WESTFIELD, NJ — Lawrence H. “Skip” Prybylski III, whose life-long passion for lacrosse was a guiding force behind generations of Westfield kids growing up to play the sport at the youth, high school and college levels, died June 7 at the age of 77.

Prybylski was a co-founder, along with Tom Sprague, of the Westfield Lacrosse Club in the early 80s. He built a blueprint for youth lacrosse that stands today, making Westfield's one of the premier youth development programs in the state.

With the Westfield Lacrosse Club providing a feeder network for Westfield High School, both boys and girls teams have become a force in New Jersey. As recently as 2014, the boys' team won the state championships, and the girls' team made it to the sectional finals in 2018.

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Westfield lacrosse became a family affair for the Prybylskis as all four of Skip’s sons suited up for the Blue Devils in the 1980s: Hank, Mark, Tod and Matt. His grandsons, Luke and Owen Prybylski, benefitted as much from their grandfather’s vision as anyone, becoming high school All-Americans and New Jersey State Champions. Both currently play lacrosse for Villanova. Skip's sons remain active today in youth lacrosse as coaches or in league leadership positions.

“Our father got us engaged in sports at an early age,” said Hank Prybylski, Skip’s oldest son, who is a past president of the Westfield Lacrosse Club. “My dad always viewed youth lacrosse and the fundamentals of sports as a way to teach life lessons such as teamwork, leadership and determination.”

Skip Prybylski was born in Chicago on Dec. 28, 1941. The family moved to Garden City, New York, on Long Island when Skip was 10. It was there where Skip was introduced to lacrosse, playing with and against some of the best players in the country in youth and high school lacrosse. After starring for Garden City High School, he went on to have a solid career at the College of the Holy Cross.

“He didn’t really talk about his records or that type of stuff. He believed in humility,” said Hank, who followed his father to also play for Holy Cross. “His passion for the game carried over to us. His education and support taught us the game. It was always in a very supportive way.”

Skip and his wife, Petie, of 55 years, were married in 1964 and eventually settled in Westfield to raise their four boys. Sports were always the center of the boys’ activities, playing football, lacrosse and soccer with their father. Everything revolved around the nucleus of the family. In addition to their four sons, they have 13 grandchildren.

“My father always had a family first attitude,” Hank said. “It was clear that this was his number-one priority.”

As the sport of lacrosse experienced rapid growth, Skip worked with neighboring towns to help establish their own youth programs. In Westfield, Skip and Tom Sprague established a youth program whose goals were to teach lacrosse fundamentals and sportsmanship and prepare them for the high school team. In the early days, Skip also strung the sticks for high school teams.

“Everything he approached was around supporting others,” said Hank. “He found the most pleasure when others were successful and when he shared in that success. He was a very outward-looking person.”

Nowhere could that success be found more than in Westfield lacrosse. There was virtually no youth program before Skip Prybylski came on the scene. He created a way for thousands of kids over 30-plus years in Westfield to have fun playing lacrosse and learn the game. Some of those athletes went on to have terrific college careers. For others, they were great childhood memories. But for Skip, what mattered most was that Westfield lacrosse became a family.

“It’s a testament to Skip to see the kids come back and raise their own families in town and go on to coach and become leaders in the community,” said Dr. Randy Wojcik, Westfield Lacrosse Club Board Member, who played for Westfield and Dartmouth College.

A frequent contributor to TAPinto Westfield, Mike Cohen is the founder and director of Throwback Sport (a sports program for children of all abilities) and the sports editor of Education Update. He can be reached at throwbacksports@verizon.net.

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