Thursday August 2, 2012 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
Bulldogs' attackman Pat Nowak goes to work in the 2012 Section VI championship. Hamburg defeated Wheatfield. (File photo courtesy of Ron Larson)
Hamburg's Pat Nowak stands with the late Ed Van Tine’s wife, Sue, as she awards him with a scholarship from the Ed Van Tine Foundation.
Pat Nowak was in fifth grade when he first began interacting with Western New York’s legendary lacrosse coach and mentor Ed Van Tine.
He, along with his older brother, Kyle, and the Feuerstein boys, Jerry, the eldest, and twin brothers, Ryan and Chris, were invited over to his home, known by some as “Camp Van Tine,” to play lacrosse and take in valuable life lessons.
It was right in Van Tine’s backyard that the group learned not only how to be better lacrosse players but also what it would take to use the sport to benefit them in their future endeavors. What Nowak learned there stuck with him into high school and he believes will last him a lifetime.
“As a coach, he was always there to help me,” said Nowak, one of many young men who could say that of the late Van Tine, who passed away in February. “I have fond memories of lacrosse in his back yard. He promised the kids that if you listen to me, you will play in college.”
Van Tine delivered on that promise for Nowak as the recent Hamburg High School graduate capped a standout career as an attackman on the lacrosse team and 90 average in the classroom during high school with an opportunity to play at Division II LeMoyne College in Syracuse.
“Ever since I can remember, the biggest thing Ed always said was that if you keep your grades up you can play for me,” said Nowak, who played for three years with the varsity, becoming one of the team’s top scorers the past two seasons. “Lacrosse can get you into college but it’s the education you get out of it that’s most important.”
Nowak wrote about his experiences with Van Tine and how he was influenced by his teachings when applying for one of two scholarship awards from the newly formed Ed Van Tine Foundation. He wrote that each time he encountered the veteran coach, it was a life-changing moment.
Ed’s daughter, Kim Van Tine, who is heading the foundation and took the lead on choosing the scholarship award winners, was impressed by the many applicants but was particularly moved by the essay of Nowak.
“His essay was specifically about my dad and it also had a nice message,” she said. “It really struck home with me.”
In actions and words, Nowak became everything Van Tine hoped he would, and deservedly earned the coach’s scholarship, according to Kim. Nowak found out by mail in June, and then was presented the award by Ed’s wife, Sue Van Tine.
Also receiving the scholarship was Amherst senior and fellow All-Western New York First Team selection Nathan Gowen, who was a four-year starter at long pole defender for Amherst and finished with a 3.6 grade point average. It was also the essay of Gowen that helped separate him from an impressive field, Kim said.
“They had that passion,” she noted. “You could see it in their writing. They’re two incredible young men.”
The foundation seeks to fulfill Ed Van Tine’s devotion to all lacrosse players in Western New York and continues to stress the importance of education the same way he did with any player he taught, coached and mentored. Van Tine began programs at Hamburg and St. Francis High Schools and Buffalo State and Canisius Colleges. He headed the Hamburg program for a decade until 2006.
The 2012 senior class at Hamburg was the last Van Tine coached before stepping down as modified coach and advisor to the Hamburg varsity, so winning this scholarship was important to Nowak as a representative of this group.
The Bulldogs finished as Section VI champions for a fifth time in six years, but fell short of its goal to win a state title with a 10-8 loss in the Far West Regional round. Nowak is hoping the honor is a bit of consolation for this tight-knit group.
“Playing for him was a great privilege,” Nowak said. “I think this scholarship goes to the whole team. Ed had such a big impact on this senior group. It’s a real honor to bring this scholarship into the Hamburg family.”
As much as Van Tine helped him specifically, Nowak was most impressed with the way the former coach treated all of the young men he came across. Nowak said Van Tine was a stern and strong leader who spoke his mind, but the Vietnam veteran had a soft spot for each and every young man he came across.
“He cared about all of the kids he coached,” Nowak said. “He put 110 percent into all of them. He was a great guy. He tried to make good players on the field and good people off of it.”
Van Tine has left many with that same lasting impression.