Head Coach Eric Blackburn celebrates with Newsome Booster President Jill Rintoul, who helped nominate him for the award. (Photo courtesy of Dawn Blackburn.)

Newsome Lacrosse Head Coach Eric Blackburn has not only turned the program into a local powerhouse, but he has also changed the lives of many of his athletes for the better by setting a great example for them. For his efforts, Blackburn has received regional and national awards from the Positive Coaching Alliance organization.

“I feel that Coach Blackburn, while he loves to win, isn’t all about the game,” said senior captain and University of Utah commit Luke Haley. “He helps people off the field too by teaching them how to become better men. For example, my freshman year I was struggling in one of my classes and he noticed, so he stayed at study hall and helped me with an upcoming test I had. He kept doing this until I developed a good habit and my grade was up to par.”

The 11-year head coach was one of 100 people from Hillsborough County that was selected for the Regional Double-Goal Coach Award. He was also chosen as one of 25 people for a national PCA award and will be eligible to become the Positive Coaching Alliance Coach of the Year. The winner receives $7,500 for their school’s program. The award would be big for the Newsome lacrosse program because kids that play the sport in Hillsborough County have to pay money in order to play. The team has to raise money for everything they do because they aren’t funded by the county, even though they are a varsity sport.

“It’s a great honor,” said Blackburn. “It validates a lot of what we’ve been doing as a program, nurturing kids and working hard. I was more happy for the school, which deserves it. They’re big into the Positive Coaching Alliance, doing things the right way—not just winning games, but nurturing kids and building young men and women. It’s big for the kids because it really shows no coach is better than their kids. It’s an honor that the award’s in my name, but I’m just proud of everyone involved in it.”

Blackburn works for Homeland Security, and in the evening after work, he has practice with his team five or six days a week. He played every sport growing up in a small town in Boston. He developed a love for coaching when he started helping coach his siblings’ basketball teams when he was in high school. He later went on to the Coast Guard Academy, and upon graduation got back into his passion. Blackburn became a parent and has coached most of his life. He now has 35-plus years of coaching experience. The Wolves have won the district championship eight times under Blackburn and have a record of 148-19. They have only lost one district game in that time as well.

Blackburn admitted that he loves to win but said that the most rewarding aspect of coaching is when he sees his players years after they graduate and they still talk about what Newsome lacrosse meant to them in that part of their lives.

“Winning gives you that instant gratification, it’s fun because I like seeing the kids smile, I love seeing them celebrate after the games. That’s good, but sometimes they need to lose also—and when they lose the game, they later pick their heads back up. I’m in this for the long game, watching the long-term life lessons that it teaches kids. I kind of see it five-six years after they graduate. I’ve been at my kids’ weddings; I have kids that have kids, so it’s really nice to see those kids and have them talk about their fond memories, that’s really awesome to me.”

The Positive Coaching Alliance is a national organization that promotes a positive youth sports culture by providing training and resources for coaches, parents and athletes.

“Coach Blackburn has made me a better person on and off the field by teaching me to have a winning mentality in everything that I do,” said Ashton Kitchiner.

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Nick Nahas
Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.