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West Orange Times & Observer Friday, Aug. 6, 2021 2 months ago

Windermere Prep coach cultivates lacrosse program on U.S. Virgin Islands

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Jojo Marasco hopes to see the Virgin Islands one day compete in lacrosse in the Olympics.
by: Guest Writer

Nathaniel Marrero
Contributing Writer

One of the best ways to measure one’s life is how they have helped others. Giving people a chance to learn something that could lead to an opportunity of a lifetime is a perfect example of that. 

Jojo Marasco, head coach of the Windermere Prep boys lacrosse team, embodies this with the work he has done to build lacrosse programs in the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

“It’s one of the greatest things,” he said of being able to give back. “If I didn’t have guys, like a guy for me, it was Paul Carcaterra. He played at Syracuse, and he’s a famous announcer now for ESPN. If it wasn’t for him — he gave me a stick, he trained me growing up — I would have probably have never played lacrosse. ... He gave me this opportunity.” 

Because of Carcaterra, Marasco has gotten the opportunity to play lacrosse in places such as Japan, Hawaii and Bermuda. With those experiences, he hopes to one day help kids have the same opportunities he had.

“I want these kids to have that opportunity where they get to come over here to the states and play,” Marasco said. “So I think just having that chance to do that ... (is) really going to be something special for me.” 

PAYING IT FORWARD
Marasco became Windermere Prep’s head coach after he graduated from Syracuse University in 2014. Marasco also played on Team USA from 2014 to 2018.

Three years ago, he had an opportunity to help in Bermuda. There, he got to play and help coach a youth team, and that experience sparked his interest in growing the sport in areas where lacrosse isn’t as popular.  

Rich Carter, currently an assistant lacrosse coach at New Canaan High School in Connecticut, helped set up the opportunity. Carter’s wife is from St. Croix, which inspired him to start bringing lacrosse gear to the Virgin Islands and help locals become more familiar with the sport. 

Last year, Matt Casey, the offensive coordinator for the boys lacrosse team at Lake Highland Prep, connected Morasco with Carter to see if he would be interested in going to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, for four days. In May, they went and  held a day training camp. 

During his time there, Morasco’s main goal was to see who would be interested and help people become more interested in lacrosse. Although growing the sport and seeing the talent on the island were important, what stood out the most to Marasco was the hospitality. 

“The coolest thing was just, you know, how incredibly nice everyone was there,” Marasco said. “We kind of felt like family, and I was meeting (them) for the first time.”

In June, 25 players from the Virgin Islands traveled to Lakeland to play in a series of scrimmages. That gave them valuable experience playing lacrosse. 

“It was an awesome situation for them,” Marasco said. “It was pretty cool to get to meet those guys and coach them and play some games and see the talent and what we’re going to have.”

Next year, lacrosse players from the Virgin Islands will have an opportunity to play in Colombia. If they manage to finish in the top four, they will qualify to play in the World Games in two years. Eventually, Marasco would love to see the Virgin Islands qualify for the Olympics. 

But before then, Marasco plans to keep building the program and will return to the Virgin Islands at the end of the year.

“We’re looking forward to the next time I get out there,” Marasco said. “We just did St. Thomas this time, but a couple guys live in St. John and St. Croix, and I think they’ve been asking. They said any weekend I can get back there.”

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