Linking Literacy and Lacrosse With Teacher/Coach Liam (Part I)

The skills, knowledge, and dispositions that make individuals powerful educators, capable of inspiring and teaching their students, are similar to the qualities of effective coaches. In this blog, you’ll meet O’Shaughnessy Fellow Liam Driscoll who has been teaching at Annunciation Catholic School in Denver, CO for the past 8 years and has found a way to make deep and meaningful connections with his student-athletes at Denver City Lax where kids have opportunities to develop as lacrosse players while deepening their literacy skills.  


Liam and his Grandma watching his brothers play at the field by their house. 

From Athlete to Student, Coach & Teacher

Liam Driscoll (O’Shaughnessy Fellow; 4th/5th grade teacher) grew up in Hingham, Massachusetts and as the youngest of four children, developed a love of lacrosse at a young age. Watching his two older brothers and older sister play lacrosse and chasing them around and working as the ball boy at their games, inspired him to sign up as soon as he could! Since 2nd grade, lacrosse has played a critical role in his life. Liam’s dad was often his coach in youth lacrosse, which made the game a way to bring his family together. Like many athletes, Liam’s closest friendships were formed on the field. After high school, he played at Holy Cross, a Division 1 program in the Patriot League. During his junior and senior year he won the team’s Unsung Hero and Yeardley Love Unsung Hero Award (2017). He also served as his team’s captain his senior year. While in college, Liam coached with the Laxachusetts Lacrosse Club where he learned how formative lacrosse can be when coaching is done well. They demonstrated genuine care and authentic passion and pushed their players and coaches hard to be their best.

Holy Cross featured Liam’s first year as a teacher in their Career Development Blog 

In Fall 2017, Liam became a first year 3rd grade teacher at Annunciation Catholic School in Denver, CO as a Teaching Fellow with the Notre Dame Alliance for Catholic Education. He stumbled upon the head varsity coach at Bishop Machebeuf High School where his housemate and other ACE teachers were working. Liam learned that they did not have a lacrosse coach so within minutes he became a coach! During his time as the coach, he enjoyed the crossover of community living with ACE teachers and coaching - where some of the boys on his team were also in his housemate’s class!     

During that year, Liam found himself hustling out of the high school team’s practices and games to get over to City Lax games to support the boys from Annunciation on the team. After that season, he wanted to better align what he was passionate about with how he chose to spend his time, so he officially linked up with the City Lax program. For the first four years, he coached with a number of students from his school, staying with the same student-athletes from fifth through eighth grade. For the last two years, he jumped down to another team that similarly had a lot of connections to Annunciation.  


Denver City Lax


Involvement with Denver City Lax

Liam became involved with City Lax through Annunciation families sharing about the program. Liam appreciated the program’s commitment to “delivering opportunity on and off the lacrosse field”; specifically, how City Lax “creates opportunities for youth in underserved neighborhoods by providing access to lacrosse and then engaging participants in year-round lacrosse training, academic guidance, and enrichment experiences” (website). The program directors, Ben Allison and Eric Law, were very inviting. Liam felt it was cool to be placed in a new city, and still find children and coaches really into lacrosse; it was like a home away from home. It was easy to stay involved with City Lax because for some of the kids, Liam was their ride, which held him accountable! It is also easy to stay involved with the program as a teacher, since their schedules are aligned both for after school programs and over the summer. 

There have been many opportunities over the years to be involved with City Lax in different ways. In 2019, he took a trip to southern California for a week-long lacrosse camp with Harlem Lacrosse-LA along with ten student-athletes and another chaperone, Coach Tre, who was on the first City Lax team and one of the first City Lax players to graduate college! For many of the kids, it was their first time seeing the ocean and flying on a plane. It was a sacred moment seeing the kids sprint into the ocean, screaming, and hiking through the clouds in the early morning. 

The opportunities City Lax provides extends far beyond the lacrosse field. Throughout the COVID pandemic, Liam had the chance to stay involved with the program through team book clubs that met twice a week. Similarly, there have been opportunities to partner with club lacrosse programs, like Denver Elite, where he coached and chaperoned a City Lax player. Being a member of the Denver Elite program gave him the opportunity to travel to Vail and the East Coast. 

For the last three school years, Liam had the chance to tutor various student-athletes. For two high school students, they focused on developing writing skills and preparing for writing college essays. For the last two summers, Liam has been involved in running the City Lax Summer Academy. They have one middle school session that divides the day into lacrosse training, academic sessions, mental health meetings, and enrichment opportunities like traveling to Lincoln Hills. 

Similarly, City Lax hosts an elementary program that focuses on lacrosse, reading, and team building skills. Liam believes in the mission of City Lax and the opportunities it creates: to use lacrosse as a platform for academic and enrichment opportunities. To bring a game, free of cost, to anyone interested, particularly children from economically under resourced communities.

Further Reading: 

  • You can read Liam's 4 part blog series of his yearlong Expedition Project: “Making Hope and History Rhyme: Words That Will Echo Forevermore” (Part 1 Here)
  • Duncan-Andrade, J. (2010). What a coach can teach a teacher: Lessons urban schools can learn from a successful sports program. Peter Lang. (link)

What a Coach Can Teach a Teacher: Lessons Urban Schools Can Learn from a  Successful Sports Program (Counterpoints): Duncan-Andrade, Jeffrey M.R.:  9780820479057: Books