Love and lacrosse: Father-son bond grows stronger with sport after loss of loved one

Grand Junction boys lacrosse coach James States provides direction for his son, Kris, before a lacrosse game Saturday at Canyon View Park. James was hoping his son would be a baseball player, but has embraced the sport of lacrosse.

James States had hopes his son would someday reach a level he didn’t on the baseball field.

States grew up in a baseball-playing family and earned a Division I college scholarship before injuries ended his career.

“Kris was our hope to go play professional baseball,” James States said. “He went to a Colorado Mammoth (indoor lacrosse) game at a birthday party when he was 5 years old. He came home and said he wanted to play lacrosse, not baseball.

“I said, ‘What, you’re kidding me.’ We went and watched a (lacrosse) game with him. Eleven years later, here we are (on a lacrosse field).”

Kris, now a Central High School sophomore, remembers the physical and acrobatic play in the Mammoth game. He plays for the Grand Junction High School team because Central doesn’t have its own lacrosse team.

“I saw guys getting wrecked and thought I want to go wreck somebody,” Kris States said. “The best part of it was somebody ran around the crease, dove in the net and threw it in behind the back. I wanted to try that and play. It looked like an interesting sport and thought I could be good at it.”

James had no choice but to learn lacrosse as well.

“We had it when I was younger, but it was just at the club level,” James said. “We joined a club in south suburban (Highlands Ranch). They had one team. I got lucky and worked with coaches that have played the sport in North Carolina. I decided this is what he’s going to do. I’m all in 150 percent. I studied the game day and night. It was the only sport he played.”

With James coaching Kris’ team, the father and son grew closer, especially after James’ wife and Kris’ mom died in 2004 of complications from diabetes.

“My mom left us when I was real little,” Kris said. “After my mom passed, my dad and I got closer.

“That’s been the best part of it. To have him by my side is the best part. He keeps motivating me to do better and better.”

James and Kris moved to the Grand Valley that same year Jacqueline died. James has since remarried and works at Wagner Equipment Company, but will always share lacrosse with his son.

The States and the Tigers (4-4) play Fruita Monument (6-4) at 5:30 p.m. today at Mesa State College’s Walker Field.

“I’ve played with the Fruita kids before,” Kris said. “There is a big rivalry. I’m not going to say I don’t like them, but I’m not a big fan of them.”

Kris hopes to play college lacrosse someday, but realizes it will take hard work, especially in the classroom.

“I wanted him to play baseball, but he wanted to play lacrosse and he convinced me,” James said. “As a parent, you want to support him in every way you can. I’m an athlete. I’m just like he is, I want to be out there, I want to win. If I don’t win, I want to lose playing hard. To be a part of it and watch him play and see this Junction team play so well, they’re all good kids. I feel lucky to be a part of these kids life.”


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