By Steve Coulter
Miles Moscato doesn’t mind going left.
In fact, when he hears the opposition — the coaches on the sideline or the defensive players in front of him — talking about pushing him in that direction, it only serves as an additional motivating force.
The challenge for those opponents is that Moscato, whose left hand became trapped in an amniotic band and never properly developed in utero, is already more than motivated to show off his one-handed skill-set and beat them to the net where he can score in an instant.
“When I was younger, I really didn’t enjoy going left but now I like it,” he said. “When you hear the goalie or the other coach screaming ‘push him left’ and the defender in front of you is giving you a lot of space — more than he would normally give to someone, it’s an extra motivator.”
“If they’re going to give me that much room, I’m going to take advantage of it and find a way for my team to score an easy goal,” he added.
Lax From the Start
The 15-year-old Oregon native has been a competitor ever since he was two years old, according to his parents, Tim and Tammy Moscato.
And he’s been creating solutions for himself — and teaching others along the way — since day one.
“It was pretty shocking — we didn’t know he’d be born one-handed,” said Tim. “In my mind, my immediate thought was, ‘What are the advantages here?’ If he plays soccer, he’d be 50 percent less likely to put an errant hand on the ball. This method of thinking proved to be a very positive and lasting thought process for all of us as he got older.”
“When he was little, we never wanted to baby him. I’d tell him to show me exactly how he was going to do something,” Tammy added. “We certainly didn’t know easier ways.”
The “you show us” method proved to catch on with others, including Miles’ youth coaches, who adopted that mindset when tutoring the young midfielder.
“I couldn’t imagine playing a sport with one hand, let alone doing any of the other hundreds of things he does in a given day,” said Tim, who coached Miles for three years. “I couldn’t show him how to do it any of it — he had to show me, and he did. He’s learned to approach it not as a challenge, but as an advantage.”
Miles, who plays midfielder for West Linn High School and on 3d lacrosse’s Oregon and National club teams, first discovered the sport when he was six years old and his family was living in Maryland — the mid-Atlantic hotbed and epicenter for the sport.
Miles said his neighborhood best friend had siblings who were on the rosters of local teams and that he would play with them in front of their house.
Three years later, the passion he was developing transformed into a calling.
“I decided I needed to play organized lacrosse to get the full experience,” Miles said.
“It was around the fifth grade when lacrosse became my number one sport — it was just so much more exciting than anything I had ever watched or played before,” he added. “Originally, it was just a fun way to stay in shape for football and to fool around with my friends but that quickly evolved.”
His father saw that change happen firsthand.
“In Maryland, there are as many lacrosse nets in front of houses as there are basketball hoops,” Tim said. “Miles was a big football athlete at the time he started playing lacrosse, and I didn’t really know much about the sport, but we encouraged him to get involved and see where his passion would take him.”
As it turns out, lacrosse has taken Miles very far — further than most high school athletes can ever dream of reaching, a prospective NCAA Division I recruit.
The high school sophomore will get to compete in front of 90-plus college coaches and scouts this weekend, Nov. 14-15, at the FLG in 3d Fall Shootout in New Castle, Delaware.
It’s one of the top recruiting stages for the game’s most talented players, and the one-handed midfielder from Oregon couldn’t be more excited to show off his unique skill set.
However, it’s not all about being recruited.
“I’m really just worried about winning the tournament with my teammates,” he said. “For me, it’s more about the competition than anything else — it’s a team game first.
“I would rather have zero goals and we win then eight goals and we lose,” he added.
While the opportunity in front of him is a result of regimented physical and mental training, endless studying and dedicated practice, the sport didn’t always come easy for Miles.
“My condition did limit me at first but I found ways to make it work, and it’s not as difficult now. I play the game like Canadian lacrosse players, who predominantly move the ball with one hand,” he said.
A great student in the classroom, Miles is also an avid YouTube watcher, examining clips of Canadian box lacrosse players to better fine-tune his game.
He’s not the only student of the game in the Moscato household.
Lacrosse has served as the perfect medium for father-son bonding, as Tim has put on equipment to push Miles to the highest level of competition.
“I grew up in Boston and played baseball in the spring as a kid,” he added. “I didn’t discover lacrosse until we were living in Maryland. Now, I’ve learned the sport enough where I can put on a glove and a helmet and throw the ball around with him.”
What about teaching him how to go left?
“It’s been more than just learning to throw and catch for some time now,” Tim added. “I’ve learned to play defense so I can push him left and he can practice his dodges on the run…It’s all about helping him get his mind around how to do things he wants to do.”
Miles estimates that he puts in 10 hours a week practicing his stick skills, pretending to be a ‘Meathead’ with his teammates in the weight room, and watching film.
“Mostly, it’s about finding a dry spot,” he says. “It’s very wet in Oregon.”
More to prove
Miles’ motivation lies well beyond what hears on the field from opposing players and coaches.
He won a state title as a freshman after his teammate, junior Cooper Hill, died in a tragic car accident.
“We were definitely motivated to have someone to play for — something to play for,” he said.
And no matter how much time Tim puts in to learn about the sport, he says his son remains two steps ahead of him.
“His knowledge of the game is really impressive to me,” the proud father said. “It’s not just physical for him — it’s about the Xs and Os, the mental aspect of it, and knowing the offensive plays.”
In addition to studying plays, his parents have seen that their son is remarkably committed to becoming a DI athlete one day.
“He really puts in the work — physical training, discipline with nutrition,” Tim said. “He understands that he has to be a complete player — mental, physical, and emotional.”
…And to show
A great player, Miles remains a first-rate teacher as well.
Tim is amazed at how his son is able to do a bench press with one hand.
“He showed me the other day how to increase the tension using a resistance band to make it more challenging for his chest muscles, to make himself stronger,” he said.
“What he knows and what he teaches us, it’s really amazing.”
At this point in his career, his parents can’t tell the difference in their son’s game compared to other players who can pick-and-roll, then change their top hand to shoot from the left or right side.
“It’s a non-issue,” Miles said of playing with one hand.
“My teammates have always been understanding and my opponents, well, they’re not always on the Miles Train but that’s alright,” he added. “At the end of the day, I don’t even remember what they look like.”
There are some opponents, though, who have climbed aboard, and have reached out to the young competitor for advice.
And like any good teacher, Miles has obliged happily to show others how to play with what most people would view is a disadvantage.
One example of that is lacrosse player Cole Jackson of Texas, who faces a similar uphill climb as an amputee.
“Cole’s family reached out because they remembered playing Miles’ team in Denver and Cole got into a horrible ATV accident a few months later,” recalled Tammy. “Miles made himself available and showed Cole how he does things with one hand. He sent him a highlight tape filled with different tricks, and they weren’t all lacrosse things. Some of it was simple stuff, like tying your shoes.”
Miles and David DiPiazza, a Louisania-based player who was also subject to Amniotic Band Syndrome, found each other on Instagram and the two have developed a sounding board of mutual encouragement ever since.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my son — not just on the lacrosse field, but, most importantly, what he does off it,” she said. “He doesn’t take anything for granted; he’s so happy to be out there playing with his teammates. And he’s always talking about the team — playing for someone else, and I think that comes across with how supportive he is of others on a daily basis.”
As anticipated, Miles is shy on the parental praise about his selflessness, but he does offer up a motto that he lives by and speaks volumes about his character as a person — not just as a player.
“You have to become Division I in life before anything else,” he said.