As East Coast-West Coast rivalries go, the quest to produce the nation’s top varsity lacrosse players is decidedly lopsided. Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in the country, exploding at every level of play, from youth leagues to competitive high-school teams to clubs. Still, the country’s top athletes and colle- giate programs historically have been rooted along the Atlantic.
But Matt Ogelsby ’95 is determined to change the equation. As a three-time All American and the first Division I First Team All-America lacrosse player named at Duke since the 1950s, Ogelsby is the man to do it. “When I was in high school, the traditional hotbeds for producing Division I lacrosse players were Baltimore, Long Island, and upstate New York,” says the Philadelphia native. “But Duke took a chance on me. Those were four of the best years of my life, and I’m glad that I’m now in a position to give something back to the sport.”
Ogelsby is the founder and owner of All West Lacrosse (AWL), based in San Francisco’s Bay Area. From offering beginner sessions for pre-K tykes to individual training for elite high-school athletes, AWL has grown by leaps and bounds since it was established in 2004.
“Our first year we had 750 player registrations for our programs, and this year we broke the 5,500 registration barrier,” says Ogelsby, who played on the Duke squad that rose from the bottom of the ACC to being ranked fourth in the nation by his senior year. “The demand for coaching in Norcal has been incredible.”
Before launching All West Lacrosse, Ogelsby had played professional lacrosse for thirteen years for such teams as the Charlotte Cobras, the Philly Wings, and the Los Angeles Riptide. He also was learning the business side of the sport by helping Nike expand its sports camps into new markets.
“After 9/11 my perception on life changed drastically,” he says. “I realized that life is too short, and I knew I wanted to pursue my passion for lacrosse as a full-time job. Of all the places I’d been working for Nike, the West Coast was the place I liked the most and where there was the most opportunity.”
Ogelsby tapped into his Duke networks for help. He has recruited current and for- mer Blue Devil players to serve as AWL coaches, including Ned Crotty ’10, Casey Caroll ’13, Scot Meyer ’13, Jay Jennison ’08, Jon Livadas ’10, Justin Turri ’11, Jason Orlando ’11, Michael Manley ’12, C.J. Costabile ’12, Jordan Wolf ’14, and Matt Kunkel ’14. Ogelsby is an equal-opportunity employer, though, hiring coaches who are alumni of the University of North Car- olina at Chapel Hill, UVA, Dartmouth, Princeton, and UCLA, among others.
He jokes that his ever-widening network of AWL participants (and their families) has turned him into a professional matchmaker of sorts. He helped Jason Orlando get a job as a lacrosse coach and teacher at the Menlo School, Scot Meyer and Ed Douglass jobs in finance, and Jon Livadas a job in real-estate development. “It’s almost as though AWL serves double duty as a Duke LinkedIn group for former lacrosse players in California.”
While Ogelsby is dedicated to making lacrosse an enjoyable pursuit for players of all skill levels, he says it’s a matter of per- sonal pride that several players who came through the ranks of AWL are playing now for his alma mater. Dax Cohan ’14 was the first of Ogelsby’s protégés to matriculate.
Cohan began attending AWL in middle school and started working with Ogelsby one-on-one during his sophomore year of high school. By the time he was a senior at San Francisco’s St. Ignatius College Preparatory school, Cohan was a nationally recognized player who had caught the eye of Division I recruiters.
“When it came time to look at colleges, Matt did not try to put any pressure on me about where I should go,” says Cohan. “But as soon as I visited Duke’s campus, that was it. I knew I wanted to come here.” Two years later, his younger brother Chad ’16 followed in his cleat steps. AWL alum Ben Krebs ’15 earned a walk-on spot.
Both Cohans say they continue to be inspired by Ogelsby’s commitment to helping players reach their potential while also instilling qualities such as discipline, teamwork, and goal-setting that are essential for post-play success as well.
“Duke took a chance on me. Those were four of the best years of my life, and I’m glad that I’m now in a position to give something back to the sport.”
“One of the things Matt emphasizes through All West Lacrosse is RAE, which stands for Respect, Attitude, and Effort,” says Chad. “He taught us that we should always strive for our maximum potential, whether that’s in a game or in the classroom.”
In 2004, Ogelsby established the AWL’s RAE Foun- dation to help fund scholarships and equipment for players and families who could not otherwise afford to attend his programs. For a time he also was active with the Positive Coaching Alliance, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide youth and highschool athletes with positive, character-building sports experiences.
“One metric we use to measure the success of AWL is our registration numbers,” says Ogelsby. “We’ve been growing at a steady 20 percent rate for several years, and we’d like to continue with that level of growth. But the real measurement of suc- cess is not how many players we send to Division I programs. It’s about respect for the game, the importance of giving 100 percent effort all the time, and maintaining a positive attitude regardless of whether you win or lose.”