Summit High lacrosse star Max Duxbury reflects on what led to his All-State season
In years to come, Summit High School boys lacrosse head coach Matty Marks hopes spring break 2018 will be the example his program points to as its turning point.
And at the core of that change in culture for Tigers lacrosse, Marks believes, will be the example set by junior midfielder Max Duxbury, who last week was named a second team All-State 4A player by the boy’s lacrosse coaches of Colorado.
During spring break of this year, Duxbury led the charge in staying and practicing voluntarily at the school along with about a quarter of Marks’ high school lacrosse players during his first year leading the program. With those 15 other teammates — mostly underclassmen — Duxbury spent his spring break week working with Marks and his staff in one-on-one and smaller group settings before ending the year with an improved 8-7 record and berth to the opening round of the state playoffs.
What was the purpose of these voluntary workouts for the coach Marks, who hails from a lacrosse hotbed in Central New York? For his players to not settle each and every day until each individual knew he improved on something he could take to tomorrow.
And, despite his roaring offensive success as a junior attacking midfielder to that point in the season, Duxbury was one of those focused, energized players yearning to learn more.
“It was a hot issue coming into the season,” Marks said, “if we are going to play over spring break? If kids are seniors, if they are going to get to go on their trip? And that’s something that where I come from, it’s like. ‘Spring break? What is spring break? Never heard of it. If you are a lacrosse player, you do not care about spring break. It’s the middle of your season, you should be expecting to go on a trip with your team if you’re going to go on a trip.
“And that was not only a change in perception,” the coach continued, “but Max improved that week. He was putting the puzzle pieces together. The strength, the speed, the coordination, the lacrosse IQ, the body control — we were able to take that week and refine some of his skill sets. And we saw it at the end of the season, him using the skill sets he improved upon.”
Duxbury’s All-State selection by the statewide coaches association was the first since Tiger goalie Jordan Nelson’s selection in 2014. And it meant Duxbury earned a spot playing against the rest of the state’s top 4A players in Thursday evening’s Froelicher Toll All-State All-Star Game at Denver’s All City Stadium.
But Duxbury’s selection to the All-State team was a shock to him and his coach, both at the beginning of this season and just last week.
“It was completely unexpected,” Duxbury said. “I was blown away to hear that news when Matty called me.”
Heck, as of the Tigers’ first face-off this season, Duxbury didn’t quite know what to expect out of himself out there on the pitch. He had played the previous two years on the varsity. But that was before Duxbury sprouted up this past year to his current height of 6-foot-3 and weight of 185 pounds.
And that was before Duxbury’s even more refined focus on lacrosse’s intricate details thanks to Marks’s coaching at the club level this past year.
Marks did attribute Duxbury’s sudden, stellar success this season to his “late-bloomer” physical growth. But perhaps just as important to the coach was Duxbury’s improved toughness that he learned on the Tigers varsity football team last fall and his attention to detail in improving his lacrosse skills, namely his stick-handling and lacrosse IQ.
“Lacrosse is one of those things where speed and strength only helps, it’s not all of the game,” Marks said. “But for Max, one of those players who’s been playing his whole life, he wasn’t hitting his potential as a lacrosse player until he hit his growth spurt. And then all of the hard work and skill he developed as a younger youth player paid off this year when he was finally one step ahead of everybody. We saw him scoring goals, and they were good lacrosse goals because it was good lacrosse IQ. The stuff he learned as a kid, he could finally use it the right way.”
Marks also lauded Duxbury’s fierce competitiveness and his ability to channel his emotions in the right way for the right moment on the pitch. It was that ability to “take the energy of the game and put it into his moment,” as Marks described it, that enabled the Tigers to get off to a rollicking 5-1 start this year. He was the kind of lead-by-example type player Marks knew he needed to have his new system succeed at the start of year one as Tigers head coach.
And that successful start to the season for the Tigers was highlighted by Duxbury’s five-goal outing against the program’s 4A Western Slope League rival, Eagle Valley. Against the Devils, Duxbury found the back of the net on all five of his shots on goal and added an assist. And it came against some of the same familiar elite High Country club lacrosse players that Duxbury played with under Marks with the club team this past autumn in Vail.
A student of Marks’ lacrosse coaching style and philosophy for the past four years with several different club teams, that March 20th 13-3 road win for the Tigers against Eagle Valley in Gypsum was effectively Duxbury’s coming-out party this season. By season’s end, that confidence gained against Eagle Valley propelled Duxbury to 97 shots-on-goals and 39 goals in 14 games played.
And that March 20 game was also a declaration to the rest of the Western Slope League that with Marks as coach and Duxbury anchoring the Tiger offensive attack, Summit High boy’s lacrosse is now a force to be reckoned with.
“I came out and had this mentality of like, ‘Oh, it’s going to kind of be like last year where I have a decent season, have a few goals and am having fun at least,’” Duxbury said. “But I came out and I put five goals in against Eagle Valley and I was beyond stoked. It was just, at that moment, I was like, ‘Alright!’ That physical growth, it was honestly game changing.”
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