Boys lacrosse is a relatively new high school sport in Minnesota, so it’s probably fitting that one of the longest-serving coaches in the game came to it relatively late.
Scott Cater, the coach at Bloomington Jefferson, is one victory short of a state-best 200 for his career. He started coaching lacrosse at Breck in 1997, when it was a club sport, began the Jefferson program in 1998 and has remained with the Jaguars ever since. Boys lacrosse became an MSHSL sport in 2007 and Cater is one of eight boys coaches who have been coaching since that inaugural season.
The 1991 graduate of Coon Rapids High School grew up as a hockey player. In college at Minnesota-Duluth, Cater was an intramural hockey goaltender but changed games when some lacrosse-playing friends needed a goalie.
“They said, ‘You play hockey goalie, you should try lacrosse goalie.’ That was a really good launching point for me,” he said.
Cater’s goal of becoming a teacher and coach were fulfilled after college, although his original dream of coaching hockey was replaced by a career coaching lacrosse. He’s been teaching math at Jefferson for 23 years and coaching lacrosse for 22 years, or half his life.
“I love lacrosse because it brings together so many aspects of offense, the sets of basketball, the positioning and pacing of hockey, the field style of soccer. It really pulls in different types of athletes, as well,” he said. “It’s fast-paced. In hockey and soccer you can get low-scoring games, but in lacrosse you can get 10 goals per team and the fans really get excited.”
Jefferson will meet Bloomington Kennedy on Tuesday and Minneapolis on Friday. Cater’s players are anxious to achieve career victory No. 200 for their coach.
“We’re trying to get him to 200,” said senior Davis Bach. “I hope we can pull out a really good win for that 200th, because I know that’s extremely special.”
Before the game became an MSHSL sport, Bloomington Jefferson won Minnesota Boys Scholastic Lacrosse Association state titles in 2000 and 2003. The Jaguars were the MSHSL state runner-up in 2015, falling to White Bear Lake 12-8 in the championship game.
There are currently 80 boys lacrosse teams in the state and 83 girls teams. MSHSL approval of girls lacrosse came in 2001 and the boys game gained the same stamp in 2006. The MSHSL’s 48-member Representative Assembly had voted down sanctioning boys lacrosse in 2003 (by two votes) and again in 2005 (by five votes).
When the same question was brought up in 2006, the measure passed by an overwhelming voice vote, thanks in no small part to a petition with 10,000 signatures and an ambitious email campaign. At the time of that 2006 vote, there were 23 girls varsity lacrosse teams and 54 boys clubs teams.
Cater strongly backed the efforts to make boys lacrosse an MSHSL activity, and he fondly remembers taking his team to the 2006 Representative Assembly gathering in a hotel ballroom. The players wore their jerseys, as did other teams.
“That was something I won’t forget,” he said. “The whole idea was to get this played at the high school level, sanctioned at the high school level, with state tournaments and really getting opportunities for more kids to be doing something. We know if kids take part in activities they make better decisions. That was some of the real motivation to try to push it through. Kids were working hard, and getting it sanctioned really helped it take off.”
Having coached for 22 years, Cater is well aware of the game’s improvement as well as the advances in technology that make everything simpler.
“In the early days it was flyers and handouts,” he said. “You could get the entire league schedule on one piece of paper. Now it’s a full program with offseason training, dome time leading into the season, and we take a team trip to Arizona before the season starts.”
The Jaguars have regular “food and film” sessions, as well as activities like team yoga and weight training.
“The kids can watch film on their phones a few hours after the game, so they can be getting better,” Cater said. “That wasn’t even an option when I started coaching. I would post a flyer in the hallway, asking who wants to sign up for lacrosse? And if the schedule changed, I’d post a map to the new site. It’s pretty mind-blowing, thinking about the changes from the late 1990s.”
Something that hasn’t changed at all is dealing with people.
“I’m in the people business,” Cater said. “That’s why I’m here. It’s the parents, it’s the growth of our booster club. We had an event last weekend, we called it the Parent Fun Raiser. It generated $10,000 for our two teams, the boys and the girls. So we have this committed parent group, we have this strong youth organization in Bloomington.
“Then I think about the players that have been with me through the 20-plus years of doing this, and the coaches on our staff. I’m not having this conversation with you without the parents, the coaches and the players that I’ve worked with. You think about all the families that have been through here. That’s the rich tradition piece that gives me chills to be talking about.”
When Jefferson hosts Minneapolis on Friday, a halftime ceremony will be held to honor the Jaguars’ 2003 MBSLA title team.
“I’ve been trading text messages with the guys from that team,” Cater said. “It’s the 15-year anniversary for those guys, and they’re saying, ‘Hey coach, I’m old and washed up.’ And I tell them, ‘All you have to do is walk out at halftime to shake a hand.’ ”
Those players will always appreciate their coach, and the current Jaguars know how fortunate they are.
“I’ve had the honor of being coached by Scott Cater for four years of high school,” said senior Princeton Oppong. “To be honest, I’ve learned a lot. I’m glad I didn’t take it for granted. Cates, he really knows what he’s doing. He knows the game like the back of his hand. It’s really a huge advantage to be able to have a coach like that. He gives energy to the boys, he always gets us fired up to be ready to go.”
When Cater achieves victory No. 200, there will be a celebration.
“He deserves it,” Oppong said. “He definitely deserves it.”Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn