A new organization has emerged for developing top-notch young athletes in Rockville Centre, one that employs professional athletes as coaches and also relies on student volunteers to train younger athletes, a system that has proven to be mutually beneficial.
USAthlete founder Brian Sherlock, 26, has evolved his lifelong love of lacrosse into a way to instill that passion on others. A standout high school lacrosse player and a top student athlete in college, Sherlock became a professional athlete and an entrepreneur who has made a business of teaching young athletes in Rockville Centre. Since opening at Sportset in mid-2018, USAthlete has trained boys and girls of all ages and has seen in increased interest with every season. During that time, there has been one notable constant: South Side High School freshman Ryan Kassl.
Ryan, 14, signed up to train in a summer clinic as an eighth-grader, and immediately began volunteering to train younger children, spending as much as eight hours a week at Sportset, according to Sherlock.
“Ryan Kassl has been dedicated to helping the young athletes at USAthlete since day one,” Sherlock said. “He has never missed a session and dedicates his time as a volunteer.”
His enthusiasm and dedication extends beyond what Sherlock was hoping to find when starting the company. What started as a hobby born out of passion for lacrosse soon grew into a business. Sherlock, a professional lacrosse player with the Atlanta Blaze, first coached neighborhood children in his backyard in Smithtown before expanding into the space at Sportset in Rockville Centre.
“Rockville Centre is a hotbed for lacrosse,” Sherlock said. “The concept grew into a premiere training center for athletes in lacrosse on Long Island.”
USAthlete holds clinics for children in kindergarten through 12th-grade and its trainers consist of professional, division 1 and high school athlete standouts. The organization provides specialized lacrosse training for offensive players, focusing on dodging and shooting.
Sherlock was one of the top players in lacrosse at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, and went on to play Division 1 lacrosse at Loyola University Maryland, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s in emerging media in 2017. He also earned a number of accolades, including three-time captain, three-time All-American, three-time Academic All-American, four-time first team All Patriotic League and 2017 Scholar Athlete of the Year.
“It was an excellent experience,” Sherlock said, “and I wanted to continue to develop young athletes so that they can take the game to the next level, like I had the opportunity to do.”
It seems that his goal being met, as Sherlock has seen these qualities demonstrated in Ryan, who aspires to be a professional lacrosse player one day, as well as a firefighter.
“He shows great leadership and passion for the game,” Sherlock said. “It is people like Ryan that these young athletes look up to and aspire to be.”
In addition to training others, Ryan trains with Sherlock, who described Ryan as “very coachable” and said he implements all of the coaching skills he has provided to him over the past 18 months.
“I’ve seen his growth as a player transform his skill set, and I’ve also seen him grow into a leader,” Sherlock said. “He has what it takes to be a great person on and off the field and has a very bright future ahead of him.”
Ryan said he has been happy with his experience.
“I love the sport, I love being around the kids and helping them get better,” Ryan said. “Learning from Brian is a great experience, and we also learn from each other.”
The younger athletes who have worked with Ryan also contend that they have learned from him.
“Ryan’s dedication to the sport of lacrosse, our community and the kids that he works with is truly remarkable and second to none, especially considering he’s a freshman in high school,” said Sean Gaffey, whose fifth-grade son Aiden trains with Ryan. “Anytime I’ve asked him to help out the boys for the Shamrocks of the Rockville Centre Lacrosse Club or with USAthlete, Ryan is quick to say yes. That’s spirit of volunteerism – that dedication and positive attitude is a shining example to the younger kids in our community.”
Aiden said he likes training with Ryan and feels like his skills have improved.
“He’s really funny, but he still disciplines,” Aiden said, “and he helps out a lot.”
Aiden described lacrosse as a sport that requires discipline above all else.
“I like that you don’t have to be big, strong or fast,” he said, “you just have to work hard and try your hardest.”
Tom Alterson, whose fifth-grade son William has trained with Ryan for the past year, described Ryan as a strong role model.
“A strong athlete and developing player himself, Ryan brings a positive attitude, fun-loving demeanor and a level of youthful confidence to USAthlete’s grade school clinics,” Alterson said. “His unyielding encouragement helps ensure that every young player feels supported, regardless of where they are in their development process. Above all else, Ryan’s coaching style is grounded in the deep level of trust he establishes very quickly with athletes. Learning how to demonstrate heart, respect, toughness, courage and teamwork underpins Brian’s athletic instruction. And humility is the foundation. Ryan Kassel epitomizes it all, serving as an incredible role model for our children.”