Multiple Sclerosis Couldn’t Stop Dennis Conway’s Passion For Coaching Lacrosse

Dennis Conway has always been passionate about sports.

Dennis Conway has always been passionate about sports.

Editor’s Note: At 57 years-old, Dennis Conway doesn’t let Multiple Sclerosis slow him down. Dennis is an avid outdoorsman, athlete, and lacrosse coach at Woodstock High School in Woodstock, Georgia. After feelings of uncertainty about lacrosse, Conway is now passionate about the sport and helping high schoolers excel at it. He played football at the University of West Alabama, and owned Camp Sporting Goods, a store in Dallas, Georgia, that caters to outdoorsmen. Part 1 of a 4-part series.

Lacrosse was not my sport. Last year we played our biggest rival, Etowah High School which is not even two miles from us. Etowah had beat Woodstock for the past five years in lacrosse. Our lay coach, Coach John Ziegler, played for Syracuse University in the 1970s and wasn’t able to come to this big game, so myself and another coach, Coach Josh Sailers, were the only ones there. The game was like tug of war—it was the biggest game of the year. Etowah would score, and then our team would score. With only one and a half minutes left in regulation play, we scored, which sent the game into overtime.

Because our team never reached overtime, Coach Sailers and I didn’t know the rules. I called Coach Ziegler who was in Texas to find out what our team was supposed to do, but I couldn’t get in touch with him. The referee told us, “You have a face off, and then a two minute timeout. After that, there is“sudden death” overtime, meaning whichever team scores first wins.” I felt nervous and excited and thought, “Ok, we can do this. We’ve come this far. We must stay focused, play fair and win!”

Our team won the face off and drove our opponents down the field. Our best player, Nick Stapleton, who was All Region, went straight to the goal, passed the ball to a teammate and he scored the goal. We beat Etowah High School—our biggest rival! Everyone went crazy. Coach Sailers jumped up and down, and I wanted to hug someone.

It makes me beam when I think about how far we have come. When Woodstock High School first started the lacrosse program less than a decade ago, we had 21 players. At that championship game, we had 41. We now have a junior varsity and a varsity team. Our first year we only won three games and lost 13. But this year, we made the Elite 8 in the state and were only one game away from going to the state finals.

We practice lacrosse year round so we can continue to improve. We begin tryouts in January, the season starts in February, and the season ends around the first week in May. We also play in a summer league in June and take off during the month of July. Then we start practicing again in August for our fall season.

Conway is proud of his lacrosse team. They've come a long way!

Conway is proud of his lacrosse team. They've come a long way!

I still can’t believe I’m a lacrosse coach. To learn the game of lacrosse, I watched videos and learned at the feet of John Ziegler. He had been an athletic director as well as a high school and college coach. He’d been involved in lacrosse for more than 30 years and was the head referee for lacrosse for the State of Georgia, where I live. He wanted to become a lay coach, so he volunteers his time to help our team at Woodstock. I really just stumbled upon coaching lacrosse. My son Kyle played football and ice hockey before lacrosse. I thought the sport was interesting, so I decided to help coach. Coach Ziegler took the time out of his busy schedule to help Coach Sailers and I learn the game. That is when my passion grew for lacrosse, the players and everything about the sport.

Next: Coach Dennis Conway Shares How Being An Athlete and Top Salesman Helped Him Fight Multiple Sclerosis and 3 Years of Depression  

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com

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