May 8, 2007
By Pete LaFleur
(writer’s note: Before paying a much deserved tribute to Mike Sennett, I wish to apologize to Mike’s family and many friends for not finalizing this release sooner. The combination of a full slate of baseball games last week and various other end-of-the-year tasks made for little free time, and I wanted to firm up his biographical information while also reading the various articles and testimonials, namely the extensive and inspiring “Remembering Sennett” blog (http://rememberingsennett.blogspot.com/) that was set up in Mike’s honor and now includes nearly 100 entries. I keep saying Mike, but I, like many, always knew him as “Steel.” I was fortunate as an undergrad to serve as the men’s lacrosse SID – back then we only had a few fulltimers in the sports information office – and I worked a total of three years with the team, during the end of the Rich O’Leary era and the start of Kevin Corrigan’s coaching tenure. Steel was a member of the team in each of those three seasons and went on serve as a tri-captain on the 1991 squad.
Mike Sennett – a.k.a. “Steel” – was a hard-nosed crease attackman who helped the Notre Dame lacrosse team advance to the NCAA Tournament for the time in the program’s history (in 1990) before serving as a senior team captain in ’91.
Many of you who follow sports surely know that lacrosse has a unique “subculture” that is filled with plenty of lively characters and high levels of emotion that can take many forms. The sport itself is one characterized by a tremendous convergence of toughness, speed, athleticism and finesse – as “the fastest sport on two feet,” lacrosse rarely could be described as boring to watch. Mike Sennett was one of many unique personalities that populated the Notre Dame lacrosse roster in the late 1980s and early ’90s. He was a tough player who battled through injuries throughout his career and was highly thought of by his teammates. If ever a nickname perfectly fit a player, it was Steel.
As things turn out, there was much more to Mike Sennett’s story, both then and certainly later in life. I have been struck by a variety of deep thoughts and emotions as I reflect on Mike’s recent accomplishments, mainly because I am one of many who had no clue what a wonderful life he had carved out for himself in his postgraduate years. I have stayed in touch with some of the lacrosse players from Steel’s era and occasionally will see others from those teams during football weekends or home lacrosse games. But I unfortunately had no appreciation for what Mike Sennett had been up to in the 16 years since he ended his career with the Irish. One of the more enjoyable aspects of my career as an SID has been the opportunity to write various feature stories and tribute pieces that celebrate the wonderful accomplishments of student-athletes, past and present. The simple hope is that the resulting words can inspire and educate the reader, while giving an accurate accounting of the individual’s life.
In recent years, I have written obituary tributes on und.com for some legendary Notre Dame athletes, such as Heisman Trophy winner Leon Hart, basketball great Kevin O’Shea (a rare four-time All-American) and record-setting football receiver Jack Snow. With each of those research/writing experiences, I gained an even greater appreciation for those men, coming away filled with inspiration and renewed motivation. The Mike Sennett story has the same effect, if not more. We traversed the Notre Dame campus during the same time and I can relate to much of Mike’s story – I would be shocked if anyone comes away from his tragic death without feeling tremendous respect for the way he approached his coaching and other aspects of his life.
The current decade has seen the Notre Dame athletics department come to grips with the deaths of (among others) soccer coach Mike Berticelli, former football assistant coach and longtime athletics administrator George Kelly, the legendary Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., and – most recently – Jody Schrage, the wife of our first-year baseball coach Dave Schrage. I vividly remember the wide range of emotions that were dredged up during these times, starting with a true sense of loss and sadness … and that unavoidable feeling that you had just been slugged in the stomach. But my lasting memories of people like Mike Berticelli, Father Joyce, George Kelly and Jody Schrage always will be uplifting and positive thoughts that provide a driving sense of motivation, based on the unending impact that they had on those around them. And the same certainly goes for Mike Sennett. How can one not be lifted up by the comments of those who knew Steel best? How can those words and feelings do nothing but boost your desire to make a lasting impact on those around you?
Notre Dame always has been grounded in the concept of family and those who compete in the athletic realm are fortunate to gain another layer of a family experience, sharing four years of unique and often challenging moments with teammates and coaches who they will count among their lifelong friends. It is only fitting that we pay tribute to a true Notre Dame man, one who – for the past 16 years – daily viewed the DeSmet Jesuit lacrosse team as his family.
Those who are further interested in Mike Sennett’s story are encouraged to peruse the Remembering Sennett blog – (http://rememberingsennett.blogspot.com/) – that was set up in his honor. Some elements from the blog are incorporated into the text below, in addition to other direct quotes from the blog that are included at the bottom of this release.) – PL
As the Notre Dame campus completes its final exams this week, members of the men’s lacrosse program are reflecting on the all-too-soon passing of former player Mike Sennett, 38, who died tragically of a heart attack on April 28. The highly-respected high school coach passed away in Culver, Ind. – some 50 miles from his alma mater – while making the first stop on a road trip with the DeSmet Jesuit High School team that he had coached with such great success over the past 16 seasons. The Detroit area native’s life was celebrated last week in his second hometown of St. Louis, with the funeral mass on May 3 shifted from his local parish to the larger Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis – due to a group of mourners that numbered near 1,000 and exceeded the capacity at St. Clement’s by several hundred.
“It was an unbelievable ceremony, with so many people that they had to move it to the Basilica – and St. Louis is not even Mike’s hometown,” says current Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan, who had remained close to Sennett over the years, after coaching him in his final three seasons with the Irish.
“It’s pretty amazing all the people Mike had touched. They called off school at DeSmet so everyone could attend the funeral – and Mike didn’t really work there, he was a volunteer coach. He also was a volunteer fireman and the firemen showed up. They led the processional to the cemetery. The two days I was there were just an amazing experience and tribute to Mike.”
The funeral ceremony had a distinctive Notre Dame feel, with a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace,” a woman singing “Notre Dame, Our Mother,” an Irish Blessing, and prayer cards from Lourdes (where Sennett recently had made a pilgrimage). The DeSmet players lined the aisles of the Basilica during the procession while two members of Sennett’s extended family – a brother-in-law and sister-in-law – served as musicians at the Mass. Items such as orange flowers (his favorite color) and coney dogs on the reception menu brought a smile to the face of Sennett’s friends, as they reflected on his unique and refreshingly natural personality.
Sennett – who had recently become engaged – grew up as part of a civic-minded family full of Notre Dame fans, ultimately following two of his three brothers (Tom ’83 and Tim ’85) and his sister Julie (’88) to the school under the Golden Dome. He earlier attended the relatively small all-boys Brother Rice High School in his hometown of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., earning two varsity letters while playing a sport of lacrosse that was fairly new to him. As a junior in 1986, Sennett helped Brother Rice win its first of 13 state lacrosse championships (the second came in ’88) and he then served as team captain for the 1987 Warriors team, scoring 14 goals in that final prep season before heading off to Notre Dame. Despite its small size (700 students), Brother Rice has produced several future professional athletes – among them Cleveland Browns receiver Brian Brennan, basketball player B.J. Armstrong (who played on several Chicago Bulls championship teams) and football lineman Mike Lodish, a six-time Super Bowl participant.
Mike Sennett (pictured below the player in the green shirt) helped lead Brother Rice High School to the 1986 Michigan state lacrosse championship, launching the Warriors on to a stretch of 13 titles over the past 21 years.
When Sennett began his college lacrosse career at Notre Dame, it was evident that he probably was not destined to be included on the list of great all-time Brother Rice athletic products. Such a conclusion would not be due to a lack of talent – and certainly would not be an indictment of his work ethic – but instead was rooted in a nagging physical condition that would limit Sennett’s productivity throughout his college career. That back problem ultimately added to extra stress on his legs, but the player known as “Steel” battled though the adversity to earn three letters while appearing in 41 games during the 1989-91 seasons, after missing all of his freshman campaign due to the injury concerns.
“He was tough like steel, he really lived up to that nickname,” says former Notre Dame head lacrosse coach Rich O’Leary, who recruited Sennett and coached his final season during Sennett’s first. “Our athletic trainer at the time, “Big John” [Whitmer] never could understand how Mike could even run at all. He had problems with his back that led to problems with his feet and knees. They tried several things to correct it. He was a very tough kid, but also very sensitive when you got to know him.”
Defenseman Jeff Salamon was another promising Notre Dame player in the late 1980s whose career was sidetracked by persistent injuries. Slowed by knee problems, Salamon managed to play in just 22 games spanning the 1987-90 seasons, but he combined with Sennett to serve as continual inspirations for their teammates.
Salamon – who joined several teammates who were fortunate enough to attend the funeral ceremony (those players included Mike Sullivan, Dave Barnard, Brian Schirf, Robbie Snyder, Doug Murray, Bo Perriello, among others, including former ND football player and 1990 graduate Mike Crounse) – passed along a heartfelt message in the blog, telling Sennett’s parents: “Your son was my friend, he picked me up when I was down, he made me feel special – I will deeply miss him and I will always love him. Mike had a way about him, he made you a better person, he radiated energy and enthusiasm. You wanted to be around the guy because he touched your soul, he couldn’t help himself. He took that gift and passed it around – he made a difference in this life.
“I was there with Mike through many of his trials and many of his victories in these past years. He had a profound love of God in his heart and the desire and courage to share it. Mike touched more lives and accomplished more good in his 38 years then I hope to in a lifetime.”
Sennett’s fellow tri-captain Eamon McAnaney provided a similar testimonial: “Never has there been a more appropriate nickname than `Steel’ for Mike Sennett. It’s who and what he was – tough as steel. He was a leader by example and a man everyone on the team looked up to. What he had to go through as a freshman and sophomore just to get on the field was an example of his sheer determination and will – and it is obvious that he carried those characteristics with him into the coaching profession. He was a great captain, a great teammate and a great friend.”
Sennett ultimately totaled 18 career goals and four assists as a crease attackman, competing alongside the likes of more heralded frontline players such as – in the earlier years – Jeff Shay, Johnny Olmstead and Brian McHugh, then later the trio of Sullivan, Schirf and Snyder. The 1990 season was a landmark year in the history of the Notre Dame lacrosse program, as the Irish advanced to the NCAAs for the first time. Sennett started 12 of the 16 games that season and had the greatest offensive production of his career, finishing seventh on the team in scoring with 11 goals and three assists.
His leadership value to the team was validated in 1991, when Sennett was named a team tri-captain alongside defensemen McAnaney and Barnard. After graduating that spring with a degree in American Studies, he made good use of the Notre Dame alumni network by accepting a job offer from Tom Clemens (’76) to join the team at Northwestern Mutual, serving as a financial representative with NM’s Hempstead Agency in Clayton, Mo.
The move seemingly was counter to his family’s hope that their youngest child would return to their home area and possibly work in the family’s lucrative steel business.
“Mike’s family was not thrilled initially when he decided to go to St. Louis and work for Northwest Mutual,” says Corrigan. “He was going to be away from the rest of his family, he didn’t know anyone in the city and he was going into a business that he didn’t know much about.
“But there’s no question they now think he made a great decision. Last week, Mike’s parents were unbelievably taken aback by how much their son had become involved in the St. Louis community. I don’t think they were aware of how many lives he had touched, on so many levels.”
Sennett continued his service with Northwestern/Hempstead for the past 16 years, continually building strong personal relationships with clients throughout the Midwest while addressing their advanced business and individual estate planning needs. In one recent instance (as related in the blog), he went out of his way to help former Notre Dame assistant lacrosse coach Kevin Anderson and his wife Molly (Lennon) Anderson in their move to a house that would be better suited for their young son KJ, who has cerebral palsy.
“The story is simple, Sennett was really good at his day job because he cared about the people he helped,” says Molly Anderson, herself a former Notre Dame varsity athlete as a soccer player whose college career overlapped with Sennett’s. “When it came time to prepare the move to a better home for KJ, Mike was there to guide us each step of the way. He touched our family and we are forever tied to him through what he did for KJ’s future. It wasn’t about money, wealth or business. It was about `family’ and love for those who love you.”
Sennett served with equal vigor as a volunteer fireman for the Boles Fire Protection District, in Franklin County, Mo. One of his former roommates, a fellow firefighter, vividly recalled the four alarm clocks that Sennett would set every night on “extra loud” and the roommate looked back fondly on Sennett urging several members of the fire department to go back to church on a regular basis.
The three-pronged existence as a financial representative, lacrosse coach and fireman made for an interesting daily crossover. Noted for his conscientious dealings with clients, Sennett put his full focus on taking excellent care of each individual or business owner with whom he spoke, while making sure that the products he recommended best met their specific needs. During his time living at the house in Franklin County, Sennett set up a small office from which he conducted much of his business (mostly by phone) – in an impressively professional fashion.
“When he worked at the office in our house, Mike was always in a clean and pressed dress shirt, tie and dress pants,” related one of his former roommates. “He told me that – even though no one could see him over the phone – he wanted to make sure that he was as professional as he could be whenever he talked to his clients. He said the clothing helped remind him to do so. I often wondered how many of his clients knew how far Mike would go to take care of them.”
Immediately upon his arrival in the St. Louis area in 1991, Sennett founded and became head coach – on a volunteer basis – of the lacrosse program at DeSmet, one of the first schools to play lacrosse in Missouri. His leadership and passion for the sport led to its explosive growth in the state, which went on to establish the Missouri Scholastic Lacrosse Association and later unveiled the Missouri Lacrosse Hall of Fame (Sennett fittingly was among the inaugural inductees, in 2005).
Mike Sennett was among the inaugural class in the Missouri Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
DeSmet lacrosse won its first state title in 1996, took the title again in ’97 and ultimately racked up six state championships – the most by any school – over the past 16 seasons, all the time being led by their demanding, yet caring, head coach. Sennett’s impact on the game extended well beyond the DeSmet practices and games. Over the years, he started numerous leagues, camps and clinics for youth and high school players. He coached state all-star teams in national events and was selected to coach national teams at U.S. Lacrosse events. On another level, Sennett annually attracted top-ranked NCAA teams (including his beloved Fighting Irish) to an event that he co-founded: the St. Louis Fall Face-Off, which brought nationwide exposure, recognition and respect for Missouri lacrosse. Most recently, Sennett also worked to found a lacrosse program at Matthews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club.
“The growth of lacrosse in St. Louis and throughout that part of the country is in large part due to Mike’s efforts and hard work,” says Corrigan. “Everything he did in St. Louis, he did from scratch and from his heart. He did not follow someone else’s blueprint or pick up a program and just run with it. He developed his own programs as an outgrowth of his own personality and love for working with young people.
“Mike had started winter leagues and was working with younger kids. He even had begun an inner-city lacrosse program – on the side of something else, which was done on the side of something else.
“To see that he went on to do in life, having such a great impact on people, is incredibly meaningful – as meaningful as anything could be from your own coaching career. To watch Mike go out and make a real difference on others is great to see.”
Sennett went on to swell with similar pride and contentment over the past 15-plus years, as he watched many of his former players go on to coach lacrosse at the youth and high school levels. Those players took to heart the many words of inspiration and advise from their coach, including a memorable message following the program’s first state championship in 1996 – when he instructed his players, “Don’t ever stop giving back…don’t ever stop.”
Throughout his life, Sennett never stopped giving back. In addition to his volunteer service as a fireman, he was an active member of St. Clement’s Parrish and helped organize various youth-group activities. He took on many roles in the Christian Business Men’s Club and served as a counselor during numerous Jesuit-sponsored Kairos retreats for high school-aged young men.
While receiving various coach-of-the-year and lacrosse man-of-the-year honors, Sennett helped send dozens of players on to play college lacrosse at the highest levels. Most of those players were from DeSmet, but they also included players from other schools who had a minimal connection to Sennett – through a camp or all-star team, or possibly by just being an opposing player from a rival team. Yet many of these players who were not “his guys” were ones that Sennett also sought to assist, helping give them a better chance at life through the experience of a college education and playing the game they loved at the next level.
“When Mike first got down to St. Louis, I knew the great respect others had for him,” says Corrigan. “Lacrosse is a tremendously competitive sport by nature, but Mike developed some great relationships with opposing coaches and players from other teams. If people took the time to get to know him, they realized it was hard to be his enemy. Other coaches were his rivals but they also were his friends and they had a great amount of respect for Mike.”
As a tribute to the contributions Sennett has made to lacrosse, teams across the state of Missouri are wearing special helmet decals that read “Count On Me,” throughout the remainder of the season. The DeSmet lacrosse teams regularly breaks its huddle with a “1-2-3 Count on Me” cheer, first introduced by Sennett as a simple three words that convey his focus on serving others (fittingly, DeSmet’s school motto is “Men for Others”). As one entry on the Sennett blog put it,”Count on me was not just a motivational war cry to begin their game, it was a paraphrase of Mike’s whole life.” … Note that Count on Me wristbands can be purchased for $6 from the DeSmet Lacrosse Club (write to: Count On Me; 615 Sunbridge Drive; Chesterfield, MO 63017).
The final full day of Mike Sennett’s live was spent where he loved to be, side-by-side with members of the DeSmet Jesuit lacrosse team that he considered his family.
Sennett was known as a fiery coach – with literally “steely” glances that would be balanced out by (as one blog entry phrased it) his trademark Cheshire grin. A telling aspect of his wide-reaching coaching philosophy often would come at the end workouts, as related in two of the blog entries:
“Coach always reserved five minutes at the end of practice for a member of the team to share a short story about his life. Good or bad, any story was welcome. He started off each season telling a story about his life and a new member of the team was selected each day. It was a great way to get to know your teammates, to bond, to become a solid team.” … “In order to make us a team, he had to break us down one by one. By doing that he both fostered our individuality and our chemistry as a team. I think Vince Lombardi would have been proud of the way Mike coached. He just got it.”
A common thread throughout the comments about Sennett references the ease with which he shifted from social groups, ranging from his own team to opposing coaches and players, from insurance and investment clients to his fellow volunteer firemen. He transcended age groups, equally comfortable advising adult friends on their marriage issues as he was with leading a teenage youth group or horsing around with a group of even younger kids. One friend recently dubbed her own family just “another branch of the Mike Sennett Fan Club.”
Says one writer in the Sennett blog: “There are friends and there is Mike. I do not think I have ever met someone so comfortable in their own skin. He lived his life like Popeye: `I am what I am.’ I played with him, against him and wish I could have been 16 playing for him. I used to hang out at his house, watching him string my stick and just loving it. He had this stringing kit that rivaled any I have ever seen.”
Adds another: “Mike was his own man. He never did anything to conform or be cool. He was not a slave to fashion or fad. Being a trendsetter is not how I will remember him. He was as solid as his nickname – Steel. He would never turn his back on you.”
Later this week, Corrigan and his current Irish team will be heading into the heart of lacrosse country to battle perennial power and fifth-ranked Johns Hopkins in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (the biggest win in ND history came vs. JHU, in the quarterfinals of the 2001 NCAAs; on that note, be sure to check out the first blog excerpt listed below, for a classic story of a late-80s matchup between Sennett and Dave Pietramala, the former standout defenseman who now coaches his alma mater at Hopkins). Notre Dame – like the high school teams throughout the state of Missouri – will have a little piece of Mike Sennett with them as they take the field versus the Blue Jays, as #40 decals have been added to the Irish helmets in recognition of the number worn so proudly by the man they called “Steel.”
“Mike just really wanted to stay involved in the game and loved working with young people,” says Corrigan. “What made him special was the way he did it, the way he connected with his players.
“It struck me how many people felt that they had a special relationship with Mike and how so many considered him part of their family. His life is a wonderful story of what one guy can do. It was not on some grand scale, but he made a special impact on one person at a time – and that’s something worth celebrating.”
Sennett is survived by his fiancee, Amber Mosbacher of Waterloo, Ill.; his parents, John and Dianne (nee Martin) Sennett of Ponta Vedra Beach, Fla.; three brothers, Thomas (Janet) Sennett of Troy, Mich., Tim Sennett of Orchard Lake, Mich., and Matthew (Beth) Sennett of Darien, Ill.; his sister, Julie (Michael) James of Dedham, Mass.; and eight nieces and nephews.
Memorial contributions may be made to Kenrick-Glennon Seminary (5200 Glennon Drive; St. Louis, MO 63119) or St. Louis Lacrosse Foundation, c /o Ren Pettinelli (1553 Morning Sun Drive; Ballwin, MO 63021).
REMEMBERING SENNETT blog excerpts
A collection of excerpts from the “Remembering Sennett” blog are included below (the full blog an be accessed at: http://rememberingsennett.blogspot.com/):
“I went to high school with Mike and we played on a state championship team together. Some others had more natural talent than Mike, but no one was going to outwork or out-hustle him. Mike and I both went on from Brother Rice High School to play lacrosse in college. It was a big step back then, because all of the spots on the college teams were filled by kids who had been playing lacrosse on the east coast – kids who had been playing the game since they were quite young. Mike and I both picked up the sport in high school and worked hard to learn the game. Mike and I were home from college one summer (I believe 1988) playing in a lacrosse league at Cranbrook in Michigan. Coach Bill Tierney, the head coach from Princeton, would come through Michigan each summer to have a lacrosse camp, with some great college players to help coach the camps. One of those players was Dave Pietramala, widely considered to be the greatest defenseman to ever play the game (he is now the Johns Hopkins head coach). In the evenings, those of us from the area who were trying to play college lacrosse would get together to scrimmage. This time some of the coaches from the camp decided to join in, including Pietramala, who would go on to become NCAA player of the year. He could take over a lacrosse game from the defensive end of the field – something I had not seen before in college lacrosse. That night Dave was having fun, taking the ball away from every one and running down and scoring multiple goals. When most attackmen caught the ball and Dave was covering them, they passed it as quickly as possible. Then Mike checked into the scrimmage. The first time Mike touched the ball (he was playing attack on the wing), he charged right at the mighty DavePietramala, drove him up high above the goal line extended, and then did a quick inside roll and fired the ball at the goal. Before anyone knew what happened, the ball went past the goalie’s ear into the net for a goal. Everyone just dropped their sticks and went crazy. Dave was shocked and a little embarrassed – he never thought he could get beat for a goal by some kid from Michigan. It took enormous guts of Mike to try that move against the greatest defenseman in the land. It is said that no one beat Pietramala during a college lacrosse game the entire year in 1989. Well, the summer before that season, Mike scored one-on-one against the greatest defenseman to ever play the game. It seems like that is how he lived his life – without fear. I am proud to have known him.”
“I have rarely met anyone who was willing to sacrifice so much time, effort, love and passion for nothing in return. I owe Coach Sennett a lot. He is the reason I played college lacrosse and have a college degree today. Lord knows where I’d be without him. He went out of his way for no reason. I only knew him through various winter leagues and camps. And he went out of his way for me? …..Why? Because that was who he was. Always putting himself before others.”
“Not too many men without children understand the importance of putting yourself at the eye level of a child. That simple, beautiful gesture truly touched my heart. But then, he was always putting himself at everyone’s eye level, making a connection with you that mattered. Unlike most of us who get broken down by life’s trials, I believe the struggles Mike went through in his life only made him more empathetic, more special. He was a great human being.”
“I didn’t really have someone to go to for advice on college, coach Sennett took the time to help me and my family work through it. I never played at DeSmet. He didn’t owe me anything. He did it because guiding and helping people is what he did best. In talking to a couple of my friends who played for Steel, there was one recurring theme and it really sums up the type of man he was. They all say that, aside from their fathers, Sennett was the strongest and most influential role model in their lives.”
“He is a big reason why there are 27 teams in Missouri and five more in Kansas. Every time you see a 5th grader, a high schooler or a college kid with a stick and helmet, remember that it was Mike Sennett who put it there.”
“He was not a selfish person. Mike would take time from his incredibly hectic schedule to answer a question or just talk. I am not sure what I will do without his friendship and kind words when I have gotten myself into a situation that only the wise words of Mike could answer.”
“After thinking it through, I can happily say that because of their kind words and Mike’s undying dedication and devotion to his beliefs in Christ and loving his friends, I decided to stick it out. Because of Mike’s patience, guidance and direction, I can say that my wife and I will celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary this year.”
“He wrote a letter of recommendation that helped me get into grad school. The man was the older brother I never had.”
“The thing that made Mike so different from other people was his ability to always bring something to the table. It could be an opinion, observation or an angle that I never had thought about, but whatever the case was, when I hung up the phone, I was thinking a little bit differently.”
“I often found it interesting and somewhat amazing how he could take a kid who had never looked at a lacrosse stick and turn him into a NCAA Division I player. What was he doing to make this happen? What drives a person to expect and accept nothing but the best from themselves and his players and actually be able to execute? For most people, it’s easier to talk about greatness and act like they care. For Mike, execution and dedication to people was standard operating procedure. I am talking about a guy who bankrolled exhibition lacrosse games, so that local kids and parents could see what the next level looks like. I could only hope to go out having touched so many in such a positive way.”
“He was a terrific example of what a Notre Dame man should be. He was humble and quiet in the office but a born leader. I remember running into a client of his at a Christmas party. They thought he hung the moon. What I’m learning is that their reaction was typical.”
“Professors would spend four years attempting to discipline students, but coach could accomplish that task in a matter weeks. After playing under coach, you earned instant credibility in the lacrosse community. He worked hard to ensure we understood the game.
“We have all witnessed our children learn more about life, commitment, spirituality, and lacrosse than from any other mentor. I was in awe as Mike introduced each of the varsity players and made separate, personalized, to-the-heart comments on each of these players. I could see each player walk away with beaming pride and sense of accomplishment.”
“I can honestly say that Mike Sennett has had a big part in who my husband is today and for that I will be eternally grateful to him.”
“I have never seen anyone engage themselves in the lives of other people as Mike did. He made it his mission to make each person he encountered a friend, and to build that friendship to its greatest potential.”
“To borrow a line from a Jack Nicholson movie, he made each of his players `want to be a better man.’ He taught them discipline and hard work and dedication as a team.”
“He was willing to try anything that showed even a glimpse of helping him to achieve his goals. He was beyond persistent and beyond tenacious. He wanted nothing short of excellence. The message was no different than what he demanded from his players every year. Never sell yourself short. Pour everything you have into it. Be reliable and learn to rely on others. He held himself to the same set of standards in his own life. He had countless tales of trying to live out these ideals in his daily life.”
“He understood more than any coach I have ever had that life extended beyond the playing field. He was a man who was not afraid to share his own problems and emotions with his players and would bend over backwards to help anyone with their own. I shared tears as well as laughs with coach during my time as a player and it was his willingness to do so that earned his player’s trust.”
“The first two things that grabbed my attention were his dynamic personality and his ability to cut to the core of you and know what makes you tick.”
“Steel was just that – the iron man in the middle. He wasn’t the best athlete on the team. He wasn’t the best attackman on the team. He just thought he could be. `Life’s battles don’t always go to the faster or stronger man, but to the man who thinks he can.’ That was a team motto while we were at Rice, and I think Mike took it completely on board. If you ever saw him play or watched him run, it was like a duck running to the water – not fast, not graceful, but got the job done.”
“Playing for him was an adventure where you could see the team actually growing as lacrosse players and as a group of young men. He has had a remarkable influence on my life as I embrace the time that I had with him, as a coach and a friend.”
“Mike Sennett’s emotions are born in my values helping me better realize who I am in this world. I will remember him for helping to mold me into the man I am today and I will share my life with others to help pass on his legacy.”
“He was always the guy that everyone wanted to talk to. He had a very special way of making you feel important when you were talking to him. He commanded the respect of an audience like no one else I have ever met. He spoke with such attention to detail that every word was significant and precise. In fact, everything he did in his life was precise. The man must have had his hair cut twice a week to keep it at an exact half-inch length. He wore the same white Nike high-tops to practice every day. His speeches and motivation were legendary. I clearly remember the talk he gave the team before the ’99 state championship game. It had nothing to do with strategy or hustle, but was a simple reminder to us about what it meant to be a part of the tradition that is DeSmet lacrosse. A reminder about everyone that had sacrificed to allow us to get to where we were. It truly was the most inspirational speech I have ever heard. Coach Sennett loved his players and made it well known that DeSmet lacrosse was his family. He built a family so strong that nothing will ever bring it down and his coaching days are far from over. The life lessons he taught us will be passed on forever. `Commitment to Excellence’ and `Count on Me’ became much more than words after you played for coach. He forced every player to achieve things beyond what they themselves believed, and he made each and every player accountable for their own actions.”
“My favorite quote of his was `Don’t mistake activity for achievement.’ He instilled that in me that every time I stepped onto the field, that I should be working to get better. I had never practiced like that before. He also was a coach who never left until everybody got the help that he needed.”
“It’s easy for all of us to agree he truly was a mountain of a man. I think, for me personally, the best way to honor him is much like a Zen saying: `When you get to the top of a mountain, keep climbing!’ I think that coach Sennett brought me to the top of a mountain in how he touched my life, and I know the best honor I could bestow to him is to keep climbing.”
“This loss transcends the DeSmet lacrosse community, but reaches out across the country to everyone involved with the game of lacrosse.”
“Mike worked long hours for little or no pay making DeSmet lacrosse as successful as it is, and I know of no other person who has given as much to that school and its students, and asked for so little in return.”
“How he could run a practice with 27 kids but at the same time play individual mind games to make us better players is such a testament to how dynamic and amazing of a man and coach he was.”
“Coach told us that `Vision Quest’ was one of the greatest movies of all time. After watching it, I better understood our coach. It was about challenging yourself and making sacrifices. Coach defined sacrifice, he gave everything he had to DeSmet and the game of lacrosse, he embodied `Men For Others’.”
“I remember his way of making you more than what you thought you could be. I remember the feeling I felt when he praised me. He was a true leader, in every sense of the word. He gave of himself time after time so that young men could succeed.”
“The most important thing I learned from Mike was `always be ready.’ I had to drive his car home for him one day and he was emphatic on backing the car into the garage. I asked why it was so important and he said, ‘As a fireman, you can’t waste any time when you get the call to get to the house. You have to ready at any time.’ “