H-F coach Mark Thompson selected Illinois Lacrosse Person of the Year

The Illinois Lacrosse High School Coaches Association has selected Homewood resident Mark Thompson as the Illinois Lacrosse Person of the Year. He is the 2019 Illinois representative to the national organization.
H-F High player Malcolm Grant listens as lacrosse coach Mark Thompson plots a game strategy. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
  H-F High School player
  Malcolm Grant listens as
  lacrosse coach Mark Thompson
  plots a game strategy.
  
(Photos by Marilyn Thomas/
  H-F Chronicle)
 

Thompson, head lacrosse coach at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, was selected from a list of nominees by coaches from across the state. The award recognizes his overall contributions to youth and to the game of lacrosse.

“I’m humbled to be recognized. We’re just doing our thing down here,” he said. That he should earn such an honor from his fellow coaches “is really a reflection of each of the classes that have built us to the point of where we’re at now,“ he said.
 
Thompson is responsible for bringing boys lacrosse to Homewood-Flossmoor High School in spring 2006. He has been involved with the program ever since and now serves as head coach.
 
In 2018, the Illinois High School Association sanctioned lacrosse as a high school sport.  IHSA governs interscholastic athletics.
 
Lacrosse is played on a field with goals on either end, like soccer. Players use sticks with mesh nets on the end to toss a small rubber ball between them and get it into the goal of the opposing team. Defenders have longer sticks than the midfielders, and the goalie has a supersized net to fend off the attack.

Homewood-Flossmoor High lacrosse team practice sessions were supervised by, from left, assistant coach Jason Keane, head coach Mark Thompson, and H-F graduate and visiting coach Josh Berey-Wingate from the University of Dubuque.
  HFHS lacrosse team practice
  sessions were supervised by,
  from left, assistant coach
  Jason Keane, head coach Mark
  Thompson, and H-F graduate
  and visiting coach Josh Berey-
  Wingate from the University
  of Dubuque. 

 

 
Thompson learned the game of lacrosse growing up in upstate New York. He played on his high school and college lacrosse teams. He set lacrosse aside after earning his engineering degree. He relocated to Illinois, got married, and he and his wife, Kathy, started a family.
 
When Thompson learned of a local lacrosse program in Orland Park, he got involved in coaching. Then he helped establish the program at Marian Catholic High School. 
 
When his two sons were at H-F, they too wanted to compete in lacrosse. It was then that Thompson brought the proposal to the District 233 school board. His sons got more than 40 students signed on to the start-up team.
 
Last year H-F fielded varsity and junior varsity teams, each with a roster of 24 players. At any one time, 10 players will be on the field for a game. He has managed to build an H-F team, in part, through a youth lacrosse program. Several current H-F team members started training through the youth program when they were in third and fourth grade.
 
Thompson offers the youth lacrosse program throughout the year. He will be starting an eight-session fall program in mid-September.
 
“Lacrosse is catching on,” he said. “We still have a ways to go to build our youth program,” but he sees the progression in the H-F team. The last two seasons were the best on record, and Thompson can point to the success of freshmen who came with youth lacrosse experience.
 
Because lacrosse is a spring sport, the teams often have multi-sport members who come over from football, soccer, hockey, wrestling, cross-country, “and even some golfers. We welcome all of them,” Thompson said.
 
H-F is playing most games locally, pairing up against Hillcrest, Andrew, Lincoln-Way, Minooka and Lemont high schools, with a few games against Catholic high schools, and some traveling games.
 
“We’ve had continuing support from the administration and the school board every step of the way,” he said.
 
Working with Thompson are three H-F teachers. Dave Veldez is varsity coach, Ken Ridgway and Jason Keane are assistant coaches.
 
Thompson also has former players come back to assist during the summer. This summer H-F alumnus Josh Berey-Wingate, now an assistant lacrosse coach at the University of Dubuque, was on the H-F field.
 
That Thompson’s passion for lacrosse has rubbed off on his players makes him proud.
 

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