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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.
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.