GVSU men’s lacrosse club builds Ann Arbor pipeline with youth camp

GVL / Courtesy

GVL / Courtesy

Jacob Arvidson

Blue Crew Lacrosse, a youth club located in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area, and the Grand Valley State men’s lacrosse club have more than just team colors in common.

Over the winter break, GVSU head coach Tim Murray and some of his assistants and players travelled across the state to run training sessions for Blue Crew.

Blue Crew has relied on occasional appearances by Murray and his staff for about two years. Murray’s training sessions help provide the Blue Crew players and parents with an example of what a college lacrosse practice is like.

“It helps us formulate relationships with the kids and kind of explain to them what Grand Valley lacrosse is all about,” Murray said. “It really benefits both programs.”

Blue Crew is heading into its third summer, and GVSU has been an integral part of its growth. Program director Ty McGuire has seen the players’ interest level in GVSU increase since Murray and his staff got involved.

“Once they get a better feel for what they’ll experience at GVSU, they want more,” he said. “It also gives some players an opportunity to ask Tim some questions that I may not have the answers to.”

Blue Crew is a part of Coalition Lacrosse. Army Ants, based in the Flint area, is also part of Coalition Lacrosse.

GVSU currently has a combined eight alumni from Blue Crew and Army Ants. Christian Carroll and Clayne Frazer, both GVSU freshmen and former members of Blue Crew, recognize the similarities between the two programs.

“They both emphasize that you can work as hard as you want, but if you’re not enjoying it, then what’s the point?” Carroll said. “There’s just a smooth transition. What I was experiencing with Blue Crew kind of just carried over into this. I really liked the coaching style at Blue Crew and I thought that was similar to the way Tim teaches and coaches.”

Frazer built off Carroll’s thoughts.

“They both emphasize passion for the game,” he said. “They have the same philosophy in that to play the game you have to love the game, too.”

The similarities in philosophy allowed McGuire and Murray to build a strong bond in the first place.

“Both clubs love hard work and believe it’s the only true way to success,” McGuire said. “We value the joy of competition and what athletics can offer young, future adults through being on a team.”

McGuire and Murray had previously crossed paths in their recruiting and coaching trails, so McGuire had a good idea that GVSU and Blue Crew could form a relationship. The connection got even stronger once the two sat down and talked.

“There is no hidden agenda with Tim and the GVSU staff,” McGuire said. “They love lacrosse, but more importantly, they love coaching lacrosse. They never ask for a dime, and never make you feel bad for traveling across the state.”

Blue Crew and GVSU have bonded because of a shared appreciation for lacrosse and the opportunities it provides.

“You don’t coach lacrosse for the money,” Murray said. “You coach lacrosse because you like being around people who are as enthusiastic about the game as you are. In getting to know the coaches and program director at Blue Crew Lacrosse, they have an unbridled passion for the game. They care about the kids. They want them to develop as players and as people through this program. That’s something that I really respect.”

McGuire and Blue Crew were impressed enough with Murray to put him in charge of Coalition Lacrosse’s team of graduated seniors called the Painted Turtles. The team began play in the summer of 2015. Carroll, Frazer, and fellow Lakers Zac Crawford, Ben Barrick, Joey DiGiacomo and Danny Fitzgerald all played on the team.

Coming from a university atmosphere, Murray has been able to teach a lot to both the players and coaches at Blue Crew.

“Tim always preaches the value of hard work and not looking for shortcuts,” McGuire said. “He also makes players aware of the opportunity they have through lacrosse, telling them to appreciate what their families have done to get them in this position.”

But Blue Crew has taught Murray a lot as well.

“I’ve always said I think the best coaches are the best pirates,” he said. “I’m always learning. I’m always kind of stealing from one coach or another. You steal ideas and then you kind of form them into your approach and your philosophy. Ty is a teacher. As far as the classroom management and the relationships he has with his students and athletes, there’s a lot I’ve learned from him.”

Murray acknowledges that recruiting is always an underlying factor when he is at Blue Crew, but he believes the GVSU brand of lacrosse will sell itself as he and his coaches go about their business.

“Players, especially high school players, know who’s real and who’s phony,” he said. “By my being able to go there and show them this is how I go about things and this is who I am, I think they realize the authentic me. If it’s something that they like, maybe it’ll pique their interest in Grand Valley.”