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Foundation of diligence, effort and community will endure at Waterford

Norwalk — It's the ultimate illustration of cause and effect. Diligence, effort, volunteerism and community produce success. Maybe not immediately. But faithfully.

This is the story of diligence, effort, volunteerism and community conspiring with the undefeated duo of time and space. This is the story of a daughter reaching out to celebrate her mother. This is the story of a sport that didn't exist 10 years ago in Waterford suddenly becoming a viable spring endeavor.

And so while Waterford High did not win a state championship Saturday in boys' lacrosse — didn't come close, really — the foundation of the program, built on all the aforementioned concepts, was there for all to see.

Earlier this week, yours truly received a long, thoughtful e-mail from Waterford alum McKenzie Griffith Potter, whose brother, Bray, is a senior member of the 2017 Lancers. McKenzie wrote about her mom, Kate Griffith, one of the pioneers of the sport in the 06385.

McKenzie wrote, "When I was in third grade I decided I wanted to play lacrosse. But at the time (2005), lacrosse in Waterford wasn't a 'thing.' No youth league or high school program. So I played in East Lyme. When I was in fifth grade, my mother and a few other parents who had children playing in East Lyme got together and began the process of starting a youth program in town.

"My mother is an amazing woman. She has given her heart and soul to lacrosse in this town. She hosted countless meetings during the initial stages of the development of the program, served as president of the league for a number of years and on top of it all was my coach. She even coined the name WYLA (Waterford Youth Lacrosse Association). Long story short, there would not be a youth lacrosse program in this town if it weren't for my mom."

It wasn't long until Chris Landry, the architect of the high school program's success, came to town. Landry's passion for lacrosse, met all the Kate Griffiths. Boom. As if the blowtorch struck the Exxon Truck. A sport was born.

"I didn't know anybody. I moved to Waterford because it was a job," Landry said, even amid Saturday's disappointment. "I wasn't about to give up coaching lacrosse. We wanted to keep it rolling. Tried to get it going as quickly as we could.

"(The youth program) goes on and on. They do such a remarkable job. And it's only going to get better. I think we do a great job in youth lacrosse here of making it fun for the kids. Now we're starting to attract good athletes. That's what this game is all about. Being as athletic as you can and wanting to compete. The kids now in Waterford have a choice of baseball, lacrosse and spring soccer. Lots of choices. All I want as a parent is for kids to have choices."

It's common after a Waterford lacrosse game for the kids to seek Kate Griffith for a postgame hug. As her daughter wrote, "win or lose or whether it's bitter cold out, they find my mom."

Maybe that's the reward.

Because this just in: Leadership roles in youth sports are a pain in the asphalt. They demand varying levels of time and patience. Some families are more active than others. Some families practice entitlement more than their kids practice the sport in question. It leads to many days and nights, whether quietly contemplative or out commiserating with friends, wondering whether this is all worth it.

Then you get postgame hugs ... and a drive to Norwalk for the first state championship game in program history.

"My mom has been their number one fan and number one supporter," McKenzie wrote. "You see, my mom is the most selfless person I know. She gave everything she had for me and my lacrosse career. For my brother and his teammates, she has gone above and beyond to do the same. I can confidently say that she has not only helped these young men grow into what they are today but that any one of them would turn around and say, 'Yup, Kate helped us get here. Kate believed in us from the start.'

"The senior class was in third grade the year that WYLA began. This means that this senior class is the first graduating class to have had the opportunity to play the full six years of youth lacrosse offered in town. And it's a coincidence that they're the first graduating class to lead their team through not only the conference tournament but also to the state finals? I think not."

Congratulations to Landry, Griffith and all the other parents and volunteers who have discovered a new sport in a baseball town. Amazing what happens when diligence, effort, volunteerism and community conspire with time and space.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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