The World Behind the Whistle
As the New Year turns, like many coaches, our thoughts drift off from the holidays, and begin to focus on the upcoming season. With less than a month to go before we start, the college game really begins to crank up. The first order of business is the national coaches’ convention in Baltimore, MD. For the JUCO coaches, that means mostly a lot of networking. We are there to try and move players around. We try and sell our seniors to coaches at four-year schools, and we try and get a pulse on which high school seniors will be considering JUCO as a college option.
Mostly, though, as a college coach, January is nail-biting time. I say this because of the academic eligibility rules. Every year we play a numbers game. While we have great fall attendance, we struggle in the spring, because, quite simply, the players fail to meet the minimum G.P.A. requirements. I know that we are not alone. Colleges all across the land face this problem. My first round of cuts are always done by the players themselves. Their lack of effort in the classroom is what eventually does them in. In the fall of 2001 we had 38 members participate. That number was shaved down to 14 for the season. We were able to recruit another 4 players, giving us a roster size of 18. While this may seem to be an ok number, we really needed more. In order to stay competitive in our region with the big time programs, we really needed to have three solid lines of middies. Having only two midfield lines caught up with us in the playoffs.
So this year we have a tentative roster of over 40 interested players. I hope that it will pan out to a roster of around 20 –25 players. I guess with each year you hope to add numbers and get to a point where you are making it difficult to play for your team. By that I mean that there are real tryouts, with players busting it all for a spot on the roster. I believe that we may still be a year away from that. When I took over the job here 4 years ago, I submitted a 5 year plan. I am proud that we are almost there. This could be a turning year for our program.
In addition to all this fun, our program has also endured another first. For the first time, we had a woman express interest in playing for the team. She came out for fall ball, and told me that she wanted to play. Being a traditionalist, and being a little bit of an old fashioned (chauvinist?) type of guy, this proposed a huge problem for me. I had some serious concerns about how to handle this situation. First of all, I was not sure that the NJCAA would allow it. They do. Then I was not sure that our school would allow it. They did. Now I was in trouble.
I guess I really had two concerns. I was concerned about her safety and her credibility. The sport of lacrosse can be very rough. She said that she wanted to be an attackman, and in college, the defensmen tend to be real big and real tough. In JUCO, there is a lot of body checking and a lot of overall physical play. I wanted to make sure that she didn’t get killed out there. As far as her credibility is concerned, I wanted to assure myself that she was not there for a publicity stunt. I know that they have tossed around the idea of adding women’s lacrosse here at the college, and with the sport’s growth in our local region, I am in favor of the addition. I just did not want our program to be a political statement for someone’s agenda.
Suffice it to say, all of my worries were squashed. When I met the young woman, she was truly a lacrosse rat. I mean that in a good way. She had played in the local indoor league with some of the guys, and she showed up to every practice, on time and ready to give it her all. As a coach that is all you can ask for. We even threw her to the dogs in our fall ball scrimmage and put her in the game against Herkimer CC, one of the nations best collegiate programs, and she did a great job. I am looking forward to having her dedication and hustle around this season.
See you guys at the clinic, I look forward to sharing the season with you all this year.