Chris Kear and Jeff Barnard make up half of the group of directors leading the Hudson Valley boys in the 2021 New York State Regional Championships. Both have found success as coaches at the varsity level in Westchester County.
Kear began his lacrosse career in the fourth grade in Lewisboro before his high school career at John Jay High School where he won two sectional titles. After graduation, Kear played NCAA Division III lacrosse at Ithaca College.
While getting his Master’s Degree, Kear started on a coaching path. “I got into coaching when I was in grad school when I was up in Springfield, MA,” Kear said. “I started coaching at Longmeadow High School.”
After that, Kear moved a little closer to home to continue his coaching and teaching careers. “I got a teaching job in Wilton, CT, I still teach there, and I was the assistant coach for the varsity team for four years,” Kear said. “I moved on to Pleasantville as an assistant coach and then the head coaching job became available and that’s when I got the head coaching job there.”
Kear has won two section titles at Pleasantville in his time as the head coach, but neither compares to getting over the semi-final hump for the first time. “The number one memory would be the game where we finally won a sectional semi-final game in 2013,” Kear said. “There was a bunch of years in a row where we kept getting knocked out in the semi-finals and it was the first time our program ever advanced to the sectional final.”
Getting involved in the New York State Regional Championships came straight from CEO Mike Winkoff. “Wink gave me a call and he said ‘I have an idea for something going on and I thought maybe you might be interested,'” Kear said. “I know a lot about the old version, the Empire Games, and I’ve always had a lot of respect for it so I thought it was a great idea; I thought it would be great to sort of revitalize that.”
This year, Kear is excited to see the tournament continue to grow. “I know these things take time but I thought last year went really well despite the COVID limitations,” Kear said. “I’m just looking forward to seeing this event get bigger. It’s awesome that the girls are joining now and I really look forward to seeing the talent that gets drawn to this event and it just keeps getting better every year.”
Like Kear, Barnard also got into lacrosse at an early age. “I started in sixth grade,” Barnard said. “I was lucky enough to begin in one of the first youth programs in New Canaan high school.”
Barnard’s coaching career began in Connecticut in the mid-1990s. “My first coaching job was at King Low Heywood Thomas and that was probably 94 or 95,” Barnard said. “I coached for them for a few years and then this is my 23rd year at Mamaroneck being the varsity coach.”
His tenure has seen a lot of success with five sectional championships but what really sticks with him are the kids who come through the program. It’s the kids I’ve worked with,” Barnard said. “I’ve been blessed to work with some great kids and win some championships along the way.”
Also like Kear, Barnard was approached by Winkoff to work with the New York State Regional Championships. “Wink asked me and some of the other coaches asked me to get involved,” Barnard said.
Barnard is looking forward to working with some players who he sees as opponents at the high school level. “I like the fact that representing our region, a lot of our kids are from Section I, where I coach,” Barnard said. “It gives me that ability to work with other kids from Section I and Hudson Valley all together. That is appealing to me to coach these kids from multiple schools that are sometimes opponents of the high school I coach at.”