By Conor Reilly
LILacrosseNews.com, Posted 11/13/11
On a brisk, windy Saturday at Syosset High School, conditions seemed unseasonable for lacrosse. Nevertheless, 20 varsity and JV squads from across Long Island came out in the spirit of friendly competition and a worthy cause Saturday.
The “Battle of the Counties” round-robin tournament gave teams the unique feeling of playing autumn lacrosse and also helped rally support and awareness for autism.
“We thought it would be a good idea to promote autism awareness and get kids thinking about someone other than themselves,” said Syosset head coach John Calabria. “We had a lot of teams jump in right away.
At the center of the event is Syosset junior defenseman Kyle Haber and his family. Haber’s younger brother, Conor, 12, was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. His family created the BraveGoals4Autism program in an effort to raise money and awareness for education and acceptance of people with autism.
“When my brother was diagnosed, we wanted to rally support by doing something fun,” said Kyle, who along with his two older brothers and father helped create a non-profit organization nine years ago called 4BOYZ Autographs to Battle Autism (http://www.4boyzautographs.com/). “Lacrosse really tied into something we had interest in, and something we knew other people had interest in, too.”
As part of Saturday’s tournament, $1000 will be donated to the BraveGoals4Autism program. Coach Calabria has nothing but praise for what he sees in Haber.
“He’s a great young man that does a tremendous amount of work for his little brother, and he’s also a great player who’s being recruited by all the top schools,” he said.
Haber will be a key starter next season. Along with support for autism awareness, he saw the “Battle of the Counties” as good work for his team moving forward.
“Today is about the cause, but this also gets us ready for winter and then the big upcoming season,” said Haber. “We’re looking to win a Nassau County championship, and this is helping us get prepared.”
Haber’s coach agrees that the tournament will be useful beyond the autism cause.
“We’re using this as a kind of evaluation period,” said Calabria. “It’s nice to get a top-to-bottom look at your entire team.”
Saturday was an opportunity for coaches to get a feel for their teams and an opportunity for autism awareness to be spread. The out-of-season feel to the tournament was a testament to lacrosse’s growth and overwhelming popularity on Long Island.
“It’s interesting that this many teams would want to play lacrosse in November,” said Calabria. “It’s a phenomenal thing that says a lot about the sport and a lot about the commitment of its players.”
Calabria hopes this will be the first of many lacrosse events for the autism cause. Based on Saturday’s success, the idea of lacrosse in November may not be unfamiliar for long. Haber couldn’t be happier with how things turned out.
“There’s been great competition out here,” he said. “It’s been fun and I think everyone is getting the message and supporting autism awareness.”