Championship Productions would like to congratulate Hall of Fame lacrosse coach Bill Tierney and his Denver Pioneers on their best start in school history (10-2). With the successful start and a win over reigning NCAA champion Duke, they are starting to gain national exposure. We have had the privilege of working with coach Tierney on multiple instructional DVD Lacrosse projects. To check out the drills, skills and concepts he is implementing at Denver click on the following link:
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.
Towson University men’s lacrosse coach Tony Seaman considers many of the drills based on the 4 v 4 set to be very effective for game-planning. This formation typically allows coaches to be flexible with personnel and gives them the chance to move players around in order to create a variety of game-like situations — and the more game-like scenarios you can implement in practice, the better. Plus, just one or two coaches can administer the drill, which is efficient for getting things done both offensively and defensively.
Offensively, the 4 v 4 set typically features a midfielder up top (1), a midfielder or attacker (2) on the left wing, a midfielder or attacker (3) on the right wing and an attackman behind the goal (4) — forming a 1-2-1 set. The offensive players are guarded by the typical defense they’d see in a game situation. The 1 player is defended by a short-stick defender (5), the 2 player is defended by a short-stick defender (6), the 3 player has a long-stick defender (7) on him, and the 4 player has a long-stick defender (8) on him behind the net. Keep in mind, if you usually put a long-stick defender on the 1 man, just replace him with the 7 defender (or you can use 3 or 4 long-stick defenders in the drill so that your personnel gets used to this style of play).
Instead of the typical 4 v 4 formation mentioned above, this drill has two attackers starting out behind the cage and then two more stationed out in front of the cage, creating a 2-1-1 formation.
The 4 player, who has possession of the ball on the right side behind the net, throws across to 3 and then sets a pick for 3. Now, the 3 man tries to drive off the pick and get a lead step. The offense has an advantage here as the 6 defender has to slide and pick up 3, who is now open at the side of the cage. All the while, this opens up 2, causing the 5 defender to drop down and play him, and that opens up 1 on the backside, who is moving towards the crease.
Coaches can create a variety of different options off of that pick, but the important thing is that the offensive guys get an idea of how to pick and how to create openings for their fellow attackers behind the cage.
Coaches and players can also work on the defensive aspect of how to play against the picks behind. In this scenario, the 7 and 8 defenders have choices here. When 4 carries the ball to the left and 3 picks the 8 defender, we can have 7 come across and tell 8 that the pick is coming. The 7 defender also steps back on the play and below the crease so he can allow 8 to move through thanks to the open space as 4 drives. Also, if the 7 defender can see this pick coming, he can yell out “switch” and take that man if 8 cannot get through.
Defenders can also jump the pick behind. Let’s say 3 comes over and picks 8 and 7 comes over with him and 4 now is coming off the pick with the ball. 7 then jumps out and tries to turn the attacker and 8 still goes with him and creates a double team on the ball. The goalie can also go out and play the open man, which in this case would be the 3 player who set the initial pick. The goalie sees this and covers the open man (3) because no one can shoot the ball from behind the net and the other players are being covered out in front. The goalie is safe to play that, especially if he is athletic.
When the ball is behind the net, you can also implement the pick and roll, which is a popular 2-man play. In this set, 3 passes to 4 and then sets the pick for 4, and 4 comes off the pick with the ball before getting jumped by the defense. Meanwhile, 3 sneaks out to the side after recognizing the double team and 4 hits him with the pass. 4 then passes to 3 before the goalie can get there and he comes around with the ball and deposits an accurate shot on net.
These drills are featured in the Championship Productions DVD “The Best Drill in Lacrosse: 4 v 4” featuring Towson head coach Tony Seaman. For more videos featuring Coach Seaman and Towson lacrosse, click here.
In this week’s edition of Coaches Corner, Championship Productions editor Adam Warner sits down with Hall of Fame lacrosse coach Bill Tierney, one of the game’s most influential and successful figures. Tierney provides an inside glimpse into a rising Denver lacrosse program, reveals some of his favorite drills and coaching tips, and explains why he moved west after an unprecedented run at Princeton.
Winter is approaching and the season is still a few months away, but I’m sure there’s plenty of work going on behind the scenes in preparation for the 2011 campaign. Walk me through a typical week in your lacrosse program at this time of year.
We spend three days each week lifting with the help of our strength coaches. This typically consists of bulk lifting, movement exercises and other lacrosse-specific exercises. We do running, conditioning and distance work on Tuesdays, interval training on Thursdays and sprint work on Fridays. Sometimes we even split the team up and play games, have fun and just get some exercise.
Also, two hours a week we’re allowed to do lacrosse-related activity. We usually choose to do individual work where we might bring half the team together or just the attack or defense and do 1-on-1 work and other skill-building things. It’s our hope that the kids continue to progress in the offseason so that when January comes around, they are in good shape and their skills are honed for a Division I season.
Talk about some of the more important things coaches do at this time of the year to prepare for the upcoming season that people may not know about?
November is just about the only month the whole year where we can go out and see recruits play lacrosse. There is a lot of time spent on the road, especially traveling around the east coast to observe tournaments and camps in order to look for kids to recruit.
We will also look at the film from our fall games, make an evaluation of each player in the program and get set for future opponents in general ways. We’re not talking about scouting reports or anything yet, but we do look at film to get reminders so when we come back to start the preseason, we are ready to get started and make adjustments. It’s about doing all the background things to get ready for the season.
After a highly-successful tenure as head coach at Princeton from 1988 to 2009, a run that included six national titles, what prompted you to accept the head coaching job at Denver in ‘09?
I loved Princeton and my time there. My sons Trevor and Brendan went there and won titles. In ‘09, we really bounced back and fell just one game short and I thought we were ready to contend again. Then all of a sudden, this opening at Denver happened and some of the directors at the school called me. And within those discussions, one thing led to another. They asked me, “What would it take for you to come and take a look?” So I came out here and every corner I turned, everything I saw and every person I met convinced me that it would be a good time to make a change and stoke the fire and do it all over again. Coach (Jamie) Munro had done a great job of making Denver a contender up until that point. It’s fun to start anew and it’s been a dream.
Talk about some of the biggest differences between coaching at Denver and Princeton.
No matter which side you are on, the grass is always greener. Denver is a place that’s not in the main stream of eastern lacrosse and we have to use our other strengths to attract young men to not only come and visit, but to play here. We have those things, like a lacrosse-only facility, sunny weather 300 days a year and we don’t get a lot of snow.
We have fantastic financial and emotional support from the chancellor and on down to athletic administrators. They want lacrosse to be great here. Same goes for Princeton, too, one of the best colleges in the world. The campuses are also very different. We are just outside the city so you get that city flavor and the buildings are only 20 years old. Princeton was much more of a country setting.
You played collegiate lacrosse for a formidable Cortland team in the 1970s. Has the game changed much since your playing days?
It has changed a lot, especially with the technology, sticks and high-velocity shots. There’s a big difference in regards to holding on to the ball when your stick is checked compared with decades ago when we had wooden and plastic sticks.
The downside is that you are bringing kids to the college level who have relied on the things that make it easy to catch and throw. Sometimes the equipment enables average players to appear much better than they are and when they get into tough situations, they can’t respond.
The game is fantastic though, and without coaching, it would be up and down with a lot of mistakes. Lacrosse is still a great game and its growth has been phenomenal.
Looking back over your Hall of Fame career, which achievement are you most fond of?
There are two games. Number one was our first national title at Syracuse in 1992. We were kind of the “Bad News Bears” of Princeton and beat Syracuse at Franklin Field. Also, 2001 comes to mind when we won our sixth title and my two sons were key players on the team. Having the boys play for me was such a blessing. Ultimately, my personal achievements are tied to my players and what my family accomplished.
At Denver, winning the ECAC tournament and making our first NCAA tournament appearance were great achievements. I’m also grateful for being inducted into the Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the sacrifices my family has made for me in order to be successful in my career. Also, hopefully I’ve had a positive influence on the lives of the hundreds of young men I’ve coached along the way.
You are well known for leading your teams to victories in tight games usually decided by a goal. Can you share some keys to success during pressure situations, particularly when there’s a lot on the line?
It’s about practicing under pressure. Those situations don’t overwhelm guys in games when you practice for it. We won four of six titles at Syracuse in overtime. We always try to make things hard in practice so it’s easy in the game.
For example, we like to put players in particular situations with defensive drills, man-down drills, full-field drills and scoreboard drills, such as one side is down by three goals and there’s ten minutes left in the game. When the guys learn how to respond, they stay fresh. Over time, the mindset becomes you know you will win and not that you hope you will win.
Besides having talented players, what are the key ingredients needed in order to have a championship-caliber team?
Our teams have won before despite not having the most talent. Of our six titles at Syracuse, I think we had the best talent in 1997. But in the other years, we lost some big games earlier in the season. With that in mind, some of the most important things are team chemistry, discipline, guys that enjoy playing together, and that the players know what they are doing in situations before they happen. Camaraderie and chemistry can also overcome a particular matchup or talent that isn’t favorable.
What do you look for in an ideal lacrosse player?
The game has become easy to be pretty good at. Some kids can probably shoot or catch the ball pretty well, but the great ones can pass as well as they can shoot. Typically, every one shot you take you have to make eight or ten passes.
Also, players have to do things hard. Sometimes I see passes out there that are like lob passes — and that won’t get it done in college. Hard passes are key and you have to move and be accurate. No matter what you are doing, doing it at game-speed is very important. If you can do everything at a quick speed and at a higher level, you can keep up with everyone.
The most frequent thing my freshman players comment on is that the speed of the game is so much different between high school and college. The speed of the ball, shots, skill of the goalies, general athleticism and size all come into play. But the beauty of lacrosse is that we have a stick. If a kid works on his stick skills tirelessly, even if he is 5-7 and 125 pounds, he can make it in this game. It’s a great game because the little guy can play.
What’s some of the best advice you can give to a new coach, whether its at the youth, high school or college level?
I have respect for the last players on the team. These players make us better even if they don’t play. Any time you can, get those players in the game when your team is ahead by a lot. You know you’re doing the right thing by stressing the importance of the entire team. We try very hard to do that and it makes everyone feel better.
The bottom line is that the job of a coach is to win games. But you also have to make sure you are trying to improve player and team skills. Don’t put yourself ahead of the team. If you love and cherish the game, you will be good coach. Also, enjoy the game and reach out to college or other high school coaches. One of the great things about lacrosse is that everyone is willing to help out one another. That was true 35 years ago, and still remains true today.
What’s a favorite drill among your players?
The guys love drills that go up and down the field and create scoring or defensive opportunities. One of their favorites starts out with a 2-on-1 from the midline and the players run in on goal. As soon as a shot is taken, we blow the whistle and new players jump in, and we make the drill a 3-on-2, and then a 4-on-3, 5-on-4, and 6-on-5.
The players will get into it emotionally and the offense will challenge the defense. The guys get excited, especially if they score a few goals in a row. I believe these kinds of things make you a better team and brings enthusiasm to practice. There’s nothing worse than boredom, repetition and standing around. It’s important to their keep heads in it and make sure they are enjoying what they are doing.
What is your all-time favorite drill to run in practice?
Well it goes back to the concept that defense wins titles. My favorite drills are ones that put the offense at an advantage and the defense at a disadvantage. One is a 7 vs. 6 drill where we insert another player into it after a 6 vs. 6 situation and we work on slides and rotations. There’s also the 656 drill, too, where the offense is out-manning the defense 6 vs. 5 until the defender gets back into play, and this simulates a slide technique.
Then there’s the red-white drill. We go up and down 5 vs. 4 and can add a man and make it 6 vs. 5 drill. It’s great for transition play, ball movement and skill development for offensive players. There’s also survival drills like 2-on-2 perimeter drills where we force the ball inside so two defenders have to communicate and switch. The bottom line is that we like to run drills that will simulate what we do in the game.
In 2010, your squad finished with an impressive 12-5 record and earned a berth into the NCAA tournament. Now flash forward to the conclusion of the 2011 season. Where do you see Denver lacrosse?
Hopefully, the games we won by a goal last year won’t come back to haunt us. We lost Dillon Roy to graduation and he was our captain and emotional leader. But we return a lot of talent and a great recruiting class. We’re keeping our fingers crossed to see if someone can step in where Dillon left off.
We went 7-0 last year in a tough league. If things go the way they could go, then we will have a good team. I expect we’ll compete for the conference title, hopefully win a tourney game, which would be our first, and get to final four. Our schedule has Syracuse, Duke and Ohio State on it, among others, so it’s going to be a tough year. If we stay healthy, and we grow, I can definitely see us playing in the NCAA tournament.
Bill Tierney has partnered with Championship Productions and has produced five instructional lacrosse videos. Click here to see more DVDs featuring the Hall of Fame coach.
The University of Virginia Head Men’s Lacrosse Coach, Dominic Starsia, earned his 300th career win in the Cavaliers 19-8 quarterfinal victory over Johns Hopkins. Starsia became only the third coach in Division I history to win 300 games. He is tied with former UMass coach Dick Garber for third all-time.