Lacrosse Is A Growing Sport In San Diego County As Frank Nichols Spreads Lacrosse Program In Oceanside

After establishing a lacrosse program at Carlsbad High, which he coached for a short time, Nichols oceansidelacrossefranknicholsmoved to Oceanside to teach special education at Libby Elementary and continue his work of spreading the game of lacrosse.

“Aside from developing their skills early, there needs to be an interest at the high school level in order to create a varsity team,” he said. “Without a club in the area, most kids would never even know about lacrosse.”

Fran DeLeonardis and Frank Nichols are two men on a mission. In a town where the sport of lacrosse has a noticeably low profile, DeLeonardis and Nichols established the El Camino High Club Wildcats with the intention of spreading the game to an Oceanside community that knows little about it. The two met in 2005 when DeLeonardis’ son, Steven, enrolled in a lacrosse camp run by Nichols in Carlsbad.

“My son was getting ready to enter high school where he had the intentions of playing football,” DeLeonardis said. “We wanted to find a spring sport for him that would really prepare him as an athlete, and lacrosse seemed to be something that could do that.”

However, DeLeonardis and his son discovered that the city of Oceanside offered no such programs that supported lacrosse, including El Camino High, which Steven attends. The closest program they could find was Nichols’ camp. After seeing the impact that the sport had on his son, DeLeonardis approached Nichols about starting a club in Oceanside. “I indicated to Fran that that was something I had been trying to do for a really long time,” Nichols said.

“He said to me that we should both work at it, and after working for a while we got started in 2006.” The Wildcats, along with the Oceanside Lions at the middle school level, were established with the goal of gaining support for lacrosse among young athletes in the community and, eventually, integration at the varsity level at El Camino.

Nichols, a New York native, moved west after graduating from college in 1977 and started the lacrosse program at Point Loma High, which was one of only six lacrosse teams in the county at the time. During his 11 seasons at Point Loma, he helped the program become part of the San Diego County Lacrosse Association and, later, as it integrated into the CIF. “When I was out of college my buddies asked me, ‘Why is a guy with your ability going west when lacrosse is in the east?’ ” Nichols said.

 “I told them that I wanted to go where it was wild, wooly and free.” That desire brought Nichols to San Diego. “It was wide open when I got here,” he said.

 “There were no rules, no structure and we had to build it all over the decade.” After establishing a lacrosse program at Carlsbad High, which he coached for a short time, Nichols moved to Oceanside to teach special education at Libby Elementary and continue his work of spreading the game of lacrosse.

The Wildcats are holding spring registration for boys and girls grades 5-8. According to DeLeonardis, the goal is to get children involved in the sport at a young age to help create a demand for lacrosse at the high school level. “Aside from developing their skills early, there needs to be an interest at the high school level in order to create a varsity team,” he said. “Without a club in the area, most kids would never even know about lacrosse.”

 This spring, the Wildcats are scheduled to play about 13 games on Saturdays at Del Rio West Elementary against other local clubs and upstart high school programs, such as San Marcos, Mt. Carmel and Valhalla. For Wildcats players such as Bryce Calvo, lacrosse is an exciting and physical game that, he said, cannot be matched by other more prominent spring sports.

“Lacrosse is a game that requires a lot of heart,” said Calvo, a freshman at El Camino. “It’s a tough sport, but it’s also a finesse sport. Lacrosse means everything to me.” Calvo said the relationship between the players and Nichols is the most rewarding aspect of the game.

“He’s definitely a tough coach,” Calvo said. “But if you’re on his team, he really respects you as a player and he demands the best out of you.” Nichols said he hopes to make this team the latest in his long list of success stories in San Diego County lacrosse.

“It’s a wonderful sport with lots of history and the kids love it,” he said. “We’re coming to Vista next, so look out.”

11 responses to “Lacrosse Is A Growing Sport In San Diego County As Frank Nichols Spreads Lacrosse Program In Oceanside

  1. Jeremy Nichols

    I wanted to notify the paper, after reading such a nice article about my Dad, that to the suprise and dismay of his family, he sadly passed away this last Saturday June 20th. It was very sudden, as the article indicated, he was in spectacular shape.

    He was back at his mother’s house in Islip LI New York where he was taking care of my Grandmother (his mother) as she had just underwent a mastectomy. My little brother, also a student at Oceanside, was with him.

    He was an accomplished teacher, father Grandfather, Husband, Brother, and Son. His contributions to Lacrosse are, and without hyperbole, legendary. Some of them that I can remember are:
    Coached Sonoma State Univeristy Lacrosse
    Coached and Started University of New Mexico Lacrosse (which has led to the Lacrosse now in NM at most Albuquerque High Schools)
    Helped organize the 1980? Olympic Lacrosse exhibition games.
    Played in the 2002 International Lacrosse Championship Games that were held in Australia. Against teams from all over the word, including three others from the US, his team won the Grand Masters (age group) Title. He was 50 years old at the time. They played with only three defense men, of which he was one. They had no subs to switch them out.

    He passed away at the age of 57.

    PS>. He was planning on playing for another international title, this time the Super Grand Masters (55+) next year. That was my dad, always “I’ll just do this one more thing and then I’ll retire.” I know he will be watching my brother play when he gets to college, he’ll just have a better seat.

    • My wife and I were shocked and saddened to learn of your father’s death. Frank was loved by so many! We wish your family our deepest sympathies and condolences. Your father was a great man; a rare breed who demanded the best of himself and inspired it in others. I am thankful for the time that I spent with him as a student teacher at Libby several years ago; he taught me so much! Frank was my friend and mentor and it was a privilege to know him. We are forever inspired by his dedication and crazy passion for life. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  2. Jeremy-
    I worked with your dad at Libby and was so sad to hear this news. He was a very passionate man and will be missed by many!


  3. Frank Misiano

    I went to high school with Frank and though it was almost 40 years ago that we had graduated from Islip High I remeber him as a most colorful character, full of life and laughter. I can hardly remember his face but I do remember his spirit.

  4. Susan Sievers Coppola

    I also knew your dad back in high school. He was a wild and beautiful soul. Perhaps he burned so bright because God knew he would be taking him so soon. My deepest sympathies to you and your family. He will be missed by all who knew him.

  5. Frank and I went to school together on Long Island . He was always on the go . He did not take the short route on anything .

    Frank was a great competitor and supporter of many . He will be missed by all .

    Mike Morello

  6. Susan Moore Cruickshank

    I just learned of the death of your Dad, I am so sorry for you and your family. I also went to high school with Frank, he always had something to say and always started off the day ( I was in homeroom with him for years!) with a smile. He will be missed by the many.
    Susan Moore Cruickshank

  7. Eydie Friese Mellor

    I am sorry to hear about your Dad. I too went to High School with your dad. He was loved by all his classmates. Just know in your heart that you now have an angel in heaven to watch over you always.

    Eydie Friese Mellor

  8. Jeremy
    I too, vaguely remember your Dad from school since I was about 5-6 years younger. I remember mostly joy and leadership.
    My brother, Mike Hebert went to high school with your Dad and he too had suddenly passed in 2007. My sympathy to you and your family and I pray God will comfort you with His love, peace, and happy memories.

  9. Jeremy,
    As I was reminiscing about my days of playing lacrosse of course I thought of your dad. He was my first lacrosse coach it was the early 80’s and later he was a substitute teacher my senior year at Point Loma High School for several months. I owe him everything for being the catalyst for my love for the sport. He was tough and taught fundamentals that I later tried to convey as a high school coach myself.
    Your father was also a TRUE friend and mentor as a young adult when I needed a little help he provided a place for me stay. I lost touch with your dad but have often thought of him. I was very surprised to discover he was back in SD County and that I missed his return to SD.
    By the way, the year the Olympic exhibition games your father helped to organize was 1984. My senior year and I still remember conversations with him about training with the bad knee and blind eye.
    I am very sorry for the loss your family has had to endure. I am sure you and family know the influence he had not only on the sport of lacrosse in San Diego but on many, many individuals.
    I will always have fond thought for my coach, teacher, and friend!

  10. I miss him too, everyday. To You “Pumkin Head”, we think of you everyday and try to follow all those important lessons to get through the difficculties or challenges. However, I remember and miss your optimism and your crazy jokes that made me laugh along with the others, no matter how mad we might have been at you. Your mom and brother, Harold miss you, but as you always taught us and believed in:” Life is for the Living!” You have made a wonderful impression upon both our sons, Jer and Frankie, as well as your students and Lacrosse players. Lacrosse continues, Big Frank. Poor Fran Deleonardis struggles for the rights of the dedicated players of El Camino HS. The players and coaches, and not to mention all the parents who put time and money to keep the determinations of the boys going hard! Thank-you to the coaches, Issac, Andrew, and Brian who volunteer their time along with others! Please “pinch” Frankie, get him to smile alittle more, Pumpkin Head. Both he and Jeremy miss your “out of this world” advice. I can only draw a picture. To all Frank Sr.’s friends, ” Sorry it took so long, but: Thank-you for all your prayers, and such wonderful memories!” The Nichols’ family is strong! “Have Stick Will Travel!” Love, Mrs. Frank Nichols Sr.

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