Lacrosse is an emerging sport in Minnesota, but local product Scott Offerman is attempting to grow the game far beyond our borders. Offerman, who played at Bloomington Jefferson in high school and Minnesota-Duluth in college before coaching at area high schools as well, is now coaching in Italy -- where soccer reigns supreme. He was recently named that country's lacrosse coach of the year, and afterward he caught up with the Star Tribune's Michael Rand:
Q How did you get involved with lacrosse in the first place?
A I began playing lacrosse in 1999 while attending Bloomington Jefferson. My coach was Scott Cater. Many of the things he taught me, I use when coaching my current team, Bocconi Pellicani. He taught me about having passion for the sport, about playing lacrosse the "correct" way and always remaining a student of the game. These ideas are basic, but fundamental to good lacrosse.
Q What was the path that led you to Italy?
A When I first arrived in Italy in the fall of 2009, I had the intention of staying only for a few months. I went with a friend who was teaching at one of the high schools in the town where he lived. After one month in Italy, a job opened up in another high school and I was hired for the position. Now I live in Italy for about 10 months of the year and get summer vacations to Minnesota!
Q How did you get involved in lacrosse in Italy -- where I imagine soccer is the biggest sport by far?
A I was very fortunate to become involved in Italian lacrosse. The first year I was in Italy, I searched the internet for lacrosse teams. I found only a handful, and the one nearest to me was over two hours by train. I was disappointed, but still had my lacrosse stick and a ball to play wall ball in the yard. The second year I was in Italy, a friend of mine told me they were playing "that funny sport you play" in Milan (a 40 minute train ride). So I contacted the team president and they immediately took me as a player/coach. ... It was perfect timing and the team went on to take 2nd in the Italian Cup. Bocconi University gave us more support and faith, and this year we rewarded them with their first Italian national championship.
Q Are there cultural and/or language barriers with the players you coach?
A I do 95 percent of my coaching in English. Many of [the players] have been to the United States before and some have even played lacrosse before. As for culture, lacrosse itself is a foreign concept. Over here everything is about calcio [soccer]. I am coaching some players that have never seen a lacrosse match outside of the ones that they play in. This makes my job as a coach more difficult, but it's also an example of the hard work and amount of learning my players are going through.