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Coaches Corner: Q&A with Tufts Head Men’s Lacrosse Coach Mike Daly

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, April 5, 2011

In this week’s edition of Coaches Corner, Championship Productions’ editor Adam Warner sits down with Tufts head men’s lacrosse coach Mike Daly. Last season, Daly led the Jumbos to a 2010 NCAA Division III national championship with a 9-6 win over perennial power Salisbury, notching the first-ever title for his lacrosse program. In Coaches Corner, Daly reveals his coaching philosophy and plans for defending his team’s national title, talks about the perks of being a Div. III coach, and even details how he got into lacrosse after growing up playing football and baseball.

Talk about your background and your unorthodox path to becoming the head men’s lacrosse coach at Tufts in 1998.
“I went to Tufts as an undergrad and then got into graduate school here. As a graduate student, I also worked as an assistant football and lacrosse coach. The lacrosse program was struggling at that point. Our coach at the time left to take a football job and the position was assigned to me roughly a month before the season started. From there, I never looked back.

I played football and baseball growing up, but not lacrosse. I was a sociology major at Tufts as an undergrad and left with a masters degree in education and teaching. Growing up, lacrosse didn’t have the presence in Massachusetts that it does today, but I always had an interest. My friends played in high school, so there was always a stick around. It was during my grad school years where I really fell in love with the game.”

Your team is now one season removed from winning a national title. What’s the key to maintaining focus this year in order to defend your ’10 championship?
“The biggest key is to remember what got us here and really keep focused on the fundamentals. Right now we’re 6-0 overall and still No. 1 in the country, so I think the guys are grounded and focused on the ultimate goal this season.”

What’s the key to maintaining success year after year?
“We have some great players and great guys who work extremely hard at their lacrosse and academic lives. They just make it a joy to be around them and coach and be associated with them. We’re lucky to have great people in the program, including the assistant coaches and a supportive administration. At the end of the day, we have some terrific players who work their tails off and make plays on the lacrosse field.”

What makes up the complete Tufts player?
“We build our program on the players the world didn’t think were talented enough, but will still outwork all of their teammates and opponents. That’s the best part of Division III athletics, and the best complement you can give a player is to say they are an overachiever. We have a lot of guys like that. They will just flat outwork you.”

Who are your influences as a coach? Do you have a certain credo or philosophy that you particularly implement with your program?
“Early on, we really tried to emulate Billy Tierney and Princeton lacrosse. He took a similar situation to ours and got Princeton from the bottom to the top and eventually competing for national titles. We studied Princeton film and practices and I even talked to Bill himself. In those early years, whatever questions we had, he would take the time to answer them. He’s had a great impact on me.”

What’s unique about Div. III lacrosse and coaching at this level?
“We feel that we have a lot of players from top programs in the country. We are glad to have lacrosse junkies who love to play the game. They are great in the classroom and on the field, and their priorities are in the right place. Plus, they are really able to enjoy the college and lacrosse experience.”

Can you talk about one of your all-time favorite drills to run as a coach?
“My favorite drill is mechanics progression, which deals with your elbows, shoulders and hands and really focuses on the fundamentals of the game. If you can’t catch and throw, you can’t do anything in this game. There’s nothing more important than that. It may be mundane to our players, but it’s absolutely the cornerstone of our program.”

Do you have any superstitions or particular habits as a coach?
“I wear my pink breast cancer T-shirt on every gameday. I lost my mother minutes before a Skidmore game that we won in overtime a few seasons ago, and the game involved an amazing comeback by our team. I’ve always held onto that as a superstition. Also, for every national anthem, I find our head trainer Mark Doughtie and just make eye contact with him. Mark is a Vietnam veteran and what he sacrificed means the world to me. It reminds me that whatever’s about to happen out on the lacrosse field will never be as challenging as what he went through, and it settles me down.”

Can you dish out some advice for youth or high school coaches, particularly individuals who may be starting up new teams or looking to build a struggling program into a contender?
“It’s all about consistency, being yourself and not being afraid to ask for help. The lacrosse community is like no other – and it’s really true. Lacrosse has so many great resources and coaches, just make sure that you reach out and use them.”

Mike Daly has recently partnered with Championship Productions to produce a series of lacrosse videos. Check out the entire catalog by clicking here.

Coaches Corner: Q&A with Ohio State Men’s Lacrosse Coach Nick Myers

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Currently in his third season as head coach for the Ohio State men’s lacrosse team, Nick Myers is confident that his squad will compete for the 2011 ECAC title and make another postseason push. With Myers at the helm, plus a solid veteran core and a talented youth presence that includes offensive weapons Jeff Tundo and Logan Schuss, it’s no surprise to see why the Buckeyes are banking on their fourth NCAA tournament appearance in program history.

In this week’s edition of Coaches Corner, Myers sits down with Championship Productions’ editor Adam Warner and gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at his Ohio State lacrosse program. The Springfield College graduate also provides an early assessment of the 2011 campaign, and even details how he keeps his team focused over the course of a grueling season.

Your squad is currently 2-0 right now after wins over Mercer and Detroit. Talk about your overall impressions of the team this year and how the season has progressed so far in the early going.
“We’re excited. Right now, we have a lot of youthfulness and even have some freshmen stepping into starting roles this year. But we’re really happy with the overall leadership of the team. The seniors are taking control and really setting the tone. It’s exciting to get into it, and we’ve got some tough games starting up soon.”

Walk me through a typical week of lacrosse practice at Ohio State. Which areas are covered and how exactly are the practices shaped?
“We want to make practices as game-like as possible, so it’s about tempo and speed. We are a morning practice team and so we typically go from 7:30 to 9:30. We often start with some film study and playbook review in the locker room. After that, it’s dynamic stretching for 5 to 10 minutes followed by 10 minutes of stick-work and shooting. Then, we move to static stretching to round out our warm-up. After that, it’s half-field work for the first part of the main core of practice, and then we finish the last 45 minutes with clears, rides and situational stuff. We’ll have the guys play between the lines and recreate the tempo that we like to have on the playing field.”

How much film study is usually involved?
“There’s a lot of film study going on during the preseason and fall. And most of it is film on us. We tape practice every day. It gives us a second evaluation and a variety of teaching points. We’ll put together 10 to 15 clips of teaching points for the team — and the guys respond to it. At this time of the year, it’s especially important to focus on yourself versus focusing on your opponents. For instance this week, we really emphasized a few areas that we need to clean up as a team, and now we’ll stress those out on the practice field this week.”

I have a question here from our reader Bobby Garcia, and he asks, “How much of a particular practice is set aside for just discussion.”
“There’s very little time set aside for discussion in a typical practice. The scoreboard is running and there’s very little down time during practice. There may be only 20 or 30 seconds between drills. Questions may be asked by the players from time to time, but we address them at the end of all segments. And we encourage questions. But typically, we are not blocking off practice time for questions and discussions. We really try to create pace and tempo the entire time.”

Talk about some of the things the coaching staff is doing behind the scenes on a daily basis during the season.
“On a given week, we are doing a variety of things, like studying film to making sure our players are on the right track. We have a great support staff here at Ohio State, which includes an academic advisor, trainers, tutors, plus strength and conditioning coaches. Also, a big part of the day is just staying on top of all of our recruiting classes. It’s a challenge. On a daily basis we are breaking down film and preparing our schedule for the week and it takes up a lot of time.”

Talk about your coaching philosophy and how you incorporate the key elements with your team.
“We try to simplify things. We want the guys to feel like they are being invested as people first, and then players second. We are primarily teachers here, so we’re here to support them. It’s all about life after the degree. We want to create a family atmosphere and that starts with how we treat the players and then moves down to how the seniors treat the underclassmen. This is a big part of the core values that we teach and it translates to how we coach. It’s a building block of how we want things to be done here and how we expect them to be done in return. We are about being smart, loose, and together, plus doing the little things right and making the steps towards a championship.”

Is there an area of practice that may get overlooked by other coaches around the league that you particularly place an emphasis on with your team?
“We aren’t reinventing the wheel here or anything, but we really stress shooting at this time of the year. As a team, we’ve been over 30 percent shooting-wise for 2 or 3 years in a row. We are a team that will typically generate between 30 and 40 shots a game. We are disciplined. This past Saturday against Mercer, we went 20-for-43 shooting the ball. It’s about earning quality shots and getting them on cage and being disciplined there. Outside of that, it’s about the little things, the things that make a difference, and we reward that.”

Can you recall a drill that you still use today that is effective at any level, whether it be youth or college lacrosse?
“It’s hard to pinpoint one, but I like doing some of the simpler drills that break down our overall scheme — like 4-on-4 and 5-on-5 drills that are controlled. By doing these drills, we get to work on dodging, off-ball play, communication, ball movement and even spacing. They allow players to add-lib and be decision-makers on the field, whether it’s dodging, sliding or recovering. Plus, it teaches a lot of the fundamentals and basics that are important to work on frequently.”

It’s no secret that it’s one long season, how do you keep the players focused and always working hard?
“It’s key that you peak at the right time, so it’s important we are playing the best lacrosse come April when we are in the midst of our conference games and playing for an opportunity to reach the postseason. It’s a challenge, and we take a hard look at the calendar and structure our practices accordingly. We believe that it isn’t necessary to be on the field for 2 hours every day. There’s also time for film study, teaching, keeping the legs fresh and staying mentally fresh as well. There are lots of ways to make practices different and a variance of drills we can run, too.

Also, it’s key to have great communication with the guys, whether it’s regarding academic strains or travel-related things. We have to stay on the pulse of each player. They are 18-to-21-year-olds and they have a voice, too. Hopefully, we will find the right recipe during the season.”

Ohio State is off to a solid start but a tough schedule looms with North Carolina, Loyola, and Virginia on the docket. What are the overall team goals this year?
“First, it’s to achieve a cumulative GPA of 3.0. Then, it’s to lead the athletic department in community service hours. Right now, we are just over 500. As a team, we talk about goals across the board. We talk about a championship mentality as well, and we expect to compete every year for a conference title. We have a very strong conference, which includes Loyola and Denver. Another goal is to get in the postseason for the fourth time in program history and then move on and compete at the highest level for a title. But right now, we are just focused on being a better team than yesterday.”

Nick Myers has partnered with Championship Productions to produce an offensive skill development video. Check out the explosive skills and drills by clicking here.

Coaches Corner: Q&A With Towson Head Coach Tony Seaman

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In this week’s edition of Coaches Corner, Championship Productions editor Adam Warner sits down with Towson head coach Tony Seaman, the reigning CAA Coach of the Year and three-time NCAA Division I Coach of the Year. Seaman talks about the specific tools that players and teams need to be successful in lacrosse, takes us behind the scenes of his program in the off-season, and even reveals his New Years resolutions for 2011.

CP: Take me behind the scenes of your program right now. What happens in these off-season months and what’s the transition like to January and preseason mode?

TS: October and November is when we have our fall practices. We also run individual practices up to two hours a week with each player and we work on dodging, stick-work, shooting, and things like that. Plus, we also have the guys go through a comprehensive strength and conditioning program with one of our coaches four times a week. In December, it’s all about finals for the kids, and we don’t see them anymore.

One of the most stressful times for me is actually in the off-season when I have to check out the final grades of our players. But January 17th is when things get started back up again. We have a February 2nd scrimmage with Bucknell and then we face Princeton at Princeton before opening up the regular season with Johns Hopkins.

Talk about the things you and your coaching staff must do at this time of the year that people may not know about.

Recruiting is going on continuously. It’s a quiet period now, but there’s always a lot of juniors and sophomores coming through and getting ideas from our staff and learning about overall philosophies. Meanwhile, we are always staying in contact with recruits and trying to decide where to go with them, and they’re trying to decide where to go themselves. There is constant contact. Recruiting never stops. It takes up about 80 percent of your time in the off-season. Plus, I personally have an administrative role with 205 Lacrosse Camps in the summer and I’m taking admissions now and making contacts and so I’m spending lots of time with that.

What’s your overall practice philosophy and what are your general goals for practices?

Fall is evaluation time. Basic philosophies are established with the freshman and although the older kids are familiar with them, we reemphasize the key techniques and fundamentals that make up what we do. The individual work that we do makes our players better at all parts of the game. Strength and conditioning makes us faster, better athletes and altogether makes them better lacrosse players. It’s about getting ready for the season. We cover all aspects, from offense and defense to extra man offense and defense to riding and clearing, and then all of the game situations we will see. It’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Our philosophy in the spring is to make each other better every day. We also use a lot of scouting reports, do film study, work on game plans and are constantly talking with the players. We are using newer technology now and distributing breakdowns on laptops so the kids can carry it around with them and back at their apartments to study.

You’ve been around many successful teams over the years. Besides talent, what did those teams “have” that made them so successful?

It takes a lot more than just talent. Although, things are a lot more difficult without talent, that’s for sure. Our job as coaches is to bring in talented players. But it’s a team game and a team game can be stronger than the individuals. I’ve never heard of a team that was successful and didn’t have great chemistry, and I’ve never heard of a team that wasn’t successful and did have great chemistry.

It’s an amazing thing. Our team last year started the season at 1-5 and was almost falling apart and then we went 5-0 in the league and got it all together. It comes down to leadership, how badly kids want things and hard work. But in the end, it’s also about goalies making saves, defenders making stops and players putting the ball in the goal.

As a program, how do you decide on which offensive and defensive systems to implement? Does it stem from the coaching staff and their preferences or do you make adjustments and decide based on personnel and the personality of the current team?

If you are going to be successful over time, you must be able to adapt to your personnel. One of the best things of my career was that I got to be a JV and varsity high school coach. There was no recruiting involved and it forced me to adjust and that was so important. Now, big schools can find the perfect players that fit to what they do best. But in high school, you couldn’t do that and you had to adjust and change your philosophies to be successful.

Losing coaches never adjust. I listen to my assistants a lot and we talk a great deal, and we also talk a lot with our older players and we find out what fits best for us. We do a lot of that in the off-season, but also during the season, too. We talk about the things we have to incorporate and make us better and it’s an ever-changing process.

What do you look for most in recruits?

Athleticism, speed and agility stand out right away. After 10 minutes of watching a game, you see a player that continuously beats opponents up and down the field. But in lacrosse, it’s also about stick skills and kids who score no matter how fast they shoot, and the defensive kids that have sound fundamentals. Those things stand out.

Attitude is also key, plus players who hustle and get dirty and work hard for everything they do. In the end, those things help you separate others, who to take and who not to take. You also look at the family, character, where they come from and their reputation, especially in the classroom.

What common bad habits do you see at the high school level that players should focus on improving if they want to take their game to the next level?

It drives me crazy to see sticks down at the hips. Kids need to learn how to play vertical and always have the stick up and down versus across your body.

What’s your favorite drill to run in practice?

We really love 4 on 4 drills. It gives us three slides in defensive packages. We can move people around and simulate our offense pretty well with four people and the kids get a feel for where they belong. Plus, we can work on spacing, picking off the ball and defensively, who will be the first, second and third slide. We can get so much done and there’s less people to worry about and look at on a daily basis.

What’s a favorite drill of your players over the years?

Anything that’s competitive, like 6 on 5 or 5 on 4 drills. Many times we’ll make it into a game where 10 points wins. If the defense clears or makes a save, it’s a point. Or if the offense scores, his team gets a point, and we’ll reward the winning team and punish the losing squad. The guys typically like anything that challenges them.

What’s the best advice you can give to a young player?

Take 100 shots with your right hand and 100 shots with your left hand every day, no matter the weather and no matter what your girlfriend says.

What’s the overall outlook for Towson in 2011?

I believe this is as good of a recruiting class as we’ve ever had. We’ll see down the road, though. They are all talented and come from good teams and they all had a great fall. I think that four or five of them will get some extended playing time this year, and they deserve it. We also have one of toughest schedules in the country and it’s going to be a challenge week in and week out.

Any New Years resolutions?

The more you win, the less you eat and the more you lose, the more you eat. That seems to be the case each year. So I think winning will certainly help my diet next year.

Tony Seaman has produced seven lacrosse videos in partnership with Championship Productions. To check out more videos in his exclusive series, click here.

Coaches Corner: Q&A with Duke Head Coach John Danowski

By nate.landas - Last updated: Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fresh off guiding the Duke University men’s lacrosse team to its first national championship, John Danowski recently sat down with Championship Productions’ editor Adam Warner for an exclusive interview. Now entering his fifth season as head coach of the Blue Devils, Danowski reveals some of his favorite drills, dishes out advice for young lacrosse players and talks about his squad’s title run in 2010.

Championship Productions: The Duke men’s lacrosse team toured Washington D.C. and visited the White House for a special ceremony on September 13.  Did you ever think you’d get to meet a president in your lifetime?
John Danowski: “No, not at all. We were invited as part of a sports reception honoring recent NCAA champions and student-athletes who have given back to their communities. Just to be there among the other teams and President Obama was quite an honor.”

CP: What did you learn most from your championship season?
JD: “Just recognizing how small the distance is between being successful and not. You really learn to appreciate it. Last year, winning validated what we were doing when we lost, when we told ourselves that we were just a goal away. When you win, you don’t over-analyze things or keep thinking about the ‘what ifs?’”

CP: What was the difference in breaking through this time?
JD: “There was less pressure. I also think we tried too hard in the past. This time, it was more about simply defeating our next opponent.”

CP: What advice do you have for athletes and coaches on how to handle pressure situations?
JD: “It’s all about competing and being in the moment. Our guys will cherish that last month we were together and we were all on the same page. It’s not about one player. It really takes a team effort and that’s the truth, from the guys who play every day to the guys who don’t play. There are so many things behind the scenes that play a big role.”

CP: With that in mind, take me behind the scenes of a college lacrosse program and tell me what exactly goes on during the off-season months.
JD: “September is about the individual player. We lift and run three days a week from 8-10 a.m. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we do individual work where the goal is to teach three or four fundamentals that the kids can carry with them for the rest of the year. We recently had Greg Dale, a Duke professor of sports psychology, speak to the kids about the multitude of challenges they will face in the year after winning a championship. In October, we begin our fall practice and go four days a week. It’s more team-oriented and there’s a particular emphasis on strategies and schemes.”

CP: Can you recommend any drills for young players during the off-season?
JD:: “The key is to improve the athlete in general, especially with regards to running and lifting. Skill improvement is one component. The better you can pass and catch, the better you will be in the game and more confident overall. It’s important to get a lot of ball work with a lot of reps, being creative off the ball and just being accurate, position by position.”

CP: Can you name a specific drill you’ve done for most of your career?
JD: “It’s called the ‘Shoot as Hard as You Can Drill.’ It’s an offensive drill and we use it during pregame warm-ups and even run it three or four days a week in practice. We get the guys right out in front of the cage and we teach them how to shoot as hard as they can without worrying about where the ball goes. We try to get in a lot of reps, focus on keeping your hands back, your momentum going towards the shot and having the players fall into the crease.”

CP: Can you recall a favorite drill of your players?
JD: “It’s called the ‘Scrapping Drill.’ We run it at the beginning or end of practice with the emphasis on picking up ground balls and keeping focused while under pressure. We’ll get two teams together with a goalie in net and have two players going up against one. The team of two has to figure out how to score. It happens very fast and is over sometimes in three or four seconds. It’s a high-energy and high-tempo drill that gets the guys amped up and often has consequences at the end of practice for the losing team.”

See the Scrapping Drill in John Danowksi’s new DVD, All-Access Duke Lacrosse, Volume II: Individual Skills and Full Field Drills.

CP: How important is off-season conditioning at any level?
JD: “I encourage kids to play as many sports as they can. You can be the star or ride the bench, it doesn’t matter. It’s about leadership and competitiveness. You only get one shot in high school to play. If you like to play a sport, then play it, because what you learn will carry over to lacrosse. Guys who want to be good will still find the time to pick up a stick.”

CP: What’s the best advice you can give for a young player?
JD: “Love and honor the game. If you do, there’s a place for you. There are so many places to play now at the next level and the game can provide so many opportunities and chances to meet new friends. If you have a passion for lacrosse, it will take you to places you never dreamed of going.”

John Danowski has partnered with Championship Productions and has produced eight instructional lacrosse DVDs.  The DVD titles include:

All-Access Duke Lacrosse, Volume I: One-on-One and Team Drills
All-Access Duke Lacrosse, Volume II: Individual Skills and Full Field Drills
Becoming a Champion: The Defenseman
Becoming a Champion: The Attackman
Becoming a Champion: The Midfielder
Shooting Technique & Drills for Championship Lacrosse
Offensive Techniques & Drills for Championship Lacrosse
Speed, Agility & Strength Training for Championship Lacrosse


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