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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.
The hockey drill is an important exercise to run at any level as it reinforces hand-eye coordination, re-directing ground balls and individual ground ball skills.
The drill is conducted using a line of flat cones set out a few yards apart. One at a time, players work through the cones and push the ball back and forth up the field similar to a hockey player pushing a puck with their stick. After 10-15 yards, the player will then scoop up the ground ball and quickly deposit to a teammate down field.
This drill is also helpful for those awkward moments during a game when an opponent is closing in and a player doesn’t have time to scoop up the ball and pass off to a teammate. During game action, a player will typically only have time to push the ball up field once or twice, but the repetition of the drill makes those situations a lot easier to handle when the moment arises.
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