Total Lacrosse Magazine
Author: Jonny Vegas May 24th, 2018
Congratulations to Brian Witmer on being chosen as the Recipient of ‘The Jonny Namer Award 2018’!
About The Jonny Namer Award:
The Jonny Namer Award was founded by Coach Seth Cohen at the end of the 2006 spring lacrosse season, my senior year. Seth Cohen was my high school lacrosse coach at Westlake High School from 2004-2006. The Jonny Namer Award was formerly titled, The 110% Award. I was the recipient of the 110% Award in 2006, & Coach Seth said from that point on, the 110% Award will be known as The Jonny Namer Award!
2007 Recipient of The Jonny Namer Award - Brian Bates
2008 Recipient of The Jonny Namer Award - Will Cohn
2009 Recipient of The Jonny Namer Award - Will Cohn
*In 2010, Coach Ray began his tenure as the Head Coach of the Boys Varsity Lacrosse Team at Westlake High School. The 110% Award, was not given out that season. The Following year, Coach Ray contacted Jonny Vegas Namer after he read Jonny's article on Lax All Stars! In the article, 'Jonny Namer's Life And Lacrosse Story', Jonny said, "I was even awarded the 110% award at the End of the 2006 Lacrosse season Banquet. My coach (Seth Cohen), from then on even named that award the Jonny Namer Award!". Coach Ray said that he loved the article and he invited Jonny to the Westlake High School Lacrosse End Of The Year Banquet to present 'The Jonny Namer Award'! Coach Ray said that 'The Jonny Namer Award' will be an official award every year for Westlake Varsity Lacrosse!
2013 Recipient of The Jonny Namer Award - Billy Edwards
2014 Recipient of The Jonny Namer Award - Coby Bregman
2015 Recipient of The Jonny Namer Award - Jeremy Ackmann & Dylan Craig
2016 Recipient of The Jonny Namer Award - Garrett Tingus
*The Jonny Namer Award was a part of The Westlake High School Varsity Lacrosse Team for 10 years! In 2017, Jonny was informed that Westlake's new coach, Coach Tota was getting rid of every award. So, that meant; No Overall MVP, No Offense MVP, No Defense MVP, & No Jonny Namer Award. Jonny wasn't going to let 2017 go without a Recipient of The Jonny Namer Award. 2017 marked the 1st year that a Woman received the award!
2017 Recipient of The Jonny Namer Award - Di Miller
2018 Recipient of The Jonny Namer Award - Brian Witmer
The Jonny Namer Award is a global award that recognizes at least one person that is making a positive impact on the sport of lacrosse every year! Brian Witmer is a man that does so much for the lacrosse community all over the world & he does it because he loves the sport of lacrosse! I am proud to present Brian Witmer with the 2018 Jonny Namer Award!
Here are a few quotes from other awesome lacrosse ambassadors:
"As pure and passionate about growing the game as they come. Also, a guy you NEED to sit down and have a beer with. I mean, he rid himself of all assets to see the world and introduce lacrosse to so many along the way. The guy is a beauty!" - Nick Peterson – Founder of Battle Born Lacrosse & the Sin City Box Classic
"Brian isn't rich, he isn't a pro player, or in a popular band, nor does he have a YouTube following of tens of thousands of people. The fact is, he might not know where he's sleeping tomorrow night, and if you run into him, he might ask to sleep on your couch or park his van in front of your house. But make no mistake about it, Brian is a lacrosse celebrity. While some people (Brian likely included) might take "lacrosse celebrity" as a negative thing to say about someone, for Brian it's the perfect term, because he is everything the term SHOULD embody. When he shows up at an event you know he's going to give more than he gets. He is not a taker. He's a maker. If he's on your team he'll bleed for your team. If he's running your team, he's probably more into it than you are and will make it a great experience for you. He'll find a stick for a kid before the kid even knows he needs it. He creates family wherever he goes. It's not perfect, as family never is, but it sure is special. Brian continues to set an example as to what lacrosse once was, what it should be now, and what it could be in the future. He's a wonderful world-traveling, game-growing Muppet and I love him." - Connor Wilson, Writer at Lax All Stars
"Brian Witmer is ubiquitous in the lacrosse world. He has touched more programs and players around the world than anyone I know. He defines what it means to be an ambassador of the sport as well as being one of the finer people I know." -David Dennenberg, Total Lacrosse Hall of Famer, Class Of 2016
Here is an interview with the Recipient of the 2018 Jonny Namer Award, Brian Witmer!
Jonny Vegas Namer: How old were you when you began playing lacrosse and what city and state was that in?
Brian Witmer: My first organized lacrosse was when I was roughly five or six years old. My hometown of Oswego, New York had a couple nights a week in the hockey rink during the summer when the ice had been taken out. I vividly remember my first attempt at ever putting a helmet on, and the hockey helmet didn't exactly fit. Doc Nelson, who would eventually be my Varsity coach years later, bopped one fist (I'm sure it was gently, but he could've used a sledgehammer as it felt to my six-year-old skull) on the top of the helmet and sure enough, it slid right on. I cried.
Jonny Vegas Namer: What drew you to the sport of lacrosse?
Brian Witmer:My father was the Oswego State head coach before I was born, up until my junior year in college. I won't say that I didn't have much of a choice when it came to getting into lacrosse, but it certainly was a large part of my family growing up. In the world I knew growing up, lacrosse was simply just a part of life just the same as sleeping or going to school - it was something that everyone I knew did almost every day. I was pretty burnt out after four years of college lacrosse, but I fell back in love with the game my fifth year after getting my feet wet in the box lacrosse world. I made my first trip abroad to the Ales Hrebesky Memorial in 2014, and five years later I've seen more of the world than I honestly ever expected to.
Jonny Vegas Namer: What tournaments have you played in?
Brian Witmer:Is there a character limit? I've played all over the place. Notably, I've done the big-time tournaments like Lake Placid, Vail, and the Ales Hrebesky Memorial in Prague. I've done Vegas, the Silesia Cup in Poland, the Hong Kong Open, Singapore Spectacular, LaBox in Germany, New Years Cup in Budapest, LASNAI on the Onondaga Nation, and just so many more that I'm not remembering. It's a beautiful and usually affordable way to travel to new places and see new things - all while having a team to go with. New friends, familiar faces. Coming early, staying late... the least important aspect is the scoreboard.
Jonny Vegas Namer: You recently played in the Ales Hrebesky Memorial Box Lacrosse Tournament, which you’ve played in for several years. First How was your experience playing in the AHM this year, how did the Glasgow Clydesiders do? And, that was awesome that you shaved your long hair for a cause! Tell us about that, how much money did you raise? And what charity?
Brian Witmer:The Clyde pooped the cama this year unfortunately. We got caught sleeping by a very talented Czech team and were eliminated from quarterfinal contention. We had the aspirations of replicating or improving upon our 2nd place finish from 2017, but even our eventual finish of 10th place of 24 teams is a vast improvement from the years where the Glasgow boys were quite chippier with the 17th place finish out of 21. It's been a change in personnel and a redirection in the team's mentality and I'm happy to be a part of that. The other side of the boards is the most important to us, and I preach that we're ambassadors first, players second. Participating in charitable events and organizing gear drives and the life is just so simple to get on board with - it just takes a decent person and a minute of your day. I shaved my head for the St. Baldrick's Foundation this year, as I did back in 2013. I haven't had a cut since, and so it was quite the nest to shave, and high time for it. We raised 10,000CZK on site in cash, with Joe Stainer winning the bidding war to do the shaving. We raised in total 2,000USD between my brother, myself, and a few other muppets. Ours was just one team of a larger event, organized by my father, which took in $77,000 this year alone. The St. Baldrick's Foundation funds treatment and aggressive research specifically geared towards pediatric cancers. If you can't raise a couple bucks for kids with cancer AND get a free haircut... who are you??
Jonny Vegas Namer: You have been hard at work, promoting the 2018 FIL WORLD GAMES, that take place this July in Netanya, Israel! What is your position/job title for Israel Lacrosse? What can the lacrosse community expect from the largest FIL World Games ever in Netanya, Israel? Which nations do you expect to make big impacts in the World Games this summer?
Brian Witmer:We had a hard time putting a title on my business card, honestly. I'm a jack of all trades, and master of none for the 2018 FIL Men's World Championships. My official title is Ambassador, and living up to that title, my specific role as an independent contractor for Israel Lacrosse is to simply be an advocate for the games. This will be the largest holding of the World Championships to date and will be the last "open" World Championships, as the FIL will likely be instituting a qualification process (much like FIFA) for 2022. I think that this diverse field of 48 nations will see familiar favorites being challenged by newcomers like Jamaica and Puerto Rico. Europe has doubled down on domestic development and I'm over the moon to see what their hard work looks like in uniform. Asia can't be ignored however, we're going to see a Japanese team with fire in their belly looking to reclaim their Blue Division status, as well as a rising tide in the region that will have us seeing vastly improved Hong Kong and Taiwanese teams.
Jonny Vegas Namer: What’s is your 2018/2019 lacrosse schedule looking like? Which tournaments/events will Brian Witmer show up at?
Brian Witmer:Great question, I wish I knew the answer(s). I have a couple large projects moving forward that will all come to fruition in July, and after that I'll re-evaluate. I can say that I am in the planning stages of hosting an event in 2019, and I plan on moving to Prague full time. This, of course, will make the entire European scene infinitely more accessible, and I'm a train or $40 flight from any/every tournament in Europe. There really is something happening somewhere in the region every single weekend, and (money permitting) I'd love to make it to more (read: all) of them. I believe that if I do truly want to be an instrument for change in the game as well the greater human experience, I think that I need to get away from the noise of the United States for a while. I'll always be a proud American, but I believe I can do more abroad than at home with my remaining 100 healthy years. I'm hoping I can finally get down to South America this year for the first time and I'd like to see more of Asia, where I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the lacrosse community.
Jonny Vegas Namer: You are the 13th person to receive The Jonny Namer Award! Last year, Di Miller became the 1st Woman to earn the award! I am very happy to read all your articles on lax all-stars, I love seeing you at various tournaments around the world, and It is truly an honor to present you with the 2018 Jonny Namer Award! Can you give some advice to all the future and current lacrosse ambassadors out there?
Brian Witmer:This answer has given me the most pause. It isn't difficult to do what I do. It isn't expensive or limited to just one person doing it. If you want to do what I do, then simply go out there and do it. Get a bag together, buy a flight, and go help someone who would appreciate being helped. I didn't apply for my job with the World Championships. I was asked to come on board because I've made myself available to help without making money the priority. It's nice to be reimbursed, sure - but you don't need to profit. If you go out there and do five amazing things on five amazing trips, lacrosse or otherwise, people will notice, and they'll want you back for a sixth, seventh, and one hundred times after that. Be a good person and don't take yourself too seriously.