Torrey Pines High School Boys Lacrosse Team: Character-Culture-Community


The Torrey Pines Boys Lacrosse Team, under the leadership of head coach Jono Zissi, continues to embrace their program’s mantra of the three Cs (Character-Culture-Community). They were involved in a weekend of special service events kicked off by playing in a wheelchair lacrosse tournament to benefit Wheelchair Lacrosse USA, in addition to two veterans events to express appreciation and support for our U.S. veterans and wounded troops in honor of the upcoming Veterans Day Holiday. The team was involved in this trifecta of events in one weekend. The Torrey Pines lacrosse family has been the model program among San Diego high school teams in the area of community service over the past six seasons and continues to build and fine-tune the culture of their program through development of character and extensive service in the community.

Wheelchair Lacrosse

On Oct. 24, members of the lacrosse team participated in a wheelchair lacrosse tournament by Wheelchair Lacrosse USA at 4S Ranch Sports Park. Wheelchair lacrosse is played by amputees and paraplegics. The event was an awareness campaign and fundraiser for their organization, which enables paraplegics and amputees an opportunity to enjoy this fast-action game of finesse, power and speed. The Torrey Pines players competed against disabled athletes and other local high school teams, in basketball wheelchairs.

Veterans Hospital Halloween Visit

On Oct. 25, the team visited veterans at the VA San Diego Medical Center in La Jolla. After being briefed on the operations of the medical center and veterans who are there for treatment and care, the team members visited with approximately 60 veterans, passing out Halloween treat bags to spread Halloween cheer and taking the time to chat with the veterans, hear their personal stories and show them support and appreciation for their service in the U.S. military. The lacrosse team gives it everything they have when out on the lacrosse fields, but these veterans gave it all they had for the United States of America. This was a great way to kick off the Veterans Day holiday!

Special Speaker: Eric McElvenny

To culminate the team’s three-day special events service weekend, on Oct. 26, the lacrosse team was very fortunate to have the opportunity to hear the moving and motivating life story of Eric McElvenny, retired Marine Corps captain, Ironman, and motivational speaker. Eric served seven years in the U.S. Marine Corps, deploying three times worldwide. He was wounded in action in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device (IED). Eric joined the lacrosse team in their team room prior to conditioning and shared his life story along with video slides highlighting his fascinating journey of overcoming extreme challenges in his life. Eric travels across the country to speak, inspire and motivate others to grow from challenge.

Harlem Lacrosse Equipment Drive

Earlier in the fall, Coach Jono Zissi was able to travel back to Harlem and visit with the boys at Frederick Douglass School, on 148th street in upper Manhattan. Said Zissi: “Harlem Lacrosse is the single best school-based co-curricular program I have ever seen.”

Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership is an ‘intervention’ program in which lacrosse is used as the carrot to get kids to stay in school and become motivated far beyond the playing field. It is using the power of sports to unleash the potential of kids, many of whom live in single-parent households, some of whom come from lower middle class backgrounds and some of whom live in shelters. It causes them to see a world they never knew existed, but also to become a part of it. The greatest gift of Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership is its multi-pronged approach: the extensive tutoring, the boarding school partnerships, the field trips to the nation’s most prestigious universities that leave the players both starry-eyed and more motivated than ever.

On his visit, Zissi spoke to the group about leadership and dreams, and was deeply affected by the level of commitment the students showed and the positive impact this sport was having on so many lives. The Torrey Pines program has sent three separate shipments of equipment and apparel to the Harlem group to help them get more students outfitted to participate.

“Our boys are well aware of how lucky they are and how many opportunities this sport has afforded them. They were all very excited to donate their lacrosse wear to the Harlem group after seeing their video and realizing they could help empower kids who weren’t as fortunate. I was really excited with their initiative.” (Jono Zissi)

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Community service and connecting the team with the local community is a top priority for Coach Zissi. He feels his student athletes can be difference makers in the community and realizes the importance of his team using their time and energy to give back and make a difference in the communities in which they live. As the lacrosse team achieves success on the field, they are just as committed to helping others in the classroom and off the field as well. Character – Culture – Community – generating hope among those with various needs within our community.