Parking lot paving approved as H-F school summer project

H-F lacrosse coach Mark Thompson. (Photo by Marilyn Thomas/HF Chronicle)
H-F lacrosse coach Mark Thompson. (Photo by Marilyn Thomas/HF Chronicle)

Back in 2005, Mark Thompson didn’t have to be coaxed into coaching lacrosse at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. That he’s still at it nearly a decade later says much about his love of the sport and willingness to work with young people.

An engineer by profession, Thompson grew up playing lacrosse in upstate New York. His job, raising a family and a move to Illinois forced him to put the game aside. 

That was until about 12 years ago when he taught the fundamentals as a volunteer coach at Marian Catholic High School when the game was new there. 

“I’d played lacrosse from seventh grade through college and it just meant a lot to me, and the older I got the more I realized how important the game was to my entire life,” Thompson said. “The game gave me a lot in terms of being part of and working as a team. I had a passion for the game that I wanted to share.”

Lacrosse coach Mark Thompson
checks out a player’s uniform
(Photo by Marilyn 
Thomas/HF Chronicle)

When his sons, Mike and Pete, students at H-F, decided they wanted to play lacrosse, he encouraged them. The boys approached Richard Lites, an H-F board member, who suggested they determine if there was interest for the emerging sport.

Mike and Pete Thompson and Clark Halliday got 45 student signatures. The school board gave club status to lacrosse. The three volunteered their dads as coaches, with teachers Dean Auriemma and Jon Elfner who had played club lacrosse in college.

“We literally put it all together over the winter break and got approved at the January 2006 school board meeting. The boys started practicing immediately outdoors in January.  Then it was a scramble to make sure we had equipment for the players; that we had a schedule to play. It’s just continued to build ever since that point,” Thompson explained.

Within one year, lacrosse moved from a club to athletic program under Illinois High School Association athletic rules. 

“We grew from 45 players to 55 players. We were operating junior varsity and freshman teams.  In 2009, we played our first varsity season,” Thompson recalled.  

Although he is the lacrosse coach, he ticks off a list of others who along the way helped make it all possible. 

“We’ve had continuous support since 2009. And if you look at the number of young men who are involved, we’re one of the largest boys athletic programs at H-F.”

Lacrosse is said to have been the sport of indigenous North Americans. By the 1700s it was a well-established game that has recognizable pieces of several other games. 

“If you like to run with a purpose like soccer, lacrosse has that. If you like the intricate offenses in basketball, it’s basketball with a stick — pick, role, zone defense, man defense. It’s identical to basketball that way,” Thompson explained. “And hockey players love it because it’s in several ways so similar in concept to that game.  Football players like it because it’s an alternative conditioning program, and helps them get ready for summer camp.”

Lacrosse is played on a field with goals on either end, like soccer. Players use sticks with mesh nets on the end to toss a small rubber ball between them and get it into the goal of the opposing team. Defenders have longer sticks than the midfielders, and the goalie has a supersized net to fend off the attack.

“For H-F it’s all about passing and catching,” Thompson said. “Lacrosse is physical but no more physical than hockey, and the collisions are far less that football.  It could be similar to hockey but we don’t have the boards (as perimeters).” 

Like all sports at all levels, the impact particularly to the head is being regulated more and more by rule changes and interpretation of rules to protect the athlete, he added.

This year, he is coaching 65 students who play varsity, junior varsity and freshman schedules with assistance from coaching staff Tom Cicero, Ken Ridgeway, H-F alumnus Jack Gram and volunteer Danny Arneberg, who helps with the freshmen.  

Thompson is especially excited to have 29 freshmen on the team this year, a sign that lacrosse is catching on. It’s difficult to build momentum because there is no local lacrosse program for younger players. Thompson hopes to keep the freshman roster active throughout their time at H-F.

H-F has lacrosse summer camps for third through eighth graders and high school students. The camps are staffed by alumni. Details are at https://hf.8to18.com/dashboard/catalog.

“That’s one of the rewarding parts of this,” the coach said. “These alumni have picked up the game since they were freshmen in high school and developed that same passion that I had and carry today. Now they want to come back and continue to play, teach and serve as role models.”

Contact Marilyn Thomas at [email protected]

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