As a coach, Kirk Ventiquattro is no stranger to the power of motivational speeches, but a year ago, he never thought his words would ever mean as much as they do today. It's now about much more than just lacrosse. As our Brian Dwyer reports in the 3rd and final part of his series, Coach V is using his battle against stage 4 prostate cancer and his message of hope as an example for others.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, N.Y. -- As his Carthage Comets lacrosse team was about to take the field, Kirk Ventiquattro's words were clear: win. But the message was about more than a game.
Ventiquattro is no stranger to cancer. Colon cancer took his father 16 years ago, and that's when Coach V said he made his first of several mistakes.
Ventiquattro said, “I made a conscious decision right then and there not to get involved with the American Cancer Society. Not to get involved with Relay for Life. This was never going to affect me again, I had my turn. I was dead wrong."
Carthage got off to a hot start. Jumping out to a 3-nothing lead over General Brown. They looked unstoppable. Kirk Ventiquattro felt unstoppable. So much so he ignored his own health.
All men should be tested for prostate Cancer at the age of 40. He said he should have known better, when you drop your guard.
Ventiquattro said, “I had this disease, doctors estimate, for two to three years and that was a mistake on my part. I feel like I let myself down, but more importantly I let down my family. It was a month before I could look at myself in the mirror because I guess what, I put something else ahead of my family."
In lacrosse, the goalie is the last line of defense and can often make a huge save. Ventiquattro has several goalies, his doctors, his family, his team, his determination. He's still got work to do, but his PSA testing is undetectable and coach truly feels he's healed. And he's not about to make the same mistakes again.
"I could kick myself for making that conscious decision. I was wrong and I'm going to use the rest of my man years to be an advocate for the American Cancer Society, an advocate for awareness of prostate cancer and to be an advocate for my faith. That's how I'll overcome,” said Ventiquattro.
And in a way only a coach could, he's getting that message out. And the community has embraced it. The team, their families pass out these cards at games, instead of winning, you donate what you scratch. A booth at the gate sells these Coach 24 t-shirts to raise money for cancer research.
Daniel Conlin, a senior midfielder said, “Everyone knows someone that's going through cancer. Now that Coach V is going through this fight, he's a big part of this community. He's helped so many people go to college and establish their lives. So I think it's kind of giving back."
Andrew Swords, a senior defenseman said, “We're playing lacrosse, but we're playing for more than that. We're playing for Coach V. We're playing for Taylor Morgan's dad and Mr. Ames. It's more than just lacrosse this year."
"No longer am I putting myself ahead of anything. I'm putting others in front of myself. And that's the message to the kids. Care about the guy to your left and your right. That's the most important thing in your world,” said Ventiquattro.
And in a world where opponents are enemies, East Syracuse , Minoa came to Carthage in early April, a big game. But when each Spartan took the field, enemies joined forces. Every player bought a Coach 24 shirt and wore them throughout the entire pre-game.
Jon McCoy, the ES-M Head Coach said, “I had a conversation with the players at lunch time today in regards to the purpose of wearing these t-shirts. The lacrosse community, coming together with the support. It's bigger than the game."
Ventiquattro said, “What a tribute to the cause. I was so pleased and so happy. That was a lot more important to today's game and I'm always going to remember that, and our kids too."
Taylor Morgan, a junior defenseman said, “It means a lot because we're trying to spread the word and get people to donate and get people to react and realize they need to get checked out for cancer."
And react is exactly what the Comets did on Parent Night. The final home game of the year, a victory. The 2012 Carthage Comets one step closer to establishing a legacy.
Ventiquattro said, “Cancer is not a death sentence. It's not going to be for me and it doesn't have to be for them for their loved ones."
Coach V said he plans to return to coaching in 2013 and hopes to coach for many more years. For more information on the American Cancer Society, you can visit its website at www.cancer.org.