Not surprisingly, Stephen Strosser peppers his speech with “yes, sirs” and “no, sirs,” a habit formed while serving four years in the Navy.
Discharged last August, he’s now pursuing his Ed.D. in Organizational Learning, Leadership and Innovation at Wilmington University and preparing for his first season on the lacrosse team.
A confluence of circumstances brought him — actually, brought him back — to the University.
About two years ago, while stationed in Romania, Strosser started planning for his return to civilian life. He began by searching the internet for coaching jobs in the sport he loves — lacrosse. That search led him to the discovery that WilmU had established a lacrosse program, with 2018 being the inaugural season. What’s more, the school had an opening for an assistant coach.
The situation seemed ideal: Strosser had grown up in Delaware and planned to move back to his parents’ home in Dover after his discharge; he was familiar with the University, having received a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice just before entering the Navy; he had earned a master’s degree while in the Navy and could pursue a doctorate at WilmU, with the goal of becoming a college athletic director.
And finally, his competitive juices kicked in. “I thought, oh, man, I’m not coaching. I’m playing if there’s a team that close.”
Strosser had a solid grounding in the sport. He had been a top defender at Polytech High School in Woodside, Delaware, and team captain and Regional Defensive Player of the Year while earning his associate degree at Delaware Technical Community College.
Wilmington Coach Christian Zwickert welcomed the ex-sailor to his young team, but couldn’t help wondering if Strosser’s skills had atrophied a bit.
“When Steve reached out to me while he was stationed in Romania with the Navy, I wasn’t sure what type of player he would be, considering he hadn’t played lacrosse for several years,” says Zwickert. “He had played on my club team, Delaware Silverbacks Lacrosse Club, while in high school and was a fast, tough kid but was just an average player.”
Strosser’s performance and dedication quickly dispelled all of Zwickert’s doubts. A hard 5-10 and 170 pounds, Strosser loves contact (he played football at Polytech) and brings loads of enthusiasm to the field and the weight room.
“Steve has been a tremendous asset and addition to the program,” the coach says. “Since arriving on campus he’s been a leader on the field, in our strength and conditioning, and in the locker room. He drives from Dover every day and is the first to arrive for every work event. Watching him play, you would never know he hasn’t played in several years.”
At 26, Strosser is the oldest member of the team, which Zwickert views as a bonus. “Being the ‘old guy,’ he brings leadership and maturity to the team with his real-world experiences. We look for him to contribute a lot on and off the field.”
Strosser, in turn, calls Zwickert “a great coach,” adding: “He’s not all about winning and losing. He treats us like adults who will be working someday. He’s preparing us for life, not just lacrosse.”
Strosser is proud and grateful to have served his country, and for the benefits he derived from that service. He was stationed in Texas and California before being transferred to Romania, where he was a master-at-arms, protecting assets vital to national security. The Navy paid for his master’s degree while he was in the service and the G.I. Bill is helping him earn his doctorate.
He spent much of last fall and winter refereeing and coaching lacrosse for the Kent Country Parks and Recreation Department. Early this year, he moved from Dover to an apartment in Newark to cut down on his commute and allow more time for his studies. He hopes to receive his degree in the spring of 2021.
“I’m trying not to think about that and just take it a semester at a time,” he says.