Favorite athlete: Joel Embiid
Favorite team: Eagles
Favorite memory competing in sports: Scoring the game-winning goal in overtime in lacrosse against Plymouth Whitemarsh, which secured a playoff spot.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: When I was in sixth grade playing on a Township Basketball team, I accidentally went the wrong way on the court and scored the game-winning basket for the other team.
Music on mobile device: I listen to a lot of Rap and Hip Hop music.
Future plans: My future plans are to attend and play lacrosse at Amherst College.
Words to live by: “Lead from out front”
One goal before turning 30: Earn a graduate degree.
One thing people don’t know about me: I played the saxophone for many years
By Ed Morrone
Hank Resch – a lacrosse coach for 40 years - doesn’t have to think too long or look very far to identify one of the best players he’s ever had on one of his teams.
That would be Paul Richardson, and luckily for Resch, he’s still got another full season of Richardson to look forward to at Springfield Township High School.
“He’s really, really good,” Resch said of his star midfielder, who has 115 career goals. “Paul’s a big kid with really good speed. He plays with both hands, sees the whole field and is very unselfish. He’s our best defender, best ground ball guy, best shooter…tough kid, resilient, plays his best in close games. He’s such a complete player, and he also makes other kids better and gives them confidence.
“I can’t think of a single weakness in his game. Paul’s also respected throughout the state, which is a bit unusual considering Springfield is a very small school and Suburban One is not a traditionally strong lacrosse powerhouse in Pennsylvania. For people to be aware of him and what he can do is remarkable. I’m not blowing smoke - he is that good.”
When told of his veteran coach’s effusive praise, Richardson modestly deferred, saying that Resch “gives me too much credit.” However, it’s not just Resch who sees the special, difference-making credibility that Richardson brings to a program. Richardson’s soccer coach at Springfield, where he also stars as a center back, gushed over the senior’s ability to prevent hopeful scorers from getting good looks at the net.
Furthermore, coach Dan Meder insisted that Richardson’s cerebral nature and ability to make changes on the fly in a game is a major reason why Springfield still had a shot at the district playoffs entering the final week of the season, although the Spartans came up short.
“Paul is the total package,” the Spartans' soccer coach said. “He’s got it all.”
Thanks to Richardson’s dogged defending on the back line, the Spartans allowed just 22 goals in 15 games, and it says a lot about Richardson as a person that he is pouring so much of himself into his secondary sport, especially after committing to play lacrosse at Amherst College back in August.
“Soccer isn’t my top sport, but that certainly isn’t going to stop me from trying my hardest,” Richardson said. “I’m a competitive person who wants to win at anything I do. Just because soccer’s not number one doesn’t mean I’m going to go out there and just mess around; no, I’m going to try so hard to get better every day to help the team win games and hopefully make the playoffs and win a championship.”
Richardson believes in what he says, which should make Springfield opponents very nervous. As Resch said, it’s a very small school, but according to Richardson, that doesn’t mean that the Spartans can’t compete with anyone they step on the field with.
“It’s very important to me that we build a strong community within the team,” Richardson said. “If we do that, it means we can pass it along to the underclassmen and instill our values in the generations to come.
“Just because we’re a small school doesn’t mean we can’t beat a big team. I want to make everyone feel involved and give them the sense that they - and we - can do anything they put their minds to. I’ve made sure that everyone knows that, and it’s something I believe in my heart that we can compete with anyone in the state if we play well.”
It would be one thing if this sentiment was no more than standard athletic cliché spouting, but Richardson backs up his talk. In lacrosse, Springfield has made the playoffs in all three of his varsity seasons; not only that, the Spartans’ record has improved each year, with the team finishing atop the SOL American Conference a season ago - along with Wissahickon and Upper Dublin - with a 7-1 record.
That, says Resch, is no coincidence.
“He was voted the unanimous best midfielder in the conference and was named all-state based on that,” Resch said. “He’s brought the whole program along, no doubt about it.”
Resch shared a story when he first realized that Richardson was in another orbit of players he has coached. It was Richardson’s sophomore year, and the team was playing Plymouth Whitemarsh, a much bigger school that typically dominated Springfield. The Spartans were down two goals with two minutes left in the game, and Richardson scored the winning goal with three seconds left.
“He went through three people to score that goal,” Resch said. “That’s when I realized just how good he was. Paul’s something special, just a natural and a gamer.”
Richardson knows he’s a good lacrosse player. After all, you don’t get recruited by Division I programs like Rutgers, Bucknell and Bryant if you don’t have what it takes; however, what makes Richardson stand out is the belief he possesses in those around him. Without his teammates, he humbly said, there’s no chance he ascends to become the face of the lacrosse program.
“Being cool under pressure, it’s not just me in the moment,” he said. “I have other people out there with me, and I know if I get double teamed, I can move the ball to someone else with confidence. I don’t have to be the one to shoot and score all the time because I believe in my teammates to finish and execute.
“That thought calms me down out there, and I learned last year that if I lose my temper or get upset about something, that affects the rest of the team and makes them think they’re doing a bad job. I want to support, not tear down, and I know I’m with a bunch of guys — in lacrosse and soccer — who have my back so I don’t have to carry it all myself.”
It’s that type of attitude that makes Richardson a different kind of star athlete. Even by his own admission, Richardson is cut from a different cloth than most. It’s not every day that a high school kid will pass up a potential opportunity to play at the Division I level to go the Division III route. That’s not a knock on Amherst, either, a school that played for a Division III national championship a year ago; rather, in the age of social media instant glorification and gratification, it’s just surprisingly refreshing to hear about a kid making a mature, informed decision based on how it will impact his future five, 10, 20 years from now.
“I am different from a lot of other people,” Richardson said. “My main goal for lacrosse has always been to use it to try to get into the best academic school possible. I feel like I was able to do that with Amherst. Not only that, but Coach (Jon) Thompson was super positive about everything. He complimented me and critiqued me, telling me stuff I needed to do better. In that moment, I could see myself playing for this guy for the next four years. When I visited, I loved the tightness of the guys there, and when I told Coach Resch that’s where I was going, he was thrilled. He thinks Amherst is a great fit for my style of play.”
Obviously, it’s quite a relief for Richardson that in mid-October of his senior year, he already knows where he is going to college in 2020. While his classmates frantically apply to and visit schools, Richardson can just sit back, take it all in and enjoy every single second he has left. It leads to a looser, unburdened style of play. With the pressure of such a big decision behind him, a weight has been lifted from Richardson’s shoulders.
As far as goals for that season go, Richardson wants to get the Spartans back to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year, and on a personal note, he’s got his sights set on the 150-goal mark.
“I want to get as close as I can,” he said. “I think I’m at 115, so I’ve got my work cut out for me.”
Unsurprisingly, Richardson has a lot going for him off the soccer and lacrosse fields. He’s a National Honor Society member and is taking multiple AP courses, with AP Biology being his favorite. He’s also co-president of the student council, where he is intimately involved in planning school events. Richardson has been a part of student council since sophomore year and loves being able to have such an impact on what goes on in the Springfield community.
“I wanted to give back to a school that has given me so much,” he said. “My sister is a freshman now, and I want to make it a better place for her than it was when I got here. On student council, I can achieve that goal.”
Richardson, in the top third of his class, has lofty professional goals as well. A lover of both biology and anatomy, he’s considering premedical studies at Amherst with the idea of ultimately going to medical school and becoming a doctor. Richardson credits his parents with his work ethic, saying that he’s just emulating the hard work he’s seen in them his entire life.
When not dominating on the soccer and lacrosse fields or hitting the books, Richardson loves reading science fiction in his free time. He’s also into music, having played the saxophone for many years.
Add it all up and you get a well-rounded kid with many layers and interests. It goes without saying that the Springfield community is going to have a challenge on its hands in replicating what Paul Richardson has brought to the table for the last three-plus years. Luckily for them, they don’t have to endure life without him just yet.
“I’ve run out of nice things to say about him,” Resch said. “He’s a very down-to-earth kid, one with a great perspective. He wants to win championships, but he also understands that they are just sports and his studies are a more important priority. It’s tough to describe what makes him so special, but he is the real deal.”
Meder concurred with Resch’s sentiments.
“Paul’s the type of student and athlete I want leading my team every year,” Meder said. “He’s a quiet leader and a great role model. He’s a tough and physical athlete who can compete at a high level without ever losing control. Paul’s a thinker who has his act and life together and is very accepting of coaching and feedback. He’s just a very personable, terrific kid who has every tool to succeed at the next level. We’re going to miss all of that.”