Former Navy SEAL talks to Bay Area lacrosse players

Scott Andrews, Author

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Lieutenant Commander Rorke Denver talks to Bay Area Lacrosse players at the Palo Alto High School Library. Photo by Scott Andrews

The Palo Alto High school lacrosse team has some new advice moving into the 2014 season after hearing from former Navy SEAL Lieutenant Commander Rorke Denver on Thursday.

Talking with students as young as third graders and all the way up to high school seniors, Denver gave the students many good tips on how to live their lives and some of the secrets of the trade that he has picked up along the way of  his Navy SEAL experience.

Denver has run every phase of training for the U.S. Navy SEALs and led special-forces missions in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and other international hot spots. He starred in the 2012 hit film Act of Valor, based on real-life SEAL missions.

Denver attended Los Altos High School where he played lacrosse for the Tomahawks, the local club team in Palo Alto. He was the first High School All-American for the Tomahawks before going on to Syracuse University, where he was captain of the lacrosse team.

Denver retired from active duty about a year ago. Since then he has been on news stations and talk shows such as Conan O’Brien and CNN.

The following is a list of tips that he has lived by and encourages everyone to take into account.

1. Make your own choices: “You should take good counsel and get good mentors like people you can trust, but you should make the big decisions on your own.”

2. Learn to cook: “Whether its for a date or your family this is what you do. Take a quarter stick of butter put that in the pan put it on simmer, take three cloves of garlic throw that in. It doesn’t matter if your cooking chimichongas or hamburgers, start this ten minutes before people start coming into the house and they’ll be saying ‘man it smells good in here I can’t wait to eat.’ Butter, garlic, it’s all you need.”

3. Stitches and casts: “If at this point in your life you have not had either stitches or casts, you are not pushing it hard enough.”

4. Think of others before yourself: “I guarantee that if you do this you will almost never have to deal with people not liking you.”

5. Know how to drive a stick: “I don’t think many people are driving sticks anymore but if you’re over in Europe and a Jason Borne moment pops up and you jump into a car and you don’t know how to drive a stick you’re going to be a kook.”

6. Be on time: “Be early, five to ten minutes early, actually be 15 minutes early but hang back so you don’t look like a kook, like a guy showing up way too early, but then come in about five minutes early so you’re present and it shows that you are prepared.”

7. Learn to tie knots: “Don’t just tie knots. A bunch of random knots that you can never undo doesn’t help. Learn how to tie a bowline, or a square knot, I’m telling you it’s important.”

8. Learn to start a fire: “The first level of a fire is: sitting at home, no wind, kindling, paper, and a fire-starter. Medium level is outside, inclement weather, but you still have some sort of fire starter and some good kindling. Navy SEALs level is bow drill, friction fire, in bad weather. If you can do that then that’s legit.”

9. Know how to change a flat tire: “I know that everyone can just call AAA and get a tow truck but learning how to change a flat is something that you will have to do at least once in your life. Learning it now is better that looking like a kook later in life.”

10. Learn to use tools: “If you don’t know the difference between saws or what to do with nails, or how to use an impact driver, learn how to use it, it’s important, you should know it.”

11. Wear a watch: “Everyone uses their phones but a watch is a good looking thing.”

12. Vaseline: “If you are getting a blister in a brand new pair of athletic shoes or dress shoes, take off the shoe and the sock, take a big dob of Vaseline and put it on the blister area, put your sock back on, shoe back on, carry on, call me in the morning, tell me how it works out. You will never deal with a blister again in your life.”

13. Manners: “These really count. I feel that we have lost these as a society and manners are very important. At a minimum, gentlemen open a door for a lady.”

14. Be a hero: “Most heroes correspond with police officers, fireman, and military folk, but if you are out and you see a elderly person having trouble and you help them, guess what you are to them, you are a hero.”

Denver shared lessons learned from the intensity and struggle of war, and his time directing SEAL instruction. Denver’s experiences are conveyed in the new book he co-authored, Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior.