From college playing to high school coaching: Coach Keri Panarelli’s lacrosse journey

Yin Fei, Staff Writer

Girls Varsity Lacrosse Coach Keri Panarelli, influenced by her accumulation of a profound love for the sport, reminisces about her prime collegiate years as a lacrosse player at Hofstra University, as well as their effects on her current career at the school.
Panarelli was first exposed to the world of lacrosse in sixth grade before going on to play Division One in college, club, and on a couple of other teams afterwards, one of which was through Nyack, to add to her lifetime of experience.
Although she played several sports growing up, such as basketball, field hockey, and softball, she found that she was the best at lacrosse. She immediately fell in love with the sport and her desire grew to a point where she found herself playing lacrosse and wall ball every single day, she said.
“It wasn’t a job for me,” Panarelli said. “It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I have to go to lacrosse practice today or I have to play this weekend or this summer. It was just fun for me.’”
She remembers sharing catches with her dad during their pastime, which was a memory she especially enjoyed, she said.
Later on in her lacrosse journey, Panarelli used her talent on the field to help herself with her college applications as well as with some of her own insecurities and stress.
“I didn’t know if I was good enough to be honest. I didn’t really have a lot of confidence,” she said.
Initially, she was also feeling a bit discouraged that she was not receiving the desired scholarships from her other sports. In light of her not necessarily reaping the outcomes she was expecting, she was instead being rewarded offers with the opportunity to play on the D1 level for lacrosse after receiving more recognition for her excellence in both games and practice later on in highschool, she said.
“Once I started getting letters and recruiting from coaches, I thought, ‘Oh, maybe I can do this,’” her coach said.
Panarelli holds fond moments of her time with lacrosse dear to her heart as well. As a senior, she was the captain on the Hofstra Women’s Lacrosse team which went 8-8 overall. “Playing on the collegiate level in a state away from where I grew up was amazing. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
She made many new friends that she still has today, whether they were her fellow teammates or even just other athletes who gravitated towards each other because of their dedication to their sports and similar interests in that regard. “It’s like a cultural thing. Once you’re in the lacrosse world, you kind of know everyone.”
Her younger self especially relied on lacrosse to carry her when the overwhelming stress that inevitably came with a rigorous education caught up with her. “Everytime I stepped onto the field, I didn’t have to worry about anything. You know, you just played,” she said.
All of these moments within her life caused her to seriously consider her future with lacrosse, and how she could continue to incorporate her passion into her daily life, even as she became an adult.
Panarelli said that it was a number of significant encounters with her own coaches that inspired her to choose such a career today. “I had a coach growing up and I didn’t have a lot of confidence. She really instilled confidence in me and she was the one who made me believe that I could play and I could succeed.”
She even had to work with a coach who was really hard on her and whose methods she did not agree with as being positive for cultivating a strong athlete. “I promised myself that if I were ever to become a coach, I wouldn’t deal with situations the way that she did with me. It was really important for me to not do that to athletes. I wanted to be a different type of coach than she was.”
Her different coaches influenced her into becoming the coach and person she is today and the ways in which she attempts to inspire young athletes. This exposure to different teaching methods made her realize that if and when she became a coach, she would need to learn from the other coaches good and bad habits, in order to formulate the ideal coach she would have wanted as a child.
Not only was she influenced by her previous coaches, but also by her family with her husband who also played lacrosse at Hofstra, her son currently playing, and with her parents’ constant encouragement and support from a very young age. “My parents were the ones that said, you know you can do this, you can be a great coach. And they would also come to the games in the beginning when I worked here.”
After her personal struggle with the pressure of school, Panarelli wishes that she can get this message across to her girls: “You step on the field and you have two, three hour practices and you don’t have to worry about anything else. Just play. Just have fun.
“School work will be there when you’re done. The tests are going to be there, but for those two, three hours, just live in the moment.”
“She knows when to be stern, when to be more laid-back with us, and her coaching style is so easy to follow,” Laila Farmer (10). “She always is able to motivate us with her words and demonstrate her skill set when teaching us. Coach P is honestly one of the best coaches I’ve ever had the privilege of working with, “ she said
Despite her immense and expansive knowledge, most of which she has from first hand experience, Panarelli still aspires to continue to do better and better with learning more about the game that has changed tremendously from when she played in high school and college.
“Now it’s totally different. A lot of new rules, a lot of cool roles that I’m still learning about. So it’s my job as a coach to learn them, to still go to clinics, to read online, to stay updated and to make sure that I give my players the best knowledge of the game that I can.”
Panarelli has high hopes that the upcoming season will be great and is very excited to work with her girls in the spring.
“Just to see the girls really appreciate what you do, when they thank you and just say, ‘wow, you taught me so much,’ makes me love what I do and realize this is where I belong and I was meant to do this.”