Thursday, September 22, 2005
Steamboat Springs On any given day, Steamboat Springs High School Principal Mike Knezevich will see nearly two dozen students carrying lacrosse sticks.
Steamboat girls have been playing the sport for nearly a decade. But the boys were introduced to the sport less than five years ago when Knezevich helped a group of passionate boys lobby to have lacrosse.
The former collegiate player, high school coach, college coach and current official will be inducted into the Colorado Lacrosse Hall of Fame at 6 p.m. today during a ceremony at Cable Center near the Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium on the University of Denver's campus.
"I'm humbled," Knezevich said. "I've been getting a lot of calls from former players and people who have heard. It's as much about them as me. We were the ones who spent the time together."
Steamboat coach Bob Hiester, who already is in the Colorado Lacrosse Hall of Fame, was proud to welcome Knezevich into the fold.
"He was the primary motivating force," Hiester said about bringing lacrosse to Steamboat. "He's run camps for little kids. He's coached at high school and coached in college. Before we were in CHSAA (Colorado High School Activities Association), we were the Colorado Lacrosse Association. Knezevich was our commissioner. When we were accepted into CHSAA, he was head of the head coaches. He's a certified official and done some work up here."
Not too bad for someone who didn't pick up a lacrosse stick until college, when his assistant basketball coach at Colorado State University suggested Knezevich give the sport a try during the offseason.
"I never played basketball again," Knezevich said.
Knezevich, at 6-foot-5, un----doubtedly was an imposing presence on the field. During his playing days at CSU and nationally, he was an attacker and a defensemen. Knezevich was an All-League selection for two years while at CSU.
After college, Knezevich turned to coaching. He started the program at Hinkley High School in 1984, and his team was the runner-up in the state playoffs during the 1989 and 1990 seasons. Knezevich coached at the Aurora school for seven years before taking the head job with the University of Colorado's club team in 1991.
"He was such a team coach," said Carl Clay, who played for Knezevich at Hinkley and at CU. "He taught fundamentals and ground rules of the game. There weren't a lot of plays designed for the individual and certainly none designed for a player to show off. He wouldn't yell at your face. He would talk to you."
Knezevich said he used his background in basketball to put together lacrosse practices and strategies because of the similarities between the two on offense (fastbreaks and motion offenses) and on defense (man-to-man, zone or press strategies).
Knezevich finished his coaching career with a 152-118 record.
Now, through his office window, the former player and coach can watch the next generation practice and play on the grass fields near the high school. He is thrilled that lacrosse has become popular with Steamboat's youths. It is growing in popularity in other Western Slope communities, as well.
"There's something very special about the game," Knezevich said. "Anybody can be successful if you want to work hard enough at it."
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail email@example.com