Schools Sports

Circling Back: Hall High School Lacrosse Alumnus Returns as Head Coach

The Blum family: Keith, his wife, Karissa, son RJ , and daughter Evie. Courtesy of Keith Blum

A new head coach will lead the boys lacrosse program at West Hartford’s Hall High School when practice begins on March 18, 2024.

By Michelle Bonner

In sports, the journey often resembles a thrilling odyssey – filled with highs, lows, and unexpected twists that define an athlete’s path. And then, there are those extraordinary instances when the wheel of time completes its revolution, bringing athletes back to where it all began.

These full-circle moments, akin to celestial alignments in the athletic universe, carry an undeniable sense of nostalgia and accomplishment.

As Hall High School’s lacrosse program eagerly welcomes back Keith Blum, it marks a meaningful return to the very grounds where he left it all on the field during his playing years – embodying the cyclical nature of sports narratives.

Graduating in 1999, Blum’s first touch of a lacrosse stick was as a Hall freshman, igniting a deep connection with the sport that laid the foundation for his homecoming.

“It’s a little surreal,” shared Blum. “This really is a full-circle moment, and it means so much more because I played here at Hall. To return 25 years later brings a profound sense of connection and purpose.”

Keith Blum at Nichols College. Courtesy of Keith Blum

After playing lacrosse at Ithaca College and Nichols College, earning accolades such as team MVP, 1st Team All-Conference, and CCC Scholar Athlete of the Year, Blum seamlessly transitioned into coaching. While the current return to Hall is undeniably a full-circle moment, the roots of this journey were firmly planted during his tenure as the Hall freshman and JV coach in the mid-2000s, eventually paving the way for his role as the head coach at Watkinson School where he led the team to its first-ever conference tournament win.

“My competitive nature is what inspired me to want to coach,” remarked Blum. “Having experienced both positive and negative aspects from playing various sports and having many coaches, including my background in baseball, basketball, and soccer, I gained valuable insights that I can share with the players.”

For Blum, coaching transcends the tactical intricacies of the game. He envisions this role as a platform to support student-athletes in overcoming challenges reminiscent to the teenage experience he faced 25 years ago – an enduring connection through the ages.

“I understand the many external pressures and peer influences that teenagers, particularly student-athletes, navigate daily, juggling academic responsibilities alongside their athletic commitments. My goal is to help them find their direction, instill a sense of purpose, and foster personal growth both on and off the field.”

Describing his leadership style, Blum emphasizes an approach that encourages learning from mistakes rather than harsh criticism. “I want the kids to learn, so instead of yelling and/or screaming, I want to coach them and make them realize 1. It’s okay to make a mistake; and 2. Learn from your mistake,” he explained.

“Winning is certainly a goal, but my emphasis is on fostering a team-first culture. It’s essential that every kid feels welcomed both on and off the field, and, above all, I want everyone to have fun. But more importantly, I consider sportsmanship to be a cornerstone, recognizing its significance in shaping not just skilled athletes but well-rounded individuals.”

Blum acknowledges that rebuilding the program might be a gradual process, especially given the turnover it has experienced in recent years. He is now the third head coach of the varsity team in the past four years but is determined to bring stability and positive change.

“While the coaching turnover has impacted the team’s development, my commitment is unwavering. I work at the school, so I plan on staying as long as they’ll have me or until I can no longer physically continue. I think I can change the culture and the perception of Hall boys lacrosse now and for years to come.”

Reflecting on the team’s capabilities, Blum acknowledges the talent but underscores the importance of bringing together various elements for success.

“As I assess the team’s dynamics, it’s evident that we possess considerable talent. However, to truly thrive, we must align the pieces of the puzzle, recognizing the strengths and addressing the weaknesses. Self-doubt emerges as a challenge, so it will be critical to emphasize the need for each player to understand and embrace their role within the team. It’s a process, but I’m committed to growth and unity on the field. I want everyone to come to practice, not just show up to games.”

Outside of lacrosse, Blum is a family man. He shares his life with his wife, Karissa, and their two children, RJ (4) and Evie (2), who are still discovering the sport by occasionally stealing his lacrosse stick.

As Hall High School’s lacrosse program welcomes back one of its own, the return of Keith Blum embodies the timeless connection of past, present, and future – not just as a leader but as a custodian of traditions and a catalyst for the next chapter in the legacy of Hall High School lacrosse.

“Working at the school where I once walked the halls as a student, living in close proximity to those familiar grounds, and now coaching the very team that ignited my passion for the sport – it’s more than a full-circle journey; it’s a heartfelt reunion with the essence of my own history.”

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