For Andrew Guagenti, a huge part of the allure to applying to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ The Pursuit was the opportunity to play with and against some of the best talent in the country.
The Ohio native knew that there would be enough off-the-field stuff to do at the world-class facilities at Spooky Nook Sports in Lancaster (Pa.), but initially, the goal was to use the three-day camp as a barometer to see how he stacked up with many of the nation’s elite.
In its first year, The Pursuit was designed as a comprehensive training and development camp for players aspiring to play at the next level. With a mix of high-level commits and heralded uncommitted gems, Guagenti figured he’d have an opportunity to see the best of both worlds.
The Ohio State 2019 commit, a defenseman and LSM out of Olentangy Liberty (Oh.) and the Resolute program, more than acquitted himself against that competition, collecting MVP honors for the D group. While that’d be enough to put a smile on his face, he came away far more impressed with the camp’s broad spectrum.
“I was expecting more lacrosse,” Guagenti said. “Overall, the whole camp opened my eyes, not just lacrosse-wise, but also leadership-wise. Everything combined really helped. I wasn’t expecting full-on conversations that actually opened you up, and I was very happy about that. It was great lacrosse and I learned a ton, but I learned even more from the talks.”
That was a sentiment echoed by many of his fellow campers. FCA Director Drew Wardlow compiled an impressive staff for the event, led by Charlotte Hounds head coach Jim Stagnitta. Stagnitta spearheaded a ridiculously-skilled group of instructors, one that included the likes of Jeremy Sieverts, Brendan Mundorf, Patrick and Stephen Kelly, Joe Cummings, Sol Bliss, Joe Meurer, Matt Dunn, Max Schmidt and Pierce Bassett. It was an embarrassment of riches for the players in attendance. When they made a mistake, one of the game’s biggest names was on the spot to interact and correct.
“I knew that since it was an FCA event, it wasn’t going to be all about lacrosse, and that it’d also be about trying to build up your life after lacrosse,” 2020 LSM Colin Dougherty from Malvern Prep (Pa.) and Rising Sons (highlights) said. “Even knowing that going in, I was really impressed and got so much out of it.”
“As far as the lacrosse part, I took away some intimate details, some very small things that you can really only get from professionals,” Dougherty added. “It’s not very often that you’re going to have four coaches for eight players, especially not guys like Matt Dunn, Sol Bliss and Max Schmidt.”
Yet with all of those stars in attendance, it was a former Army Ranger that stole the show. JC Glick, who served multiple tours and is a published author, led the way for the group’s leadership sessions. It’s not a tough sell to get kids to listen to Glick, because he very much looks the part of an Army Ranger, and he’s not exactly a guy you’d want to disappoint.
“He runs the box for me,” Stagnitta said. “We’re never offsides.”
It didn’t take long for the players to see why Glick was Stagnitta’s go-to guy. On the first night, he put them through certain exercises, then again without telling them what their numerical goal was. That’s where they realized one of Glick’s key points.
“You never realize how much you can do until you’re asked to do it,” Dougherty said. “You can push past your limits. For somebody like JC Glick to go through everything that he’s gone through and still be the man he is today, it really commands respect.”
“JC Glick was awesome,” 2020 defenseman Pierce Dalton of Homewood (Ala.) and FCA (highlights) said. “I learned a lot from him, and the first night really showed us that even if you think you know what you’re doing, it’s still OK to ask for help. In our second session, he had a white board with a bunch of subjects to talk about, and that made me really perk my ears and lift my head up a little.”
Dr. Lonnie Sarnell, a former goalie on the Yale women’s team, held a sports psychology session and the players got to undergo college-style workouts at Spooky Nook’s unreal facilities. Ultimately, though, there was a good deal of lacrosse, and for a player like Dalton, the camp made a world of difference.
“It’s very easy for me to play down to people’s levels in Alabama because they don’t take it as seriously as I do and the skill level as high up,” Dalton explained. “The first thing we did at The Pursuit was approaches, and I think I know what I’m doing. I go for my first approach and right away, Matt Dunn and Sol Bliss come over and adjust me. These guys are so high-level that they can fix something right away, and that’s huge for me because I want to get better.”
Every player at The Pursuit will likely play high-level college lacrosse, which means that they are or will be a big-time high school player. Coming to the camp had its intended purpose for them, too, exposing them to what it takes to be a successful college lacrosse player both on and off the field.
“I’m just trying to prepare for my future,” Guagenti said. “I have a friend at Ohio State already who says everything is super tough, and Drew made that point that there’s a long way to go. Even I think I’m prepared enough, I’m not, and I have to keep going.”
Most importantly, though, The Pursuit sought to help develop well-rounded athletes. It’s safe to say that it’s a goal that the staff cleared with ease.
“At the beginning, (FCA VP of Field Ministry) Jimmy Page said that we would find out how to develop a new mindset, how to train our bodies, increase our lacrosse IQ and how to build our lives on a strong spiritual foundation,” Dalton said. “With it being a first-year event, I didn’t know what the event would be like, but by the end on Monday, I knew for sure that all four points had been hit. It exceeded my expectations.”
That’s exactly what everyone was pursuing.
FCA’s The Pursuit – Positional MVPs
Attack: Connell Kumar, ‘20, Seton Hall Prep (N.J.) / Leading Edge – Highlights
Midfield: Jacob Morin ‘18, Auburn (N.Y.), Army commit – Highlights
Faceoff: Matthew Gunty ‘19, St. Albans (D.C.) / FCA, Brown commit – Highlights
Defense: Andrew Guagenti ‘19, Olentangy Liberty (Oh.) / Resolute, OSU commit
Goalie: Colin Kelley ‘19, Marriotts Ridge (Md.) / Rock – Highlights