By Tali Hunt, For The Miami Student

Miami University students are challenging and teaching Talawanda students to become great athletes and leaders on and off the field.

Miami students are getting involved by coaching middle and high school boys’ lacrosse teams in the Talawanda School District. The program has experienced positive growth, from 19 players last year to over 60 this year, due to a spike in interest in the student coaching program.

Cole Ciambro, junior at Miami and president of Talawanda’s lacrosse club, started the high school boys’ lacrosse team last year and is now the head coach.

The idea for the club came to fruition last year, according to Ciambro, when he was looking for a local lacrosse team on Google one day, and couldn’t find one in the Oxford area. As a lacrosse player, Ciambro wanted to bring a lacrosse program to the Oxford area so Talawanda middle and high school students could learn a new sport and gain life skills and leadership at the same time.

“I didn’t have high hopes for it, and then the next thing you know we have a middle school team,” Ciambro said. “It’s been an unexpected experience.”

This year, 15 Miami students are on the coaching staff for the high school team, and they all play on Miami’s club lacrosse team.

Kyle Zagdel of Richmond, Indiana is the head coach for the Talawanda Middle School team. Hank Stevens, an associate professor in the biology department and Oxford resident, is the assistant coach for the middle school team. Miami students also help coach the middle schoolers.

The Miami student coaches are expected to attend practices and are required to go to every game. Ciambro said he expects manners and good leadership skills from the coaches.

Stevens said the middle school players are learning to communicate, hold themselves and each other accountable and to be leaders.

“Cole finds responsible students who have a lot of lacrosse experience,” Stevens said.

This season, there are roughly three or four players per coach, so the players receive a lot of one-on-one attention. Ben LaFever, a high school junior at Talawanda and lacrosse player, said the variety of coaches who specialize in different skills have helped him improve as a first-time lacrosse player.

“Some are better at being coaches than others, but they are good at keeping track of everything because they work at the middle school and the high school programs,” said LaFever. “But, they can really appreciate that we are just starting out.”

The coaches have donated over 1,500 hours of community service to the teams, despite having no adviser as a club team.

As a team, the coaches schedule practices and games, create drills, handle transportation to and from away games, manage various financial aspects and do their best to help Talawanda students get as much as they can from playing lacrosse.

“These guys are busting their pants to push these kids to be good players and to be even more than that off the field,” said Ciambro.

The high school team competes against schools from Division I and Division II. They will only play two other club teams during their regular season games. Ciambro said the team hasn’t won as many games as he would like to see.

The teams travel long distances to some of their games due to the lack of lacrosse teams — club or school — in the surrounding area. LaFever said they have played games in Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati.

The teams practice at Talawanda Middle School and play home games at the Talawanda High School football field.

The local community is responding well to Miami students reaching out and engaging with Talawanda students.

“I want to emphasize how great the Miami students that have been helping with the program have been for us,” said Stevens.

The student-coaches prove to be a good example for the young players, as well.

“I see these guys and how they’ve been able to balance sports and still been able to get into the business school,” said LaFever. “It’s like, if they can do that, I can do that.”

Next year the program plans to start girls’ lacrosse teams for the Talawanda middle and high schools.