January 13, 2012
Former Philadelphia Eagle and current ESPN NFL analyst Herm Edwards delivered a passionate keynote address Friday night at the US Lacrosse National Convention in Philadelphia.
©John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Edwards: 'It Starts with the Little Ones'

by Paul Krome | LaxMagazine.com | Convention Blog | Fan Fest Open to Public

PHILADELPHIA – Ironic that the task Herm Edwards despised perhaps the most as a coach proved to be a no-brainer for the team that brought him home to where he began his career as beloved sports hero and public figure.

But scheduling, which Edwards chastised as being too important to players and too cumbersome for coaches during his eight-year tenure as an NFL head coach with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, always seems easy for homecoming. And the former nine-year defensive back with the Philadelphia Eagles delivered with a passionate, inspiring keynote speech to kick off the US Lacrosse National Convention, presented by Champion.

"His message about carrying on the game was my favorite," said Kerry Weigner from Helmetta, N.J., the director and coach for Team Turnpike Elite (N.J.) Lacrosse. "You're on the train of lacrosse, and eventually you're going to get off, but hopefully you're passing along a good message to the next coach or next group of players."

Weigner and several thousand coaches and officials nearly filled the Pennsylvania Convention Center's Grand Ballroom to hear Edwards, watch the world premiere of the "Crooked Arrows" movie trailer and honor the 2011 World Champion U.S. Under-19 women's team as part of an opening reception hosted by US Lacrosse President and CEO Steve Stenersen. The festivities rung in the lacrosse world's largest educational and networking event, which includes tomorrow's Fan Fest (general admission $10) and autograph signings by, among others, U.S. team players, the Philadelphia Wings and "Crooked Arrows" lead actor Brandon Routh ("Superman Returns," 2006).

But Friday night was all about Edwards, who embodies an often-repeated alliteration of "faith, family, football" but applies – with an animated style that has made him a popular ESPN NFL analyst – life lessons to participants in all sports.

"You are ambassadors for lacrosse. That's why you're here," Edwards told the crowd. "The growth of the game is fantastic, but you have to teach the right things as it grows. And it starts with the little ones."

"The little ones learn from officials and from coaches," he said. "What will you do as a coach or official to make the game better?"

Edwards' message about the important roles adult coaches and officials play in the development of young people dovetail nicely with US Lacrosse's focus on making youth lacrosse a positive experience.

"There's a lot of young coaches in this organization here for this convention," said Tom Jurek, a youth coach and former NCAA player from Queensbury, N.Y. "Hearing from a professional coach some of the things you have to do — going down to the basics and teaching fundamentals is what it's all about — was great. He drove that home."

Edwards drew applause several times, including after his comments about Denver Broncos' quarterback Tim Tebow – whom Edwards knows but never actually mentioned by name. He didn't have to.

"Teach athletes humility," Edwards said. "He's great for football, whether he's a great quarterback or not. You like what he represents. Parents like following guys that. Promote that."

Edwards spoke for more than 30 minutes before answering questions from the audience.

"We wanted someone who could deliver a dynamic message that would resonate with all of our constituents, and Herm quickly went to the top of our list," said Beth Porreca, director of events at US Lacrosse. "Having been involved in all sides – playing, coaching – many of our constituents started as players.

"And his ties to this city as a former defensive back with the Eagles made him a natural to kick off our three-year run of conventions in Philadelphia."

It's all in the scheduling.

Lacrosse Magazine's Matt Forman contributed to this story.

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