April 17, 2011

Steve Solloway: A teacher and a coach returns

(Continued from page 1)

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Jon Thompson, as he did at Colby, is teaching his Amherst lacrosse players about a lot more than winning on the field. And as they did at Colby, his players are responding.

Photo Courtesy Amherst College

He's stubborn, or more determined. At NYA, where hockey was his love, he denied his asthma, except for an understanding with his varsity coach, Kevin Potter.

If at any time Thompson needed to stop practicing, he could.

One day, Potter kept his players on the ice longer for sprints. Thompson collapsed. "I remember someone cutting my gear off. I lost consciousness."

He was given oxygen and rushed to the hospital. "I thought we were going to lose him," said Potter.

"He wasn't going to use his asthma to separate himself from his teammates."

Thompson isn't his players' buddy. Neither does he separate himself. At Colby and at Amherst, he has involved his team in community causes. Sometimes that means long runs to raise money. Thompson takes the first leg.

He won over any early skeptics at Amherst, an underperforming program in recent years. Saturday, the Lord Jeffs took a 10-game winning streak and top-10 ranking in the game with Colby, which was 5-5.

Days before, Craig Bunker had said he and his teammates were taking it as just another big game. New coach Justin Domingos said the same thing just before the opening faceoff. Get too emotional and bad things happen.

Colby jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Amid the growing crowd of Colby fans, several hockey players lofted a bed sheet with the words Moral Compass painted in big letters above a hand-drawn compass, pointing south.

Moral Compass was a swipe at Thompson's apparent abandonment of Colby. While on campus, said the hockey players, Thompson had talked about his compass pointing north. Cries of "traitor" were heard.

Amherst rallied to tie the game at 3. It was tied again at 5 and 6 as Colby kept its offense in the Amherst end. Amherst won 7-6 with a goal scored with 1.4 seconds left in overtime.

"I'm glad it's over," said Thompson, amid the new round of hugs from Colby friends and former players. He's an emotional guy who guides himself with this:

"If you tell a man how, he'll always ask why. If you tell a man why, he'll figure out how."

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

 

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