More than 1,200 young athletes and their parents traipse through Lions Field each week. All have the good fortune to catch a glimpse of the welcoming face of PYA's own William Thomas Owens, or Billy O as his friends call him. Born and bred in Port, one of six talented brothers, Billy has been attending to Lions Field for the past three years. Part coach, part trainer and fulltime observer of human nature, Billy has seen enough action on the field to earn an honorary psychiatry degree. We could consider him as PYA's resident therapist and "Dr. LAX" may be an appropriate title to call him if you are so inclined. He has played lacrosse all his life for love rather than reward and as the game increases in popularity, Billy's involvement will as well.
Billy Owens "The LAX Man"
As a child, Billy attended Daly, Weber and Schreiber. He grew up on Lions Field watching his brothers play all types of sports, but it wasn't until he was 7 years old that Harvey Cohen told him to "throw down the baseball." Harvey thought it was time to choose lacrosse as his spring focus. Billy had and continues to possess, the spark of fire and passion that ignites a talented lacrosse player and the rest is history.
In the fall Billy played football and as Tom Jester remarked, "If the truth be told, there wasn't anyone on the team who ever stood a chance of catching Billy." Speed, strength and coordination were his hallmarks. At Schreiber, Billy was a face-off midfielder and continued to generate excitement on the field with his intricate stick work. He played on the prestigious Nassau County All-Star Team and was voted MVP. At Adelphi, his skills helped win the 1980 Division II college championship. After college, he played club lacrosse for the North Hempstead Lacrosse Club, again under the direction of Harvey Cohen. Billy was forced off the field and his number retired when a snapped knee tendon did what no opponent could. Although he is in frequent pain, his enthusiasm for the game has not diminished.
The gang he played sports with as a youngster remains friendly - Bobby Corley, Dave Shapiro, James Froccaro, Neil Jester, Pat Bodalato and Paul Tierney. As Billy's former teammate and competitor, Neil Jester remarked, "Billy was and is ferocious." Dr. LAX is at his happiest watching lacrosse and in his informal observation notes there are a number of talented players coming up through the ranks. One of his goals is to coach lacrosse along the lines of a private tutor or establish a school to teach the fundamentals. As the saying goes, it's not the stick that makes the player, but the play that makes the player and if Billy could help a few youngsters refine their skills, he would be a happy man.
As America's oldest sport, lacrosse has been called "The Creator's Game" because in the past, Native Americans used it to settle conflicts and prepare for war. Up to 1,000 men would be on the field at one time, usually only playing in loincloths. Although PYA's uniforms aren't quite as revealing, it's hoped that "strong virile men" (and women) will continue to be created. If only a small percentage of players can develop their strength and sense of fair play, an honorable lacrosse tradition will be nourished.
In speaking with PYA's Ron Henderson, he stressed that the beautiful maintenance of Lions Field continues to need the town's support. Applications are currently available for those who would like to be "sign sponsors." Businesses need not be the only type of contributor; families are welcome to offer their sentiments or gratitude. To date, Billy is an eligible bachelor. Perhaps his friends and admirers can chip in for a "personal" sign so he could settle down and raise a family of lacrosse players. Ron Henderson vouches for his sincerity and says "He's a good man." Billy loves to travel and his old friend Jane Benisatto remarks, "for over 30 years we've known each other; Billy has always been happy, fair and nonjudgmental. He's great with children."
There's an old saying that "only two things stir the blood - the hunt and lacrosse." Billy hunts the ever-present geese through his constant vigilance but his heart will always be stirred by either watching or playing LAX. Say "hi "to him next time you're down at Lions Field.