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When Shot Stopping Becomes Secondary

July 8, 2020 - Major League Lacrosse (MLL) News Release

In the last few months we all received a heavy-handed reminder that safety should never take a day off. There has also been a clear reaffirmation that education is as important as ever.

School teachers all over the country have had to shift from seeing their students every day in person to communicating with them through creative outlets. They are some of the extraordinary heroes that have come out of this tough time the world is going through, and these teachers can be found in a multitude of areas, including in the Major League Lacrosse Community.

For Brian Phipps of the Chesapeake Bayhawks and Chris Madalon of the Philadelphia Barrage, September to June usually involves a lot of grading, assigning homework, but most importantly, interacting with students on a day-to-day basis.

Madalon, a fifth-grade teacher in Darien, Connecticut, initially thought his school was only going online for two weeks in the middle of March. Once they realized the situation was a lot more serious than first thought, reality set in. "It was upsetting," he said. "I think it was most upsetting at the fact that soon it became a reality that we weren't going to go back to school at all and we weren't going to see our students again."

Phipps, a high school teacher in Maryland, echoed those thoughts. "The hardest part was not having the interaction with students in class," he said.  "That's what I am big on, that personal interaction and making sure the kids are doing alright. That's the best part of class. The teaching is secondary, when we are in class."

Hallways around the country have been barren since the pandemic hit the US, but thanks to dynamic teachers like Phipps and Madalon, education around the country continued. While both goalies share the same position on the field, their adjustment to online learning couldn't have been more different.

"We kind of got thrown into the fire in terms of distance learning, especially in terms of all students having access to technology at home and internet access," said Madalon, whose school only began using Google Classroom in the fall and have ramped up that usage since. "This was kind of an overnight plan."

Phipps said that Archbishop Spalding uses technology in their class daily. Assignments and homework were found there during the school year, and the students could routinely be seen utilizing the tools it has to offer.

Despite the familiarity with technology, the lack of in-person instruction has changed how the Bayhawks shot-stopper taught his history courses. He wasn't able to use his lacrosse analogies as easily, and instead of memorizing dates and facts, big concepts and online discussions took over. A sudden change in learning isn't the easiest for a student to adjust to, but Phipps said his students handled it remarkably well.

"I give a lot of credit to my students who stuck with it and hung in there," he said. "I am very impressed with what they did and how they managed with it. I think it was a lot harder on them than it was on the teachers."

Madalon's teaching goals were different as a fifth-grade public school teacher. He and his coworkers spent a lot of time making sure the students were checking in every day, an action he was proud to see by the students. The Barrage goalie saw a change in attitude from his young students, who went from thinking the break was going to be the longest vacation ever to knowing that there was still learning to be had.

 "They kind of got passed that honeymoon stage pretty quickly and realized they are still required to do their work," he said.

Madalon saw his students miss out on fifth-grade graduation, something that he notes is "the first milestone in their life" as the students disperse into different middle schools.

Phipps wasn't able to coach the school's high school lacrosse team, where the best season in 20 years was on the horizon.

"My players were tough - that was the hardest one," he said about informing the team of the canceled season. "They work so hard all year in training during the fall and during those 6 a.m. workouts in the mornings, and next thing you know it's game over."

Regular Zoom meetings were held at the beginning of the spring in case a season could be salvaged, but those later turned into team bonding exercises. Phipps said the team did trivia nights where lacrosse info, team facts, and even movie quotes were all fair game. Still, the spring season was hard for him and his wife, who both revolve their time around lacrosse.

"Not being able to be with our teams, not being able to coach our kids was definitely tough for us," he said. "When it comes down to it, you miss that daily interaction with them on the field."

The field is the very thing that awaits both players this summer ahead of Major League Lacrosse's 20th Anniversary Season. Developing quick chemistry will be a challenge each team has to face, and Madalon and his Barrage teammates have tried to begin that process. Zoom calls and group chats have been set up to build up comradery, but Madalon himself feels ready.

"This may be the best I have ever felt," said the 32-year-old. "Usually my spring is jam-packed with coaching. If there is a silver lining in any of this, it's that I was able to capitalize on the opportunity to have more time to myself to workout."

For Phipps and the Bayhawks, all eyes are on title number seven. "We're chopping at the bit ready to go," said the defending league champion. "The guys on our roster are pretty competitive kids that are gonna come out ready to go and accept this new challenge. We're looking forward to defending the title."

With both goalies set to square off in the opening game of the 2020 season, it's important to remember that no matter how many shots they stopped, these two teachers' performance and impact goes far beyond the field.

Brian Phipps Twitter: @bphipper30

Brian Phipps Instagram: @bphipper30

Chris Madalon Twitter: @cmadalon

Chris Madalon Instagram: @cmadalon

Philadelphia Barrage Twitter: @phillybarrage

Philadelphia Barrage Instagram: @philadelphiabarrage

Chesapeake Bayhawks Twitter: @TheBayhawks

Chesapeake Bayhawks Instagram: @thebayhawks

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The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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