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Drew Roggenburk '88 and the Transformation of Lacrosse in Cleveland

By Joe Ginley '12, 07/25/19, 8:45AM EDT


Roggenburk (second from left) has been a key figure in Northeast Ohio lacrosse since joining the Wildcats' inaugural team in 1987.

Lacrosse has come a long way since Drew Roggenburk '88 roamed the halls of Saint Ignatius.

The sport has become more popular across the country, with the sport spreading like wildfire into communities across the United States.

While Saint Ignatius has fielded a lacrosse team since the late 1980s, the sport did not fully take root in Ohio until the past 10-15 years, culminating with the OHSAA recognizing lacrosse in 2017. Much of the growth, however, occurred at suburban schools. In major cities across the state, there's been little to no representation of lacrosse in urban environments until very recently. 

Drew Roggenburk has dedicated much of his time to growing the game in Cleveland. A financial advisor by day, Roggenburk has devoted much of his free time to lacrosse. Since US Lacrosse founded a North Coast Chapter in 2006, Roggenburk has been heavily involved in helping to grow the sport "the right way" for all ages and boys and girls with an emphasis on youth.  

His initiative has not gone unnoticed. Roggenburk received Man of the Year honors as voted upon by lacrosse coaches in OHSAA's Region 1 (Northeast Ohio). 

So, just exactly how has Roggenburk transformed lacrosse in Cleveland?

His story begins in the 1980s. Lacrosse was beginning to grow across the country, but was a near-unknown in Northeast Ohio. Only University School and Western Reserve Academy fielded lacrosse teams. That is, until 1987.

Few Wildcats had heard of or played lacrosse when the Schlageter family moved to Cleveland in the summer of 1986. Stephen '88 and David '89 transferred to Saint Ignatius from Brother Rice High School in Birmingham, Michigan, a perennial lacrosse power. To the disappointment of the Schlageters, Saint Ignatius did not offer the sport. So, Bill Schlageter approached Rev. Robert Welsh, S.J. '54 and Rev. Ken Styles, S.J., then the president and principal about starting a program. Welsh and Styles blessed the venture, offering support and resources. 

Over the winter, the student body was encouraged to give lacrosse a chance. The students responded, with 100 Wildcats signing up for tryouts. At the first practice in January 1987, 73 young men showed up. Among those bright young men was Drew Roggenburk.

Under the direction of head coach Edmond Aghajanian, the sport transitioned from a club in 1987 to a varsity sport in 1988. As the Wildcats molded in a cohesive unit, Roggenburk developed into a stud defenseman. His athleticism served him well, as Roggenburk became a key part of the defense. His leadership skills also earned him the title of captain for the 1988 season.

"It was a lot of fun. We were pioneering into an unknown sport," Roggenburk said. "We were playing anyone who would play us, a lot of JV teams of established teams, from Columbus and Michigan and Toledo. It was a good group of guys and we had a lot of fun."

During his time at Wildcat High, Roggenburk discovered a unique and binding aspect of lacrosse. 

"I learned about the unique community inside the game. It's one of the reasons I'm so involved today," Roggenburk said. "It's the type of sport where you get in a car, drive 4 hours to play a game, and go home. Most other traditional sports wouldn't drive to Indianapolis to play one game recreationally, but we did that kind of thing."

After graduating in 1988, Roggenburk headed to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He played on the club team, originally intending to transfer to play with a varsity team at another school. But Roggenburk fell in love with the school and decided to stay at Miami.

Roggenburk earned a bachelor of science degree in accounting from Miami and joined PwC in May 1992. Four years later, Roggenburk was hired by McDonald & Company. The business was later sold to UBS, where he works to this day as a certified financial planner professional. Roggenburk has 23 years of service at UBS in acquisitions.

Upon returning home, Roggenburk joined the Saint Ignatius coaching staff as an assistant. For a while, Roggenburk served as the freshmen coach. He also worked with Dave Blue to run non-profit clinics with Great Lakes Lacrosse every year in late winter/early spring. 

In the early 2000s, as lacrosse began to grow in Northeast Ohio, Roggenburk started to become more involved in different ways. He helped in a variety of ways, mostly through US Lacrosse. In 2006, US Lacrosse, the governing body of the sport, founded the North Coast Chapter to grow lacrosse in the area. 

Roggenburk provided invaluable assistance to Dave Cerny, who served as the president of the chapter for several years. Cerny coached Roggenburk in the 1980s and returned to Saint Ignatius as an assistant coach in 2019. 

After serving as treasurer for a few years, Roggenburk was named president in February 2017, assuming the reins of the North Coast Chapter. Roggenburk continued Cerny's great work and launched a variety of new initiatives. 

Chief among Roggenburk's efforts have been to introduce the game to young boys and girls in Cleveland. Roggenburk paired with the City of Cleveland Schools, YMCAs, and even Muny Football to bring the game to kids. One of the most effective ways of bringing the game to new kids is via "Learn to Play" clinics at near Westside schools, arranging the donation of free sticks and gear to schools. Ohio City, in particular, has benefited from Roggenburk's efforts.

In November 2017, Roggenburk spearheaded the effort to hire Matt Burke as the full-time Lacrosse Manager for Near West Recreation, which is Ohio City Inc.’s youth sports recreation department. Over the last two years, Burke has organized several youth clinics, attracting hundreds of kids from the neighborhood and bringing in volunteer coaches from local colleges and universities.  

One of Roggenburk's top accomplishments was helping to build a $150,000 lacrosse field at Urban Community School. Since its grand opening, the field has been a wonderful space for UCS students and other local kids to learn and play the game. 

"Some of it has been luck, some has been great timing, and some has been good old-fashioned hard work," Roggenburk said. "We've been fortunate to have tremendous partners at US Lacrosse. It's an obvious thing to do – offer the game to kids in the inner city. We started the Ohio City Clinic 4-5 years ago, and as it happened, US Lacrosse was developing a pilot program to get resources into inner-city pockets, hoping the game grows out from there. They asked, 'Where do we start?' Well, we had our very successful clinic in Ohio City paired with Saint Ignatius, UNITAS, and others, with over 100 kids in attendance getting free sticks and jerseys. US Lacrosse saw that and started a pilot program here. We're their model pilot and one they've learned a lot from for the next stage."

Since 2017, Roggenburk has raised a grand total of $240,000 earmarked for the development of lacrosse to the City of Cleveland. Beyond the building of the field, his efforts are starting to come to fruition with new teams. 

This past spring, Near West Rec fielded a boys and girls 7th/8th-grade team. The squad was a fully equipped team, practicing and competing with other area rec and CYO teams. And in 2020, the City of Cleveland Schools will be having both a varsity boys and girls team at their Campus International School. The goal is for other CMSD schools in the Senate to start lacrosse teams for boys and girls.

"This effort was born out of the chapter's intent to introduce the game to kids who might not have played due to obvious barriers and develop the same kind of love we have for it," Roggenburk said. "Not just a clinic, but a passion. Maybe lacrosse can be an entrance into college, or something leading kids to think about education. It could be a positive change in their life." 

And as it relates to Saint Ignatius, Arrupe Summer Program campers have played lacrosse at UCS in the last two summers. 

"His coordination and perseverance in this effort has made it happen," Cerny said.

Roggenburk, however, is very quick to deflect the credit.

"[UCS has] been exceptional. The confluence of events that took place is mind-boggling, it's a butterfly effect," Roggenburk said. "Tom Gill '01 with UCS and John Gill '97 with Arrupe paired Ohio City Clinic with Arrupe. Jamie Hunt at US Lacrosse had a friend on our board, and helped with the pilot and foundation. UCS became the point where we based this. And as it happens, I coached Tom Gill as a freshman. It's amazing how intertwined things were and how it all worked out."

Roggenburk makes it seem like he was a small part of the process. But take it from Dave Cerny – Roggenburk has been a key cog in making it all happen. 

"Drew has significantly contributed to the board and its efforts, in particular, the last three years as President he has led the board to a number of accomplishments," Cerny said. "Drew has been a mainstay of local lacrosse as a player/coach/administrator since he initially picked up a stick and learned the game in Saint Ignatius's first year in 1987. He has contributed in many areas and has given his time in his appreciation of the sport."

Roggenburk is not a man for awards. He does not crave attention and recognition. That's why he was surprised when he won the Man of the Year for the OHSAA's Region 1.

"I jokingly responded to individuals who congratulated me – it's the tallest midget award," Roggenburk laughed. "But I was very honored to receive it. It's a recognition of some of the work we've done. It doesn't change what we want to accomplish. It was nice to be acknowledged, but I don't place a lot of credence in awards." 

Whether or not he likes awards, Roggenburk deserves recognition for his outstanding efforts.

"I've known for Drew for a long time, as a friend and fellow lacrosse coach, and I have great admiration for him," said Saint Ignatius Head Lacrosse Coach Mason Wynocker '91. "I'm really happy to work with him through my role at Saint Ignatius. If anyone deserves this recognition, it's Drew. He's done lots of great things for lacrosse in Northeast Ohio."