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Scanning the sidelines of a lacrosse game in South Jersey, you’ll find several coaches holding clipboards and instructing players, reminiscing the days of competing for Moorestown High.

There are Doug Sell and Todd Ruff, presidents of the South Jersey Youth Lacrosse League girls’ and boys’ programs, respectively. There’s Damon Legato, head coach of Haddonfield High School’s boys’ team, and Paul Canton, a youth coach and vice president of Moorestown Lacrosse Club.

They trace their lacrosse roots back to Moorestown in the 1990s. They played under legendary coach Val Curran and learned to love the game.

“[Val] sowed the seeds that helped perpetuate the growth of the game in South Jersey,” Canton said.

Sell, Ruff, Legato and Canton are among a large group of former Moorestown players who remain in the area coaching the game. Through an alumni page on Facebook, plenty of other former players have shared their progress as coaches from around the country.

Curran, who played football and lacrosse at Duke in the late-1970s, started the Moorestown Lacrosse Club in 1988 along with Will Merriken. Back then, they had 12 players on one team. Now, the boys’ program has reached 2,200 players and the girls’ program features more than 1,800.

Curran’s unique approach to coaching and his vision has made it so that South Jersey Youth Lacrosse can produce high school- and college-ready lacrosse players, and eventually, coaches.

“I do think he had this grand scheme for lacrosse in South Jersey,” Legato said. “What he thought about at all times was what was best for the boys or the sport. He knew how to build a program. He always had this master plan in his head that he wanted to make lacrosse in South Jersey like Baltimore where he grew up.”

Today, coaches in the Val Curran pipeline are hoping to have the same effect he did.

“That’s very rewarding when you see it going over different generations,” Curran said. “All the kids that I coached are now teaching the next generation. It kind of makes me feel old.”

Through US Lacrosse’s TryLax clinics and the Coach Development Program, the number of players and coaches in South Jersey continues to grow, and the level of play has increased with each passing year

“US Lacrosse does a great job of stepping into that gap for parents so they can teach their kids,” Sell said. “I vividly remember the first year we had the TryLax program, this little girl, she had to have been 7 or 8 years old. She’s walking off the field and I heard her say, ‘Lacrosse is my favorite sport.’ I said, ‘Nailed it.’ That grant is an absolute homerun.”

Curran grew up idolizing Towson and Johns Hopkins living in the Baltimore area. After he coached at McDonogh (Md.) for a season, work brought him to Moorestown in the mid-1980s, where there was an established girls’ youth program, but nothing for the boys in town. Curran changed that.

Curran and junior varsity coach Rick Reagan led Moorestown High School boys’ lacrosse to success throughout the 1990s, playing as a club team. Moorestown could only play established private school powers like Lawrenceville (N.J.) and Haverford School (Pa.).

Within a few years, Curran’s team was competitive. He started coaching children. They responded to his encouragement and tough-nosed approach and developed a love of the sport and special affinity for their coach.

“Val was one of the guys that really stoked my love for the sport right from the beginning and put me on the path,” Ruff said.

Curran sent scores of players to Division III lacrosse, and a few, including Princeton’s Dan Clark, to the Division I ranks. His team won plenty of games during his nearly 20 years at Moorestown, but he’s more proud of the men he developed.

“It wasn’t so much the wins that we had, but I’m more proud of what [the players] became and the success that they had after they left the program,” Curran said. “When I saw the number of kids that were playing and driving through other towns and seeing lacrosse practices at high schools — I feel very proud.”

This spring, the lacrosse fields weren’t lined with former Moorestown players. They remained empty for months due to the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic. But the Facebook page? It was as busy as ever, with coaches from around South Jersey sharing memories of a man, and a program, that changed their lives.

“He was the Godfather of South Jersey lacrosse,” Legato said.

LOCALLY GROWN: North Atlantic

Long Island

Molloy women’s lacrosse player Alyssa Zangari is working as a nurses’ assistant at St. Francis Hospital. As part of the medical surgery unit, she is among those at the hospital who have been pulled away from their usual responsibilities to help treat an influx of COVID-19 patients. “Being a student-athlete has taught me how to work at a fast pace and to stay organized,” she said. “It has been extremely helpful and easy for me to transition into work.”

New York City

Bronx Lacrosse and CityLax, two urban lacrosse organizations that are supported in part by US Lacrosse, are stepping up their efforts during the pandemic. Bronx Lacrosse raised $50,000 in April to help feed families and received an additional $25,000 grant from the Robin Hood Relief Fund to address food insecurity in the community. CityLax is organizing the CityLax Senior Classic to give college seniors in New York a chance to end their careers on the field while supporting the growth of the game in urban centers.

New Jersey

Montclair High School senior Yael Gelman has been a varsity starter since freshman year. With the season on hold after only a week of practices, the Mounties captain spent her time building face shields for New Jersey hospitals through Montclair Design Week’s #ShieldOurHeroes project and baking bread every week for the homeless with Montclair Emergency Shelter and Housing.