacrosse started in hometown Oswego but expanded significantly at SUNY Brockport and beyond.  Since graduating in 2013, Brian has coached, played, and/or written about his lacrosse experiences in Colorado, Utah, Vermont, Australia, Italy, Canada, The Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Singapore, Norway, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Austria, and Cyprus, among other countries. 

He started working in Israel in November, but he’s spent much of the time since then continuing to travel the globe.  Brian says, “My role here has ranged from coaching, to traveling all over the world to promote the games, to automotive repair.  I can't honestly define my role with any less than 20 distinct different roles within the title of ‘Ambassador’ to the 2018 World Lacrosse Championships.”

One part of his job was staffing the World Games’ many fields, so when he needed some experience, he didn’t need to look far.  He called his dad, Dan Witmer, who has worked at the Lake Placid Summit Tournament since 2007, and had helped Brian get his first job on the North Elba athletic fields the following summer.  “I guess you can say that we’ve come full circle,” says the elder Witmer.

In the past 12years, Dan has gone from working at score tables to becoming Competition Manager as well as Director of the LP Legends and Summit Society.  He has also coached more than 55 seasons of high school and college lacrosse, soccer, and ice hockey, run his own camp at SUNY Oswego, and continues to write his weekly Road Trip Dad blog for www.justlacrosse.com.  Earlier this summer, he worked at three other SLV events.

OK, so after he made arrangements for his dad to join his World Games staff, Brian was still looking for another good man.  So he called one of his former bosses at Lake Placid, Rich Gross.

Rich has been working at the Lake Placid Tournament since about 1993 – 26 years is his best guess. He’s filled the role of Field Director and, more recently, Tournament Staff Director, overseeing the young staff of approximately 50 table workers who man the 13 fields that comprise the LP Summit.

He is a real estate and mortgage broker in the Albany area, but he has also been involved in the game for years.  “I first met George Leveille at the West Point Lacrosse Camp; I was dropping off my oldest son John and he was dropping Kevin off.  We discovered we were both from the Albany area. George later contacted me and asked if I was interested in working at the Summit, to which I said yes.  I’ve worked every year since.”

Rich has also been active with the Adirondack Chapter of US Lacrosse.  He has coached both girls’ and boys’ lacrosse teams and he has worked with the Adirondack Youth Lacrosse Tournament and the US Lacrosse Youth Festival held at RPI.

All right, Rich; you’ve got years and years of experience – but why say yes to Brian?  “Who could pass up the opportunity to go to Israel and work one of the biggest lacrosse events with some of the best talent in the world?” says Rich.  “I’m excited for this new lacrosse adventure!”

Dan and Rich will be field managers for the Games’ four “festival” tournaments.  There will be a boys’ youth tournament, open men’s and women’s tournaments, and a men’s masters tournament.  Their work days will be from early morning to early afternoon, which will leave time for leisure, sight-seeing, and watching the main event’s international games each evening.   

 

What will Brian’s job be like during the World Games?  “My planning and organizing role has almost run its course, and I can hang that hat up (hopefully) in a few short days.  Once all the bodies are in beds and the Games begin, the time for planning will be over.  For the remainder of the tournament, the largest world lacrosse championships in history, I'll be wearing my firefighter hat and just shooting problems down as they inevitably arise.”

And how did your Lake Placid background help prepare you to do all of this?  “Every job I've ever worked has helped get me ready for this... customer service (aka shmoozing) from being a valet in Utah… learning to just go with it while training hunting dogs in Vermont... the long hours hanging Christmas lights on Utah mansions make the late-night hours here seem like a breeze!  Parliamentary procedure and Roberts Rules of Order have surprisingly never proved important, but with my luck, they will soon!  My different roles in my decade-plus tenure with Lake Placid have taught me a myriad of different things, from best practices with tournament ops and facilitating a quality event, to human resources and getting the best out of staff as well as myself.  The answers to issues that arise usually aren’t a number or a solution; it's usually a person or a skill set that can make everything that much better.  I learned more being a table monkey than I did in college, and it didn't cost me $30k to get everything I've ever needed!”

And you’re confident that you’ve hired some good help in your Dad and Rich?  “When we needed more bodies, I turned to people who taught me to be good at what I do and to be dependable. Rich and Dan have been a part of arguably the best lacrosse tournament on Earth for years now, and if we're going to have a successful World Championship, we need our staff to be comprised with the best in the business.”

Brian, Dan, and Rich will be hopping flights back to the States immediately after the FIL gold medal game on July 21.  After all, all three of them are scheduled to show up for work at the 29th annual Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Tournament on Monday, July 30.