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Teaching Life Lessons, At The End Of A Lacrosse Stick

En route to the state final, Coach Bob Hartranft reflects on his career.

It’s been 42 years since Bob Hartranft started coaching boys lacrosse at While the years tend to run together in his memory, there’s one thing he’s crystal clear about.

“You love every year,” he said.

In a telephone interview Friday morning, from a bus headed for the state finals, Hartranft explained that each year is a little different. Some more successful than others, but each presents the same opportunity. Namely, to have fun, win as many games as possible, and teach life lessons to young men.

“I love being with the kids, they energize me,” Hartranft said. “And winning is nice. But my goal as a coach is to teach them about more than wins and losses.”

Win or lose Saturday morning, the 2011 Dalers season has fulfilled Bob Hartranft’s expectations.

To be sure, the wins have come. After a rocky start, that is, during which the lacrosse team had to work on its defense to provide adequate backup to a high-energy run and gun offense. Since then the team's undefeated, plowing through the regular season and in the Long Island Regionals.

The win against West Islip was particularly big, since Farmingdale was playing a program that had destroyed them a year ago. “I went on record last year saying that they were the best high school team I ever played, and I’d coached against five Ward Melville championship teams,” Hartranft said. “The only people who thought we could play against them was us. But we had a lot of players back and felt we matched up well. ”

Turns out the Dalers were right, and everyone else was wrong.

This is not the first time a Hartranft-coached team has taken it to the states -- there was 1991, and more recently in 2003, when Farmingdale came up just short of the state championship, losing in the final minutes against Geneseo. That was back when Matt Danowski, Farmingdale’s all-time leading scorer and later Duke All-American, played.

“This year is a significant run, obviously, like the 2003 team,” said Hartranft. “But sometimes you get a team you don’t expect to get there, the 2004 team. We lost a lot of players to graduation, but we did well with a bunch of overachievers.”

Hantranft, who was named Nassau County boys lacrosse coach of the year for 2011, had high praise for a number of this year’s crop of Daler lacrosse stars, including All-Americans Sal Tuttle and Joe Ostrander, goalie Mike Palmer, Kevin Wahl and Brian Prendergast.

“As a coach you dream of getting a player like Prendergast,” he said. “He’s tough as nails and he worked his butt off every practice.” Wahl and Ostrander? “They exemplify a burning desire to excel. You can put that in capital letters. When they step onto the field, they’re warriors.”

And for Hartranft, it’s the nurturing of personal qualities like those that make his job meaningful and rewarding.

“You’re trying to teach high school students to be young men in our society,” he said. “I’ve had many kids write me and thank me, how it’s helped them in life, how to manage their time, discipline themselves, and make sacrifices.”

Not to mention a little thing called consistency. “Whether we win or not tomorrow, the proudest thing I am of our program is that we’ve been in the Nassau County final four 29 times in 42 years,” Hartranft said. “If someone told me that at the start of my career our teams would do that, I’d say I‘d take that…where do I sign?”

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