Could you imagine never playing for a bad team? For Tim Barber, there has yet to be a losing season. There’s been a handful of heart-breaking losses, but since making the varsity roster, his teams have a combined record of 119-22. This includes two NY Section 3 Championships, two NJCAA National Titles, two ACC Conference crowns, and a Steinfeld Trophy. Yet, it all started in an unlikely place, with roots planted over ten-thousand miles away.
A pair of Upstate New York expats were raising a couple of boys outside of Melbourne, Australia. Growing up, they were enthralled by soccer and Australian football before a neighbor introduced them to lacrosse. He happened to run one of the most storied programs in Victoria, Malvern Lacrosse Club. It didn’t take long for the oldest to take serious interest, throwing little brother Tim in as a practice dummy. Getting beat on through constant reps,
Tim actually started to form a bond with the game the more he had his stick in hand. Malvern’s century-old club provided an ideal place to start honing the backyard-built skills.
Lacrosse in Australia was still at the do-it-yourself phase. Access to the latest and greatest gear didn’t come easy. When members of the club would travel to North America, they would take orders to bring back desired equipment. Amongst all of the sticks and helmets, Barber recalled his neighbor taking about sixty requests for the Playstation’s Blast Lacrosse. There was a passionate following, but the club only supported around one-hundred members in a region with less than ten programs.
As the boys’ talents grew, the Barbers recognized their sons were falling in love with the game. The decision to relocate across the globe was the best option, focused on raising their kids within the West Genesee lacrosse culture. The New York natives knew that they’d get a great hometown experience in Camillus, but the ultimate selling point was the success surrounding the West Genny and Shove Park programs.
Touching down in the Syracuse suburbs, the first thing Tim did was go to lacrosse practice. When an athlete commits to the game in the West Genesse Central School District, it’s expected that there is a full dedication to the process. Tim’s development had no room for club ball, fundamentals were instilled into him every summer at the Shove Park lacrosse camp.
“At Shove Park, if you love the game of lacrosse, you will become great at lacrosse.” – Tim Barber
At West Genny, lacrosse is a year-round sport and the main athletic focus within the community. There are no outsiders in Shove Park, you must attend the district. The philosophy is to start young and go through the whole process together, step by step. For Tim, and many others, the commitment never came with pressure, but pride. For a kid from Camillus, it’s what you do. He argues when Camillus and West Genesee middle schools square off in the varsity stadium, the roaring crowd and mounting tension amounts for routinely the best game of the season.
“I can still to this day say that was the biggest rivalry I had in my lacrosse career.” – Tim Barber
High school practices are something Barber hopes to never go through again. Three hours of hard work, every night. Stickwork, conditioning, conditioning through stickwork, the tempo never wavered. Talk to nearly any West Genny grad, they’ll agree there’s no better coach to play for than Mike Messere when it comes to knowing what you need to do to get to the next level. Everything done within Coach Messere’s regime is held to the highest of standards, with no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The all for one attitude is exemplified through the high white socks for games and by keeping helmets on the entire time while on bus trips. Barber always bought into the culture, understanding the motions are focused on developing more in life than in lacrosse. The packed stadiums, commitment to excellence, and camaraderie built year after year shaped a culture at West Genesee that sticks with the athletes beyond their years at the school.
Knowing his family went to great lengths to immerse him in such a lacrosse-centric culture, Tim was at crossroads out of high school. Looking to compete at the next level, he took off to Marquette after graduation. After a summer, the fit wasn’t quite right, but now needed to graduate from a junior college to continue his pursuit of NCAA lacrosse. Once again, a change in life’s plans would lead Barber to another program with superiority within the sport.
At Onondaga Community College, all things athletically revolve around Lazers Lacrosse. If the games are against competitive teams, like Nassau or Essex, expect the stadium to be rocking. The culture at OCC is unlike any other. People come out in droves to tailgate with support pouring in from around the community. But it’s not just about the lacrosse. For everyone that comes through, Coach Wilbur does a fantastic job of helping guy prepare not just athletically, but in the classroom. When it’s practice time, competition is fierce, fighting most of the best players in junior college for limited spots.
The OCC culture is shaped around competition. Offense versus defense, you versus the guy next you to you, coach versus coach. Playing fundamental-focused lacrosse at West Genny, Barber’s game was reshaped by the creative players he worked with at Onondaga. Wilbur’s staff empowered athletes to go out and produce by doing what was best for them, specifically what fits best for the play. When it came to rivalries, Tim could only describe the OCC and Nassau battle as a bloodbath. It was the game they had circled, spending nights praying for Nassau in the postseason. He still revels in going to Nassau for the playoffs both years, amongst a sea of rowdy fans from both institutions.
After earning two rings at OCC, with a perfect 35-0 record, Tim’s next logical step was staying home to finish out at Syracuse. For most kids growing up in the area, watching the Orange in the Carrier Dome was a religion and what dreams were made of. Childhood friend Dylan Donahue confirmed the reality of playing lacrosse at Syracuse and Tim had to feel the emotion of running out on that field for himself. Walking into the world-class locker room to a cabinet full of brand new gear is a memory etched into Barber’s mind. Not many teams play in their football stadium, let alone have full support from the university for athletics and academics.
Syracuse, the University and the City, has an incredible investment in lacrosse. On gameday, the whole town comes to watch the team. The bar is set high before the season starts. The Orange approach each year with the expectations of winning the National Championship, not making the playoffs. If they don’t come home with the hardware, the season is chalked up as a failure. Tradition and success surrounds the program, but to Barber, a saying would stand out among all of it. Head, Heart, Hustle. The program prides itself on three words, focused on buying into everything you’re doing.
“It’s crazy how just three words can motivate you and get the boys going.” – Tim Barber
Under Coach John Desko’s watch, the focus went back to fundamentals, similar to West Genny. Emphasis was on doing all of the little things right, but like OCC, the players are given freedom. It wasn’t a place to experiment, but the mentality was, if you can, do, if you can’t, don’t. The mission of bringing a National Championship back to Central New York was cut short Barbers’s senior season during the quarter finals by Maryland.
After the game, a phone call was passed along. It was Denver Outlaws skipper B.J. O’Hara offering Tim a spot for that weekend’s game. Knowing how tough the league can be to find a spot, he decided to not skip a beat and was on the next flight to meet his new squad. Making it out west, the chills from getting out of the car and walking into an NFL stadium to play Major League Lacrosse will never leave him. In Denver, that’s the reality for every home game. The culture is focused on making it feel like the big time. Players ride in limos to games and practices while the Outlaws are treated to their own fully-loaded locker room in Sports Authority Field.
Support from the Broncos empowers the team to mentally take things to the next level. It’s not just the football team behind them, the whole city is committed to their lacrosse team. The MLL is the real deal in Denver and fans will go to great lengths to meet players and make them feel welcome. Barber’s first home game scheduled him to sign autographs with fellow rookies Jack Kelly and B.J. Grill. Assuming no one would even show up, Tim was taken by surprise when he saw growing lines. He was further caught off guard when the fans started to talk to him about his time at Syracuse, proving Colorado was just as in love with the game as he is.
“Walking out and thinking the stadium will look empty and then realizing how many people come out for Denver games is absolutely incredible.” – Tim Barber
Aside from packed stadiums, diehard fanbases, and on-field success. Each of the cultures run much deeper than what happens while in uniform. An alumnus of some of the world’s most accomplished programs, Barber is amongst the inner circle of some of the game’s most connected individuals. Although nothing is given until it’s earned, networking can be as easy as swapping stories and reliving the glory days. For Tim, a quick visit to his high school coach provided a list of twenty people in twenty cities that would find work for a West Genesee graduate.
These networks are formed from cultures focused on doing things the right way, rooted in traditions. From Malvern to the Outlaws, and the programs between, Barber has always been a part of something much bigger than himself. Tradition has opened doors for people like Barber. Knowing they all went through the same things makes alumni go to great lengths to help out.
These bonds led to a connection between Barber and Powell Lacrosse. With Powell being so new, Tim was finally able to explore something from the ground up. A product of historic lacrosse traditions, it made sense to join Powell at the grassroots level to create some of his own. Building a better culture is a main priority at Powell Lacrosse and if anyone that knows what works, it’s Tim Barber.