Just like always, Sean McKeon is the head coach at Manual Arts, walking the sideline as he has ever since he started the program several years ago. It’s only everything else that’s changed.
His old star player is now the assistant coach. The kid who used to be his rookie freshman is now a team captain and the team’s leading goal scorer.
And most important of all, his team that won two games in its first five years of existence has won four games in six tries this year, good for second place in the brand new L.A. City Section.
“I think they finally realize what it takes to win,” said McKeon, who brought lacrosse to downtown Los Angeles after moving here from the suburbs of Chicago, where he played in high school. “I think there was a culture of, ‘Oh, we’re gonna suck.’ This year, we finally realized that we have some pretty good lacrosse players.”
The best of them used to be Rogelio Perez, but now, Perez is stalking the sideline with McKeon. Or at least, that’s what he was doing Friday, when the team knocked off a first-year program at Birmingham High, 10-3. Oftentimes, he misses the boys’ games, because he’s detained by his other job–as head coach of the girls’ varsity team.
So the new top player for the Toilers (4-2) is Ernesto Molero, a fleet-footed middle who scored five of his team’s first six goals Friday. After that quick start, McKeon was urging him in the huddle to start sharing the ball around. Of course, McKeon might not mind having Molero shooting early on in games.
“So we can have a big lead,” the junior said. “Then we get to start working things around. I’m a captain now, so I’m really trying to help the other guys on my team.”
“I’m hoping he can play at the next level,” McKeon said. It will help if the junior can keep his GPA where it currently stands at around 4.0, according to the head coach.
While Molero looks to take a leadership role in helping his teammates, McKeon looks to do much the same thing amidst the community of lacrosse coaches in the L.A. city section. The Manual Arts head coach helped start lacrosse programs at nearby schools like Southgate, Huntington Park, and Jordan; his attempts to consistently grow the sport in Los Angeles may have indirectly started the Birmingham High program.
“Our athletic director Rick Prizant forwarded us an e-mail (from McKeon) seeing if anybody wanted to start a lacrosse team,” Birmingham co-coach Chris Monaster said. “I figured they’re not going to start a hockey team any time soon, so this is the next best thing.”
After the visiting Toilers ended an early undefeated streak by the first-year Patriots Friday, McKeon had some words of encouragement for Birmingham’s rookie staff.
“He told us it took them six years to get their first two wins,” Monaster told parents after the game. “So we’re doing pretty good.”
Not as good as Ernie Melero, Sean McKeon, and the rest of the Toilers, but pretty good nonetheless.