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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
As Garrin Dougherty takes the field, he’s seeing kids from many of the bigger schools across Section 4.

Dougherty, who plays for Notre Dame, is part of the Gaffer Elite Lacrosse program, and during the Gaffer season he teams up with kids from many of the biggest schools in Section 4.

“It’s great to come back in the summer and see the guys you played against during the school year and just being able to kind of connect with kids from other areas and playing with them is great,” Dougherty said.

“It’s definitely great to come back. Coming from a smaller school, getting with kids from bigger areas and being able to connect with kids from bigger schools that I normally wouldn’t have met.”

Gaffer Elite has kids from all over Section 4. From Sectional champions Corning in Class A, to teams that maybe didn’t have the same success in the high school season.

“It’s definitely cool getting together with people you aren’t usually teammates with and going to higher level tournaments,” Johnson City’s Dylan Neer said.

In the high school season Johnson City didn’t always have a ton of college coaches coming to watch their games, but Neer knows that when he plays for Gaffer Elite, he gets a chance to get noticed.

“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “The Streeten’s have a lot of connections. My school team is not the greatest and we don’t have a ton of coaches that are watching that, but you work with what you can and playing with this travel team is good.”

The Streeten’s are co-directors of the program, Bob and Duncan Streeten.

Bob Streeten took over the Corning East lacrosse program from Joe Corcoran in 1982 and in his 29 years as the East coach his teams won sectionals 24 times and the league title 23 teams. He helped guide Corning East to the 1990 state title and he coached 59 players who became all-Americans (24 in college and 35 in high school). He coached two years with the combined CPP Hawks program and finished his career with a record of 544-102, the fifth highest win total in U.S. lacrosse high school coaching history according to ESPN.

Streeten was in the inaugural class for the NILCA Hall of fame and is in the U.S. Lacrosse Upstate HOF and the Corning-Painted Post High School HOF.

Duncan was a two-time captain and three-year starter for Division I Binghamton where he made second-team America East All-Conference his senior year. Before college he played for his dad at Corning East and he was named U.S. Lacrosse High School All-American. He won three straight sectional titles in H.S. and reached the Class B state title game in 2004. He was named to the Corning-Painted Post Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.

Gaffer Elite was started in 2012 to provide high level instruction to players who want to take their game to the next level.

“It’s a really good group,” Bob Streeten said. “We have been very munching enjoying that. Plus, what has made it a lot easier for coach Duncan and myself is we have an outstanding staff this year. Our number one coach on the oldest team is the head coach for Oneonta (Pete Owens), his assistant is the long-time defensive coordinator for Johnson City High School (Chase Harrington). Our next program, the head coach is Justin Patterson, who is the head coach at Utica College and his assistant is Bryan McClure, who is the head coach at Thiel College.”

For the Streeten’s the program has grown a lot over the years.

“It’s really great because we are Abel to bring things through the process, starting with a younger age,” Duncan Streeten said. “We have some fourth and fifth graders and we bring them through the process and really get exposure for them, but also help them and the parents through the recruiting process. One nice thing is we take all the kids and give them a free college conference and talk about the do’s and don’ts of being recruited and we give them ideas of how to get exposure. It’s been a great experience for my father and myself as the directors of the program to go from one team to over 100 kids.

“We currently have five teams and two girls teams as well that my wife (Becca (Lampson) Streeten runs. She just finished coaching her last college season for al title bit, we have a baby on the way, she was coaching at William Smith that went to the second round of the NCAA’s. It’s family business, but we also have a lot of college connections between my wife, myself and my father so to help a lot of these kids that wouldn’t have gotten exposure either because they don’t play enough games that college coaches go to their games.”

While all the coaches have strong resumes, it’s still crazy for Duncan to see how. Many people know his dad.

“I always have to say it’s pretty outstanding,” he said. “Whether it’s the coach at Syracuse, who used to the Hopkins coach or Terry Desko, who used to be the Syracuse coach, or any of the coaches. We are walking through an airport and they stop us to say hi, it’s pretty powerful. At some of the tournaments these coaches, who are coaches of big, top 10 Division I, II and III schools they come up and talk to my dad and people will be like how do you know him and my dad will be like I’ve had quite a few players play for him.

“A lot of people don’t know this, dad was assistant coach for West Genesee for their first state championship team, several guys on that team are college coaches as well, the Cortland coach being one of them.”

For Bob Streeten, the connections you make in sports can help you throughout your life.

Streeten played high school lacrosse at Nottingham High School and then he went to Hobart College and played football and lacrosse.

It was a connection from college that led him to Corning.

“The contacts you make by being in extracurricular activities in college, those are the ones that are going to help you get a job,” Streeten said. “I tell the kids all the time, if you are a good guy and everyone wants to hang out with you, when your name comes up they will hire you. That’s the whole reason I came to Corning. A teammate of mine, his name was Terry Corcoran, his father ran the program, Joe Corcoran is in the National Hall of Fame, he was a great coach. Terry said, I know you are at West Geneses right now, but do you want to come down and apply for this job and I said sure, because I knew it was a great program and was well run and they were very disciplined. I spent 29 years coaching that program and two years coaching the Hawks.”

Coaching youth athletes now is something that Streeten always tried to do when he was at Corning East as well.

“Personal opinion, as I’ve told other coaches on the way up, if you are a high school varsity coach who can’t tell me who your best sixth grade attacker is you aren’t a very good coach. Because you don’t get hired just to coach the varsity, it’s the whole program and I think sometimes people miss that.

“The youth program, at least when I did Corning East for those 29 years it was key. All the players that went to great colleges, or wanted to go to the next level, it started there. I think it’s one of those things that many of us young men, I wanted to play in the NFL, but after college football I realized I wasn’t going to be an NFL running back, but you still have those dreams. I think lacrosse gives you an opportunity, you don’t have to be super fast, you don’t have to be super big. If you can handle this thing (the stick) super well even if you are the kind of kid that doesn’t get picked in touch football games you can be a heck of a lacrosse player.”

For Gaffer players there can be a bit of a friendly rivalry as they are teammates during the travel lacrosse season, but rivals during the high school season.

“When Horseheads plays Ithaca it’s really fun,” Alex Johanson of Horseheads said. “Because, we have probably five guys on the Horseheads team that have played Gaffers and a great number on the Ithaca team right now.

“We beat Ithaca in ac comeback win up at their place first game we played them, we were talking a little bit after that. They came to our place senior night and we absolutely blistered them, so that was fun.”

For Ian Marsh playing for Corning in high school means a lot of chances to get head-to-head wins during the school year over his Gaffer teammates.

“It’s kind of weird (Playing with kids in the summer and against them in high school), we talk a lot of trash during the season,” Marsh said.

“It’s definitely a lot of fun. We got a lot of victories against them and can rub it in their faces a little bit and the victories you don’t get they kind of rub it in your face so it makes it fun all around.”

As defensemen, Daniel Manning of Elmira and Louis Enns of Ithaca both have a chance to defend their Gaffer teammates during the school season.

“I think being a defenseman the attack men like to try and get in your head during the game,” Manning said.

“A little extra heights competition is always nice,” Ennis said. “Getting to see them during the high school season and having that competition and rivalry really just pushes each other further.”

While the defensemen may know the go-to moves of their Gaffer attack teammates, it just makes those teammates have to work on even more things to get past them during the high school season.

“You can definitely get to them (by knowing their moves), but it makes them work even harder,” Manning said. “You have to keep getting better and we push each other every day.”

Gaffer has had plenty of athletes make it to the next level, and one of their biggest goals is to help kids get a chance to play in college.

But, another part of it is being realistic with kids on what their best bet for the future may be.

“We tell the kids, if you stay with us for three or four years, we almost guarantee that if you can stay with us for that long because you improve you’ll be able to play in college,” Bob Streeten said. “Now, if you only want to go to Princeton and play at Princeton, number one you better have the grades and No. 2 I’m not sure that’s really going to happen for you.

“I was just doing a college conference and one of the things we do is we advise kids and their parents. There are some kids that when they walk on the field coaches know they want them. The rest of us aren’t in that category. So, you as a kid that wants to get recruited has to do some things on the field they are going to take notice of.”

The program has had some alumni go onto great things, like Logan McNaney winning player of the year honors for the NCAA Tournament after leading Maryland to a Division I National title and unbeaten season, but they also have a lot of guys who have gone on to play at all different levels of college.

“Logan McNaney, I actually remember when coach (Bob) Streeten switched him to goalie,” Duncan Streeten said. “He was a left-handed attack man before that and I remember at a lacrosse camp when he got switched to goalie and look at the kids career and he’s the best goalie in the nation.

“We’ve had a lot of different kids who have been college All-Americans, college captains, leading scorers or very sound defensemen for their teams.”

While McNaney is one of the star alumni of the program, the coaches know not everyone is going to play at that level.

“We try and paint the kids with realistic expectations of what their abilities are and find the right program, but if you have a kid like Logan McNaney it’s pretty easy for them to get recruited.”

For the kids it’s special having coaches that can help them get to that next level.

“The Streeten’s are some of the best coaches I’ve ever had and they just know so much about the game, it’s amazing,” Dougherty said.

“The combination of just intelligence of the kids and the quality coaching staff here is amazing. It’s definitely a selling point to be coached by a legendary New York State coach. There are so many college coaches that are alumni of the school he coached and he knows so many people.”

The coaching is really what sets the program apart for a lot of the players.

“I started about, I’d say three years ago because a bunch of my buddies from Horseheads were playing,” Johanson said. “I came here, I wasn’t that good, I’ve grown a lot since I came to Gaffers. I think everyone has.

“We have a lot of connections at Gaffers with our coaches. Both the Streetens know a lot of guys, it’s been fun doing the whole recruiting process with them.”

There are plenty of chances to get noticed during the summer, but the players also feel like they are getting better.

“It’s been a really great experience being able to meet people we played against during the high school season, it’s a lot of fun,” Enns said. “Not just the exposure, but the player development has been phenomenal. It’s a great opportunity to go out there and make a name for yourself.”

One thing that helps both Bob and Duncan is all the people working with them.

“It’s a huge difference (having all the college coaches on staff),” Bob Streeten said. “They have also taught me some things, myself coaching at the high school level for almost 40 years, but the game has changed, like anything.

“Back in the day lacrosse didn’t get the prime athletes that football or basketball got. Now, we get some of them, not a lot, but some and of course college level they get a collection of kids like that. At the college level they recruit athletes even more than lacrosse players, but if you can’t catch the ball, you can’t make it. It’s like a receiver that can’t catch a pass. If he’s the fastest player on the field and you can’t catch a pass, you can’t put him out there.”

The staff also includes some former Gaffer players, who currently are in college.

“We always say it’s great to bring our guys in that know the system,” Duncan said. “Who can come in and help out. We have three colleges coaches on staff this year, and some of the teams have guys from Section 4.

“A lot of the high school guys who transitioned to college they come back and are chomping at the bit to get a taste of coaching in college. A lot have said it helps them in college, it’s kind of neat. Several of the kids, Eddie Baker being one of them, he’s a Binghamton product. He plays for St. Rose and led his conference in goals and he said to me one of the nights we were having dinner after our games, he said coaching has helped open my eyes to other aspects of the game I didn’t understand.”

For a lot of guys they may not always get a ton of exposure during the high school season.

Whether you play for a smaller school, or a team that isn’t a traditional power, or aren’t the star on your high school team, they come to Gaffer and get a chance to showcase their skills in settings where college coaches are watching.

“For a school team not everyone can dodge, shoot, pass, coming on a travel team is fun, because everyone can pass, shoot, move the ball and stuff like that.

“A lot of the stuff I pick up here at a club team can be use and implemented in the school team and everyone can get better learning the stuff.”

The players know that these tournaments give them a lot of chances to be seen.

“They (coaches) might not be coming to watch you, but if they are coming to watch other people it’s always an opportunity and you have to play your hardest,” Manning said. “The coaches are a lot of help getting exposure and reaching out to people for us.”

“There is some great competition here and it really gets me ready to play against competition in Class C,” Dougherty said. “It’s nice to know kids from other areas, to be able to connect through lacrosse it makes friendships I wouldn’t have had.”

The program has an alumni game which gives former players a chance to come back, play and talk to the current Gaffer players.

“To have our alumni come back and give these guys a tough test is always fun,” Duncan said. “We have anywhere from 15 to one year we had 30 alumni show up. Some of them are still playing. We have guys who have played in national championship games come back and at the end, and this is probably just as important, is having those guys talk to the kids about what it’s like to play at the college level.”

The players all like the chance to work with other kids and build friendships with players from around Section 4.

“It’s been awesome, I love how we have so many guys from around the area, they are all very good. Who we compete with in the spring season it’s fun to come together and play together. After you play these guys in the spring you can look forward to the summer.”

For Marsh everything is in his home town, but it’s also a chance to standout where with Corning-Painted Post he’s playing on a loaded high school team full of future D1 players.

“You are used to your home team, when you get here everybody is the best person on their home team,” Marsh said. “You get people you know out there. People you play with the whole season easier to get a team bond. It’s like a 10-minute drive, it’s perfect for me.”

For the players the whole team is a great opportunity for them.

“Gaffer has done so much for me socially and lacrosse wise,” Dougherty said. “Gaffers has given me a lot of opportunities coming from a small school to see a lot of coaches and competition. I got a little bit more confidence knowing I’ve guarded some of these kids who are some of the best competition in the country.”

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