40: The Mike Sennett Story
A new tradition in the De Smet Jesuit lacrosse program honors the great impact former coach Mike Sennett had on the program
May 2, 2014
“Count on Me.”
This phrase, which is heard frequently around the lacrosse program, was coined by the man who started it all — Mike Sennett. Although he lived a short life, his impact is still being felt.
Sennett was a native of Detroit, Mich., played lacrosse at Notre Dame and was captain of the Fighting Irish his senior year. Once Sennett moved to St. Louis in, he founded the De Smet Jesuit lacrosse program in 1991. De Smet Jesuit was one of the first schools in Missouri to have a lacrosse program.
As a coach, Sennett led the team to six state championships (1996-99, 2001-02).
Sennett’s life came to an end while he was with his team in South Bend, Ind., for a tournament in 2007. After experiencing chest pains, he suddenly died of a heart attack. He was 38 years old.
Through his legacy, a new tradition has been established at De Smet Jesuit. Each year, a player will be chosen to wear the number Sennett wore during his time as a player — the No. 40.
“He was a hard-nosed player. He was always focused on the interest of the team in general. It was never about him. It was about everyone else,” junior defenseman Brian Pandolfo said, who was chosen to be the first De Smet Jesuit player to wear the number 40.
A tradition that was adopted from the Notre Dame lacrosse program, the player who wears this jersey is chosen for his representation of the values he upheld.
These values revolve around putting the team before oneself and doing everything to make the team better, according to Pandolfo.
“Brian has a motor; it is always on. He doesn’t take plays off in practice and is always pushing himself and his teammates in a positive way. He leads by example and takes care of others. [He] understands what it means to say ‘Count on Me’ to his teammates,” varsity lacrosse head coach Ron Kelam said, who played for Sennett.
Sennett would do everything he could to help his players, including those from other schools around the area with anything from getting into colleges to getting them into showcase tournaments. He coached not only at De Smet Jesuit, but he went on to coach state and national teams. Sennett was inducted into the inaugural class of the Missouri Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2005.
“Mike was not overly emotional, so when he exploded or praised, everyone took notice. He expected everything from you all the time,” Coach Kelam said.
Many give credit to Sennett for bringing lacrosse to St. Louis.
“Mike is considered by many the father of lacrosse in St. Louis. He was involved with the start of the De Smet team, one of the original four, as well as many other teams and events until he died,” Coach Kelam said.
The impact he left is felt by not only players past, but players present as well.
“He basically set a fire in St. Louis for lacrosse. If it wasn’t for him, we probably wouldn’t be playing lacrosse right now,” Pandolfo said.
His efforts to spread lacrosse through Missouri led to the creation of the Missouri Scholastic Lacrosse Association and St. Louis Face-Off, which brings many of the top-rated NCAA scouts to Missouri.
“While many teams grew in the area, Mike treated the program as a varsity sport from day one. This created an environment that athletes wanted to be involved with. Through his hard work, he laid the foundation for the wonderful relationship the lacrosse program has with the school,” Coach Kelam said.
According to Pandolfo, Sennett always preached about giving back to the game. There are more than 30 De Smet Jesuit alumni who are coaching in the St. Louis area who played for Sennett.
“Every coach in the program has been touched by Mike in some way — coached by him, coached by a coach that was coached by him or had significant contact with him during their high school or college career. His legacy lives in coaches and players continuing to push themselves and each other to be an example to others on and off the field,” Coach Kelam said.
The Count on Me Foundation was created in 2011 by a group of former players who wanted to give back to the game the same way their former coach preached. The main goal of the foundation is to give kids who want to play — but do not have the financial means to play — the opportunity to do so.
According to Coach Kelam, the new lacrosse wall will be dedicated to Sennett on April 26.