2001-03-03 / Sports

Athlete Of The Week: Luis Lopez

By Emanuel Jalonschi

Most popular modern sports can claim their history to be about a century or so old. Lacrosse dates back over half a millennium. When it started, in North American amongst Native Americans, it was played in teams of hundreds of braves. Often times the goals would be miles apart.

The dimension may have changed, but the game still remains one of the most challenging, hard-hitting and demanding sports. As our Athlete of the Month, Luis Lopez, would say, "it’s really tough. As soon as you lose the ball, you have to run right back on defense and that just tires you out."

Lacrosse is played on a field, with dimensions similar to a football field’s, only ten yards wider. It is one of the most physically exhausting sports out there.

Luis Lopez, a Junior at Cardozo High School, is one of the best lacrosse players in the city. He captains the champion lacrosse team from Cardozo.

Luis started playing lacrosse in junior high school. He was in eighth grade when coach Greg Carter made an announcement over the P.A. system that he was holding a sign-up for lacrosse. Since the equipment looked cool (hey, if you need that much protective gear, it has to be fun), he decided, along with some friends, to try the sport. Luis fell in love with the game and, as his friends gradually fell away from it, he stuck to it.

It was probably really difficult to be a young athlete in a sport where there are no clearly famous role-models to use as motivation. In basketball, baseball, football, etc. you have the professional players you can look too. There are really no nationally well-organized lacrosse leagues. Luis didn’t let this stop him. " I looked at all the kids my age and I wanted to get up to their level." Plus he had the help of Rockaway sports fixture, coach Greg Carter.

Luis continually expresses his thankfulness for Carter’s influence and help. "He really pushed us," says Luis of this former Far Rockaway football star.

Luis remembers his first game with coach Carter. "Our first game was in Baltimore. There were only ten of us. We got killed like 18 to nothing."

What’s impressive about Luis on the field is his general skill and finite understanding of a game that essentially combine the in depth thought of chess with the constant action of soccer and the split-second decision making of guerilla warfare. "It’s fast and fun but it takes a lot of skill."

What is, perhaps, even more impressive about Luis is his level of maturity and selflessness, both on and off the field. Although he averages nearly three goals a game, is second on the team in assists and is the starting captain of the reigning New York City lacrosse champs, an interview with Luis will quickly turn to his concern and dedication to others.

For example, he spoke of his thirteen-year-old younger brother, Gustavo. Apparently, the lacrosse blood runs in the family. Gustavo is a freshman at Cardozo and will play alongside his older brother this year.

Luis is also more than willing to talk about his other pet venture. Although still a teenager, Luis is in his second year as Greg Carter’s assistant coach for the Far Rock Huskers. The Huskers is the team that gave Luis his first taste of lacrosse and now he is returning the favor.

In a time of eighteen-year-olds going pro after high school, it is great to find athletes that do things for the love of the game.

Luis is hoping to receive a letter of recommendation from one of our Congressmen in order to attend Air Force Academy. He is hoping to maybe become an airplane mechanic and to continue playing lacrosse. The best way for him to do both is to go to the Academy.

No matter what Luis does after high school, he has already become a great athlete in our neighborhood. Even more important, as a Junior in high school, he is already a role model for our younger athletes.

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