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Storied Lacrosse Career Earns Wayland Man Accolades

Bruce Cohen is an all-around athlete, but his success in one particular sport earned him an upcoming induction in the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

There are many adults out there who can wax poetic about their clinch Little League triple or a game-saving tackle in Pop Warner football.

Far fewer adults, however, can really tell stories of their athletic glory days.

Wayland's Bruce Cohen is a member of the "glory days" group. And his success during those glory days means he will soon add membership in the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame to his accolades -- thanks to his brother-in-law who nominated him.

Cohen said he's always been an athlete -- baseball, soccer, marathons, biking -- but it is primarily his days as a lacrosse player that have already earned him a spot in several other halls of fame and will lead to his induction in the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Commack, N.Y., on April 21, 2013.

Beginnings

Cohen began his lacrosse career a bit unconventionally ... and a bit late. He was a junior in high school on Long Island when he decided lacrosse players appeared to share more camraderie than he enjoyed with his baseball teammates.

So he left his baseball team -- much to the dismay of his father who had just purchased him a new mitt -- and joined the lacrosse team.

Fast-forward two years and college athletic programs are recruiting Cohen, but not for lacrosse.

Cohen ultimately headed to Cornell University, having been recruited to play soccer.

Ever the multi-sport athlete, though, Cohen spent his freshman year playing basketball, soccer and lacrosse for the The Big Red. Over the course of the next several years, he gave up basketball, but was named All Ivy League in both soccer and lacrosse for three years.

Fourth Year and Beyond

Cohen decided to play a fourth year of lacrosse instead of opting for a five-year program that would have earned him a Master's degree. It was a decision that his parents questioned deeply at the time.

"I think it was the right choice -- even looking back," Cohen said with 45 years of retrospect. "I was in no hurry to get out into the world, and I love lacrosse."

In that fourth year, Cohen said, the team had a new coach with an almost reckless belief that his team could make a name for itself in the world of collegiate lacrosse. That coach proved right; the team went undefeated during Cohen's final season and won the Ivy League Championship.

"It was just a great year," Cohen said.

His collegiate career ended witht the 1966 season, but his lacrosse career continued -- and, in fact, grew more storied.

With no pro team on which to play at the time, Cohen found himself continuing to learn and improve his lacrosse game as a member of club teams.

The older he got, the better he got. He said he learned how to better see the field, how to dodge defenders and how to protect the ball.

"I kept getting better," Cohen said.

Then, at 35 years old, "getting better" paid off as he found himself selected for the U.S. lacrosse team, a team with world championship to defend.

Cohen said he was working for IBM at the time of his selection, but his boss wouldn't let him miss the opportunity and allowed Cohen to take a four week leave of absence in order to play with the team.

He capped off his leave of absence with a trip to Melbourne, Australia where, on July 4, 1974, Cohen and his Team USA teammates successfully defended that world championship title.

Lacrosse Legacy

Cohen said he stopped playing lacrosse in about 1975, but he's been involved with it in various capacities over the years.

"It's a very athletic sport," Cohen said. "You don't have to be really big. I think it's a beautiful sport."

Cohen hasn't forgotten the sport and the sport certainly hasn't forgotten him.

His induction into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame is just the latest of several hall of fame inductions Cohen has enjoyed, including a 1982 induction to the Cornell Athletic Hall of Fame, a 1987 induction to the Long Island Metro Lacrosse Hall of Fame and a 1989 induction to the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

His induction next April will be different, however, not because of the honor itself, but because of who can attend the ceremony.

"My grandchildren can be there, which is really cool," Cohen said. "I'm really honored and excited by it."

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