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In the latest edition of Coaches Corner, Championship Productions editor Adam Warner sits down with Georgetown women’s head lacrosse coach Ricky Fried. Now in his eighth season as head coach of the Hoyas, Fried has compiled an overall record of 84-47 and led his team to five NCAA tournaments — including a Big East Championship in 2010.
In this week’s Q&A, Fried explains what he looks for in the ultimate lacrosse player, details one of his all-time favorite drills, and even reveals some of his coaching superstitions.
Talk about your background and how you eventually came to be the head coach at Georgetown.
“I grew up playing men’s lacrosse and had aspirations to coach after college. I started out coaching at The Gilman School as an assistant. After my second year, I had a great opportunity to get into girls lacrosse and eventually coached at Johns Hopkins as an assistant and helped transition the program from Division III into a Division I contender. The Georgetown assistant job became available and I applied to that and got that job with Kim Simons. She eventually decided to stop coaching and it fell into place. After 11 years as an assistant, I became a head coach in 2005.”
How would you define your coaching philosophy?
“Every coach’s philosophy will evolve to some degree. A lot is based on the talent level you get, the type of players you get, and dictated by the school you are at. I believe that anyone successful will evolve their approach to what they do, but not necessarily drastically. The big thing now is that players know that you care about them as players and people. When that happens you can push them more. It’s not personal and you can get the most out of them. It’s a lot about relationships and what motivates your players and what motivates you.”
What’s the key to developing a winning program and keeping a winning tradition year after year?
“It’s about confidence in the players. They all have skills and they’re all competitive. But developing the confidence in individuals leads to what you are teaching them, whether it be rides or offensive sets. It’s also about bringing in quality players and people so we are constantly competitive. True competitiveness allows you to rise to the top.”
What does it take to motivate players today?
“It’s all about relationships — getting to know what drives them and pushes their buttons. They are all competitive or else they wouldn’t be doing it. Plus, it’s key to have a healthy balance. Education is clearly more important than lacrosse. While it doesn’t minimize it, no one in the near future will make a living playing lacrosse. So the players need a healthy perspective. We only go three days a week in the fall. They understand the goals and why they are here. I think the down time in the fall keeps them fresh.”
What do you find most rewarding about coaching college lacrosse?
“Watching young girls grow into women and the whole maturation process. For instance, when the girls learn about themselves on and off the field and the lessons that carry both ways. Watching them mature and do things they didn’t think they could do when they first got here. And then seeing them surpass those goals and how it correlates into the success they have as adults in the real world.”
What are your personal goals as a lacrosse coach – short and long term?
“I have no specific goals personally. I am very happy where I am. And coaching at the US level, it’s very exciting for me. For me, the annual goal is about getting the most out of our players and seeing improvement on and off the field. Also, it’s important that we are competitive not only at the conference level, but also at the national level on a consistent basis.”
From a recruiting standpoint, what do you look for in the ultimate college lacrosse player?
“We look for lots of intangibles. Most players at this level already have their skills developed and have a sense of the game more, so some of the biggest things are competitive nature, how they react to mistakes, and how mistakes affect them for an extended period of time. Also, outside of stickwork, speed, and agility, it’s about attracting players that want to be here and have priorities comparable to mine and to Georgetown’s.”
What’s the best advice you can give to a fellow coach just getting started in the sport?
“Know the rules. Understand the difference between men’s and women’s lacrosse so you can teach it safely. It’s vital. Second, reach out of your comfort zone and talk to those at a higher level and ask them questions. Get videos to teach you. Go to coaches clinics and conventions and enhance your ability to learn new things. We still do this and figure out new ways to learn and how to tweak things and make it better. Also, coach because you enjoy it. If you are easily getting frustrated, you are coaching for the wrong reasons.”
Talk about one of your all-time favorite drills. What’s it called and why is it effective?
“It’s called the Yale Drill. It’s a simple drill but everyone gets excited about it. It’s offense against defense. It involves smaller tight situations so players must make quick decisions. It works on player skills, especially catching and throwing and defensive positioning. When moving the ball to an open area, we focus on reading the defense rather than focusing on offense. It’s like a quarterback in football, he looks at what defense is doing and that tells him which receiver is going to be open.”
Do you have any coaching superstitions?
“Getting out to field before anyone else during the day and having a moment where nothing is going on. It’s a special feeling and it gets me excited for the rest of the day.”
Do you have any pet peeves?
“Offside calls or non-calls.”
What do you consider your career highlight to date?
“Winning the gold medal in Prague with the US World Cup team. There’s also my first season as an assistant coach at Johns Hopkins and going to the Final Four. And then there’s the 2010 Big East Championship. Hopefully, the biggest is yet to come.”
If you weren’t a lacrosse coach or involved with the game, what do you think you’d be doing professionally?
What are your hobbies and interests off the lacrosse field?
“Biking, spending time with my family at the beach, and being outside in the water.”
Can you reveal something about you that most people don’t know?
“I was born in Germany. Also, my given name is Page.”
Ricky Fried recently teamed up with Championship Productions to produce the lacrosse DVD “Small Drills for Offensive Lacrosse Fundamentals.” To check out more skill development videos in our extensive library, click here.
In the latest edition of Coaches Corner, Championship Productions editor Adam Warner sits down with new Navy men’s head lacrosse coach Rick Sowell. After going 47-26 in five seasons at Stony Brook and leading his squad to the NCAA quarterfinals in 2010, Sowell accepted the head coaching position at Navy earlier this year. In this week’s Q&A, Sowell explains why he accepted the job at Navy, details one of his all-time favorite drills, and also reveals how his coaching staff prepares during the offseason.
First off, talk about how the transition has been from Stony Brook to Navy?
“It’s been great. It really has. The support surrounding the program has been amazing. Everyone has welcomed me with open arms and it’s been a relatively easy transition.”
What prompted you to take this new challenge with Navy?
“I’ve been fortunate to work at some tremendous academic institutions throughout my career: Georgetown, Dartmouth, St. John’s, and Stony Brook, but this opportunity was unique. The combination of working at such a prestigious institution with young men who aspire to and will someday become future leaders of our great country was a unique opportunity.”
You have a track record of giving new life to programs. What’s been the key to building a new or struggling program into a winner?
“I think there are a variety of factors that come into play. Starting with the team, it’s about changing a culture, or developing one if it’s a new program, which for me is based on being good citizens in the community, working hard both in the classroom and on the field, and doing the right thing at the right time.
On the field, my philosophy is about player development, which I try and keep simple. We look to develop sound fundamental habits, I expect our players to give 100 percent effort every day, and then from there, it’s about utilizing the talent that we have assembled. I have been fortunate enough to have worked with great assistants over the years who have been dedicated to helping me develop these programs.”
Talk about the offseason a bit. It’s now October, what’s the coaching staff currently focused on? Walk through a typical week for the coaches.
“Currently, we are focused on finding out just who we are as a team, what are our strengths and our weaknesses, and how to take advantage of the talent we have here. This process started about a month ago, and I will say it has been fun getting to know the guys, getting to hear their stories and how they ended up at the Naval Academy, and what it means for them to be a part of this program. A big part of it is taking the time to evaluate the kids on the field, in the weight room, and get an opportunity to know them as people. At the same time, we are introducing our philosophy and terminology — whether it’s offense and defense, drills, or clearing. There are lots of things going on at one time.”
What’s a typical Rick Sowell practice like? Is it intense, fun, informative? How would you describe it?
“I would describe my practices as all of the above — intense, fun and informative. I like practices that move along — from drill to drill to drill. We teach the fundamental aspects of the game. I like to keep things simple. Sometimes strategy is overrated so we focus on those little things that will resurface late in a game and could be the difference between winning and losing.
They aren’t necessarily run-and-gun practices. We try to scrimmage every day, and there is no better way to learn the game then to actually play it. As is the case, I believe, with most coaches, the focus shifts from day to day. One day it might be offense, the next day it might be defense.”
Can you think of a favorite drill of yours that you’ve used with your teams over the years? Why is it effective?
“We call it the Breakdown Drill. It’s a 1-on-1 drill. I’m a big fan of dodging off the pass, so many of our dodge drills are off passes. We like to incorporate a pass from the players or coaches throwing to the dodger.
We simply put a bag of balls at the GLE and a dodger will be up in an alley and close enough to catch and shoot it. Or he will make a dodge and make a play off the pass. The defender sags in off ball, and as the ball moves from GLE to the dodger the defender will come out to break down the player. That defender must fly out under the control and defend the dodger as the ball arrives.
This drill forces the defender to stop the offensive player’s momentum and he must run with him. Offensively, it lets you work on different types of dodges and using a defender as a screen. Also, it allows offensive guys to work on creative moves, incorporating stick fakes and shake n bakes. It allows a lot of repetitions. We also don’t like lines being too long. If you ask the Stony Brook guys, this is definitely one of their favorite drills. It’s not all that complicated. We will do it up top, down the alleys, down the middle, from the wings, from behind, and invert. It’s also a chance to develop good moves off the pass. We get a lot out of this drill.”
What’s the best lacrosse moment in your career?
“My senior year, 1985 at Washington College, we broke Hobart’s 44-game Division III win streak. We beat them 8-7 at home in overtime. I had five goals including the game-winner in overtime. That was a tremendous moment. Unfortunately, they beat us in the national title game a month later, so they had the last laugh. I grew up watching Hobart and to be able to break their winning streak was a huge thrill.”
What’s your biggest pet peeve as a coach?
“Velcro. When I’m in the huddle and I hear Velcro it drives me nuts, but the players learn quickly to not do it.”
What are some of your favorite hobbies off the lacrosse field?
“I like to stay fit and try to go to the gym five or six days a week. I try to mix things up, usually lifting or cardio. I also like golf but I stink at it and it is frustrating. I’m the type of athlete who needs to practice to get good at something, but at the end of the day my time is limited, so my improvement has been at a snail’s pace. I also play some basketball. A good workout puts me in a good frame of mind.”
What’s the best advice you can give to a new coach in the game? How about a rising player in the game?
“For coaches, try to gather all the information you can. When you’re young, it’s about trying to develop a philosophy. There are a lot of great coaches out there and you should try to tap into those resources. Go to practices, call them on the phone, and pick their brain. Don’t think you know it all. Be willing to seek information and different types of strategies. Eventually you’ll take certain concepts from different people and form your own philosophy. Try to learn and take in as much as you can and don’t be afraid to reach out.”
“As for players, make sure you play other sports. Be a multi-sport athlete. Especially at a younger age, the more sports you can play, the better — even if it’s just two sports. The value of what you get out of playing other sports far supersedes saying you’ll just focus on playing lacrosse year-round. It’s good to compete in other sports. There’s no better exercise than competition. Also, go to college games or pro games. You can really learn a lot from watching older kids play the game.”
Rick Sowell recently teamed up with Championship Productions to produce the lacrosse DVD “All-Access Lacrosse Practice with Rick Sowell.” To check out more All-Access videos in our extensive library, click here.