STAMFORD — Allie Davis’ formidable challenge is not unlike that for many girls lacrosse coaches in Fairfield County: how to bridge the gap, both on the high school and club level, between an upstart, in this case Stamford, and powers like Darien, New Canaan, Wilton and Greenwich.
Davis knows this is a project that will be measured in years — many of them — and that among the qualities she will need to tap is patience, not always a commodity for 24-year-olds accustomed to instant success.
“I hope as the years go on and I get older and the programs get stronger and stronger, people will say Stamford has a good lacrosse program,” Davis said of her goal.
Davis’ best hope is that the city she said she is committed to for the long term can replicate her own path.
Davis was a soccer star at Fairfield Warde and had never picked up a lacrosse stick before spring practice started her freshman season. Six years later she had gone from a two-sport athlete to making a commitment only to lacrosse. The meteoric rise is one reason, despite limited experience that is offset by equal doses of confidence and enthusiasm, she was hired in the past eight months first as the lacrosse administrator at Chelsea Piers and then as the coach at Stamford High School.
It is a position Davis admittedly never expected to pursue, especially when she would help out camps run by her father, Tom, the girls lacrosse coach at Fairfield Warde.
“I did high school clinics all through college and did not like coaching the sport, never wanted to, and my dad was like, you’re good at it, you should become a coach,” Davis said. “I didn’t think I had the patience for it. I would dread going to his camp.”
That all changed, Davis said, last summer, when her goals of pursuing the business side of sports took a detour.
“I was helping my father with it and I just fell in love,” she said. “I’m not sure if it was just that group of girls or that level of play, but it just clicked one day, that I’m good at this. I can verbalize what needs to be done and tell the girls what they need to do, and they absorbed it and did it on the field. It was probably one of the most rewarding things, with the girls coming up to me and asking if they were doing what I wanted them to.”
Tom Davis said he was both satisfied and surprised by his daughter’s change in career paths.
“I always thought she was good at it and she would say no,” Tom Davis said. “She would help out at Warde and see how helpful she could be, that it was a natural thing but she was not confident at first in seeing how helpful she could be. But she sees the full game and full field when she is coaching the game. She’s very intense on the field.”
Tom Davis got to see that on the occasions he didn’t have a conflict and could watch Stamford’s games, and the first time they coached against one another, a 6-5 Warde win.
Many of Davis’ Stamford players are strong athletes who have never played the game before, which gives her the advantage of knowing their mindset.
“When I was at Warde soccer was my sport,” Davis said. “I was on the varsity my freshman year. A friend who played lacrosse had no one to try out with her, and I just did it to stay in shape with soccer.”
Soccer continued to be her main focus, even after winning a starting position on the lacrosse team as a sophomore.
“The first year I could not catch or throw and I didn’t know how to hold the stick, but I was fast and aggressive,” Davis said. “I could run, so I would scoop up the ball and carry it in front of me because I couldn’t cradle it properly and then just give it to someone who knew what they were doing.”
By her senior year she was All-FCIAC and All-State in both sports, and for the first time shelved offseason soccer commitments. She played both sports as a freshman at Springfield College — her father’s alma mater — and was an All-Conference selection despite tearing her ACL at the end of her sophomore season.
Davis is all things girls lacrosse at Chelsea Piers, which will be starting up its own club team, with the first tryouts next month.
“I’m excited because I get to build it from the ground up,” she said.
The Black Knights finished 5-9-1 in Davis’ first season, just missing a state playoff berth. Her zeal is apparent even though the timeline for accomplishing her goals will likely not match her own quick strides in the sport, though her two jobs should produce a synergy that could expedite the process.
“I loved it, I wish it was next season already,” Davis said. “Between the team and Chelsea Piers, I want to make it stronger so people think of Stamford as a lacrosse town.”