Author: Tom Housenick
Date: Mar 19, 2010
Brad Schifko’s pickup basketball game at Shippensburg University in the spring of 1992 ended abruptly when he tore ligaments in his ankle and dislocated his foot.
Hobbling badly as he walked out of the campus fieldhouse, Schifko was offered a ride to the university infirmary.
That is when things went from bad to worse.
The man who gave Schifko a lift was Shippensburg football coach Rocky Rees. It was the day before spring football drills started for the Red Raiders, and Schifko went to Shippensburg to play football.
You can just imagine how that car ride conversation went.
“Yeah, [Rees] wasn’t real happy with me,” Schifko admitted.
But, surprisingly, a new passion came of that fateful day for Schifko.
His football career over, Schifko was turned on to lacrosse by a faculty adviser.
A basketball and football player at Central Catholic High School, Schifko quickly saw the similarities between the two sports he loved growing up and his new interest.
Fast-paced. Physical. Fun.
It was much the same story for John Seitzinger, minus the basketball injury the day before spring football drills.
Seitzinger, also a Central Catholic product, was introduced to lacrosse at Richard Stockton College in New Jersey. His interest in it was immediate.
Many years later, Schifko, then the head boys lacrosse coach at Parkland High School, and Seitzinger, his assistant, conspired in the locker room after a match one day to bring an adult team to the Lehigh Valley.
This Sunday afternoon at Allentown’s J. Birney Crum Stadium, their plans will come to fruition.
The Lehigh Valley Steam, a member of the American Lacrosse League, will make its debut at 2 p.m. against Quaker.
Schifko, 35, and Seitzinger, 42, are married with children and have full-time jobs, but in some way, this adventure completes another part of their lives.
“Our biggest goal was to have a team in the area with staying power,” said Schifko, a guidance counselor in the Easton Area School District. “We wanted kids coming back from college to have something to do.
“This isn’t a huff-and-puff beer league.”
The duo also wanted others to continue to experience the joy of playing a sport they both got late starts in playing.
Neither Schifko nor Seitzinger had the opportunity to try lacrosse in high school. It wasn’t offered — although today it is an official PIAA sport for boys and girls.
Seitzinger continued to play in leagues and tournaments after college while he lived and worked in south Jersey. Now a sales manager in Kutztown, Seitzinger travels as far as Vail, Colo., to play.
The two co-founders handed out questionnaires to prospective players throughout the area, letting anyone with interest know that this was a serious endeavor and would be a first-class organization.
“To get this thing off the ground, we dug into our own pockets,” Seitzinger said. “Then all of the guys bought their own helmets, jerseys and shorts to match.”
There have been fundraisers and raffles to raise money for league fees, officials’ fees, balls and stadium usage. There are plans to have youth clinics, youth tournaments and golf outings to keep the cash flow going.
Perhaps the last existing hurdle is securing a sponsor.
“As long as we’re involved, money will always be an issue,” Seitzinger said. “It’s always a struggle. You need a sponsor to keep going. That’s a major obstacle. We have a few possibilities.”
There are 29 players on the Steam roster, 25 of whom are coaching the sport in some capacity at some level in the area. Players must be at least 18 years of age. The Steam has two 19-year-olds and a 48-year-old.
“We have virtually every profession covered, from a mechanical engineer to businessmen to sales reps,” Schifko said.
The ALL is the country’s most competitive adult lacrosse league, with two conferences of 36 teams each.
The Steam will compete in the Philadelphia Division. In addition to league play, it will play a Philly masters team and teams from Harrisburg and York this spring and summer.
Tom Housenick is a freelance writer.
THE LEHIGH VALLEY STEAM
What: Adult lacrosse team
Who: Men 18 and older
Where: J. Birney Crum Stadium, Allentown (home games)
Opener: 2 p.m. Sunday vs. Quaker, J. Birney Crum Stadium
Web site: www.lvsteam.com
League affiliation: American Lacrosse League (americanlacrosseleague.org)
Credit: By Tom Housenick SPECIAL TO THE MORNING CALL – Freelance