At Pier 40, members of the Stuyvesant boys’ lacrosse team, the Peglegs, line up to test their skills during practice. A solidly built lacrosse player is playing defense as part of an individual drill. He wields a long pole—a 72-inch lacrosse stick reserved for defenders and defensive midfielders, as opposed to the normal 42-inch stick for offensive midfielders and attackmen— and repeatedly strips players of the ball. He easily pushes away everyone trying to dodge past him, and viciously checks the players’ hands and arms with his stick, attempting to dislodge the ball. He fits in with the team, but one thing gives away his identity: his helmet.
The player is actually math teacher David Park. His helmet has Korean decals on it, sinceas Park was a member of the South Korea Under-19 team at the pinnacle of his lacrosse career.
Park began playing lacrosse as a youngster in Baltimore, Maryland. “I started with a [recreational] league when I was seven, up until I was in ninth grade. Then I played JV my first year of high school and then varsity for three years. I played two years of played for Loch Raven High in Baltimore County, and for Emory University in Atlanta.
In Park’s senior year of high school, a friend of his on the South Korean men’s national team told him about tryouts for the South Korea U-19 team. Near Thanksgiving, he and his friend drove up to New Jersey Park to tryout. “I didn’t think I was going to make it, because everyone was pretty decent, but I got a call back a few weeks later,” Park said. He then impressed co-coaches Ted and Bill Wolford and gained a spot on the team. The Korean team consisted mostly of current or former high school players born and raised in the United States whose parents were born in South Korea.
Park played with the team at the 2003 International Lacrosse Federation World Championships at Towson University in Maryland. South Korea won three of four games in the tournament, and its only loss was to Japan. “I won the defensive MVP for Team Korea. That was probably the highlight of my career,” Park said.
Over the years, there have been several other high points in Park’s career. “It’s always memorable when you score a goal, especially as a long pole,” Park said. A goal by a long-pole defender is very rare because defenders don’t often cross the midfield line into the offensive end. It is also harder to dodge and easier to get the ball taken away when using a long pole.
Even though he does not play on the national stage anymore, being a teacher has not stopped Park from being involved with the lacrosse. He has a genuine passion for the sport, and currently plays in a New York City recreational league for college graduates. Additionally, he is the assistant coach for the Stuyvesant boys’ lacrosse team.
Park is no stranger to the world of coaching lacrosse. Prior to coaching the Peglegs, he coached 12- and 13-yearold lacrosse players in a recreational league. His playing and coaching experience make him a valuable asset to the team. “I think he’s a really good coach. He actually makes us do physical activities because he wants us to get into shape. He knows what he’s doing. He teaches our [defensive players] actual defense,” senior and goalie Avinash Ramsumair said.
Players either love or hate practices run by Park because of their intensity. Park stresses fundamental stick skills and hustle. He has been known to “rage,” Ramsumair said, or get very angry at players who are late to practice, fail to have basic stick proficiency, or simply don’t work hard. Park brings a sense of discipline and work ethic to a team that has been troubled by suspensions due to excessive latenesses or cutting in recent years.
“I think of Mr. Park as a very reasonable coach. That being said he is also rather strict,” sophomore William Chang said.
Park also supervises line drills that involve passing, catching, and picking up the ball with the stick, and he sometimes organizes intra-team scrimmages. But he is most famous for occasionally playing one-on-one defense against the players. Even among the best players, getting by him is a feat that few have accomplished.
“I couldn’t get by him and when I did he took a crazy check and my stick fell out my hands,” sophomore Noah Kramer said. For less experienced players, he goes easier on them to let them learn, but his hits still leave a little sting.
“He just has to stop teaching and go full-time coach. I think he’s getting his coaching license pretty soon, so then he can come and supervise us without our head coach [Anthony] Bascone,” Kramer said. “Hopefully he starts coming more and coaching the team more.”
Though a career in Major League Lacrosse, the highest professional lacrosse league in the United States, is most certainly out of the question for Park, anything is possible for him as a coach. Park believes that the Peglegs could continue to improve if its members keep practicing and taking his advice. “He knows what he’s doing and he knows what he’s saying,” Ramsumair said. “The players respect him and listen to him. I think he’s doing a pretty good job.”