Life, Lessons, Lacrosse

Chop Shop is hosted by Southern California Youth Lacrosse enthusiast Drew Rogers, aka “Chopper”. Chop Shop supports youth and high school lacrosse through its sponsor, airing interviews with, and insight from lacrosse players, coaches, officials and fans. Chopper believes that lacrosse is an allegory for life and each Chop Shop installment features lessons or experiences applicable to lacrosse and life in general.

Chop Shop Spotlight: Ernie Melero

Drew "Chopper" Rogers - March 1, 2022

Ernie Melero and his Mexican National teammates were starving. It was the 2018 World Lacrosse Championships in Israel and Ernie says, “Meals were served in a school cafeteria and very limited…like just one egg for breakfast.” What little food they were served was extremely bland. “Mexicans like spicy food,” he added. “It was a bonding experience for the players, we all lost weight together.” Although they’d just met up to practice four days prior to the tournament they achieved a 4- 4 record against some pretty stacked teams. Hungry teams play hard.

It began for Ernie at Manual Arts High School in 2006 with a brand-new lax program. He parlayed his soccer skills into a successful lacrosse career, matriculating to Tufts University where he starred as a Faceoff – O middie. Upon graduation in 2014 he returned to the LA area working with the Legends program before taking a full-time position with City Lacrosse which eventually merged with Harlem Lacrosse. Around that time he founded a new youth lacrosse club named the Berserkers. “I’d coached the Santa Monica Youth Lacrosse team,” he explains. “Santa Monica High is the Vikings and a Berserker is a Norse warrior that’s particularly aggressive.” They sound hungry too. Rumor has it that when the Berserkers come they eat everything.

Ernie touts his Class of 2025 players as being particularly talented. He’s in the process of merging the Berserkers with Team West Coast to provide comprehensive coverage for LA’s west side. That group will include 2 nd and 3 rd graders through high school. But Ernie’s not done. Did we mention how hungry he is? Last year he founded a national program called the Silverbacks that includes players up and down the West Coast as well as some from the East Coast. Their focus is exposure for top players to help with college recruitment. “Our goal is to help as many kids as possible get to where they want.”

The Berserkers will be stirring things up on Sunday, March 6 th at Santa Monica high school where they’ll be conducting tryouts for all age groups. To find out more, check them out at or ping Ernie at . Better hide the women and children that day.

As for Ernie? As if he weren’t busy enough already, he’s knee deep in his first year as head coach for the Brentwood High School boys lacrosse program and he’s happy to have some very talented multi-sport athletes joining his core group. They are a team to watch in the D2 division.

Ernie Melero continues to combine his thirst for knowledge with that relentless hunger for success and he’s not going to stop until he creates a lacrosse feast. With lots of spice.


We hear from the players and we hear from the coaches. But how often do we get to see inside a sport from a referee’s perspective? Gary Greenbaum is a lifetime lacrosse junkie – player, coach and for decades now, a referee. At age 76 he’s seen and lived it all, and he still plays! Gary grew up in an east coast lacrosse hotbed and the people he’s known and the things he’s seen could fill a museum. He admits that, as a child of the 60’s he’s done his share of partying and rebelling, even now. It’s been a life well-lived and Gary shares it all – the good, the bad, and the wild – in a gripping and rowdy chat with Chopper.

Tom Borgia was a basketball junkie – his father refereed in the NBA for decades – but when he first picked up a lacrosse stick in college he was hooked. He took a flagging girls high school lacrosse program at Redondo Union High and turned it into a state powerhouse. Jeff Emery was a top collegiate basketball player who dominated men’s leagues in Southern California for decades, but when Tom asked him to take over the Redondo girls JV program, Jeff realized he knew zero about lacrosse but a whole lot about supporting and nurturing athletes. Together these two maintain a culture of positivity and teamwork that, coincidentally has produced a long list of victories and accomplishments for their players.

Robby Stack was an incredibly fast, gifted all-around athlete who excelled at soccer, football and basketball. But when he picked up a lacrosse stick, he realized that lax embodied all of his favorite sports in one. He played four years of D1 lacrosse at Providence College, scoring the game winning goal against Villanova in 2OT in the final game his senior year. Robby pursued a career in business for five years but never found the joy he had playing lacrosse. So he reversed course, took a job teaching high school and coaching lacrosse and he’s never looked back. Robby offers a lot of insight into staying true to your dreams and yourself and never stop changing until you find your true destiny.

Quality of life often depends on one’s ability to assess and then optimize their individual gifts and passions. Zach Rogers was a top-rated baseball player who eschewed certain success for a gamble on lacrosse and because he loved it and worked at it, he enjoyed a long, successful career with lax. Despite having no box lacrosse experience he joined and starred for the Langley Thunder in semipro box lacrosse and then ranked first at the NLL combine and was drafted by the NLL Colorado Mammoth. He was cut but not discouraged and made up his mind to overcome the long odds against professional modeling, won a contract with a top modeling agency and now makes a living modeling and commercial acting. His story of understanding and leveraging your tool kit and then refusing to accept “No” will inspire listeners to do the same.

As the son of a living legend, Salisbury College Lacrosse Head Coach Jim Berkman, Kylor Berkman had a target on his back from the minute he began playing competitive sports. He eventually flourished at lacrosse, winning two national championships playing for his dad at Salisbury along with individual awards like 3-time All American, 2-time midfielder of the year and 2008 Player of the Year. Opponents used to rationalize his success against them as just luck but Kylor explains it required the thousands of hours he put in practicing to create that luck. His mantra is simple, in order to succeed you must have a plan and then work tirelessly at that plan. Great counsel for lacrosse – and for life.

In a sport dominated by east coast lacrosse prodigies Mario Waibel is a unicorn. Born and raised on the west coast he grew up playing hockey and football, which, at 6’2” and 240 pounds of wide receiver speed seemed a natural calling. But the moment he picked up a lacrosse stick, at the advanced age of eighteen, he could feel its pull. And he never put it down. Mario’s has been a life of starting from scratch and making something great, from his own youth to the varied lacrosse programs he’s coached, to the present, where he has developed his program, “Goon Lacrosse” into a lacrosse and life academy for young players.

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