DEBACLE in Durango – 2001 – April

Sunday, April 1

We played one of our few Sunday games today, beating Mines 24-9. It was a beautiful day, worthy of April. I need to switch modes from, “How many turtlenecks?” to, “Where’s the sunscreen?” I have a bag full of wardrobe changes that I keep close by at all times as a Colorado coach.

I think a good time was had by all today. Mines is very much involved in jockeying for Division 2 RMILL position, and though they knew they would not win, they definitely came to play and improve their game for their own stretch run. They are the Orediggers. I’ve always gotten a kick out of team nicknames. I guess that one is pretty straight forward.

Since about 12 players didn’t even put on CSU uniforms I knew it would be an interesting game. Those “Dirty Dozen” with the day off spent the afternoon heckling and even booing their teammates to victory while sitting in folding chairs, working on a tan. I’m pretty sure they were also making book on how long it would take Napi to shoot or if Farcus would win the face-off.

Actually I was pleased because we just played like we play. We didn’t play poorly because we were not challenged, something that is easy to do.

Our defense was, however, fairly pourous much of the game. At one point near the end of the third quarter I expressed my displeasure with the fact that we had given up nine goals already. I said that if we gave up ten goals total that we would run all day Monday or something to that affect. Since we had given up 9 already, I really hadn’t left them much room for error. The Orediggers didn’t get more than one or two more shots the rest of the game, and never got that 10th goal. We met the challenge as a team. I like that, no matter which CSU team is playing. And they all know that we’ll end up running a lot on Monday anyway

I mean this in the best possible way: I think there are a lot of programs in the USLIA that would be happy to have our “JV” team. We did use some players who play a lot normally, but we also had a whole team sitting. I sort of let Jason be head coach for the day.

I will never cut a player, and today validated my conviction big time.

They as a team found motivation in their own way today, an in game project if you will. We have a young player who is a defenseman. He is also absolutely huge, let’s just call him Mongo. Well, they came to me after halftime and asked if Mongo could play crease attack. My first reaction was no, but then I said okay. They took him to the side and gave him some brief short stick training and then declared him fit for offensive battle.

I told them as a team at the beginning of the 4th that they were only allowed to score one more goal for the day, so they proceeded to spend the entire quarter trying to get Mongo that goal. They must have fed his stick 10 or 15 times. Later I think they were just trying to bounce the ball into the goal off of him, anything to get Mongo that point. Everyone understood the mission, but no one had ever actually verbalized it. The goal never happened, and they never used up that last goal at all.

Now Mongo thinks he is the new secret weapon, the Refrigerator Perry of lacrosse, and you know, if we could get him to catch a little better, it is “food” for thought. The energy that this little scene brought to the game was something. I don’t think any of us will ever forget it. I know that when I think of it now I laugh out loud.

We have UNC (Northern Colorado) at home on Wednesday in a league game, and then comes a big road game at Colorado College next Saturday in Colorado Springs. It’s on my birthday, and I know what I want for a birthday present. C.C. is a good division III team. It is also is the place where I got my “degree”. I wonder where that thing is, anyway.

Tuesday, April 3

I want us to play well this Saturday at Colorado College. I love going back because I went to school there, but in my trips to the Springs with CSU we have never beaten them. The challenge will be bigger than ever, as the Division III Tigers have had an excellent season, including an easy 18-12 win over USLIA power BYU early on. They have been ranked as high as 22nd in the Division III national poll this season. I have always aspired for CSU to be a team capable of playing and beating top Division III teams. I guess we’ll see how far along we are this weekend.

Varsity programs in general have been reluctant to play “club” teams in the past, so we haven’t played that many. They (varsity) see it as a no win situation, and for some reasons that aren’t worth going into detail about, I guess it is. It is somehow better for them to play a game with a varsity program that is horrible than it is to have great competition with a team who isn’t properly funded. That might change with BYU offering TV exposure now. You know, the Cougars may never have to play another road game except for us every other year and, of course, they always go to St. Louis in May.

I just want us to play the game we have inside us at this point in our season on Saturday, no more and no less, and then the winning and the losing will take care of itself.

I feel that I need to be, to quote one of the players, “Coaching Ninja” for this week. It is an important point in our journey. We are ready for a few fresh concepts, and maybe a few new drills. I started putting some in yesterday. Actually, we do new drills all the time, but I am really focusing on the pace of practice in almost the same way that I usually only do early in the season, like changing team focus quickly by changing drills quickly.

My tiny little mind wheels are just spinning right now. We are putting in a few new things this week. We are far from finished with our “total package” for the season. We are better than we were four weeks ago, but not nearly as good or complete as we will need to be four weeks from now. We have far to go in the team conditioning arena. Some things have to come little by little, and it’s hard with injuries, etc. for everyone to be equally well conditioned, ever.

Both of our serious injuries think they will play Saturday. Neither one probably should, but I am guessing that one of them will and the other will still not be able to run enough to go. We need hip flexor boy to heal for the stretch run, when we all need to be sound physically, mentally, and emotionally for every game. He needs four weeks, and it’s not yet two. We’ll decide on Thursday on the injured players. I am the “Show me” coach, after all. Man, it is so hard to keep a team healthy over the whole season.

I think this will be the best C.C. team they have had since Beville left 3 years ago, but I also think this could be the best chance we’ve had to really show up for this game, too We mostly have played them close in the past, but we have never grabbed the game by the tail. I never underestimate what this team can do. I absolutely believe in them. PERIOD. We just have to be “Ram tough” and try to grab a Tiger by the throat.

In an attempt to make us penalty freer, players are spending a lot of time without their sticks on defense this week. Good luck whacking without a pole; that’s my new mantra. Maybe I should try it in a game.

EVERYONE will ride the bus to Colorado Springs Saturday morning in my perfect little world, and it will be 72 degrees at game time.

Spring makes all things possible. After all, the Phillies won their opener yesterday.

Thursday, April 5

The game yesterday with UNC (Northern Colorado) was over before it started. I knew it would be. They only had 13 or 14 players. Still, they practice every day, too, and I felt it important that we get our game faces on for a while. After a little more than 15 minutes, the score was 15-1. I was pleased because we played loose and tight all at the same time. Napi had 4 goals in the first five minutes, and the then proceeded to get an assist on amost every pass after that. He finished with 5 goals and 6 assists, and I think most came in the first quarter. When he runs the show we look good.

It was so soothing to see our #13 warrior out there running around again. In so many ways, “he completes us”. Mike Roth doesn’t have to do anything specific to please me as a coach. It’s in the way he plays every day in practice, and every second during the games. It’s in the way he handles himself, and leads us. It’s in the way we, he and I, communicate. For all the goals he has scored in his years here, and it’s a ton, I truly believe that he would give all of this year’s crop of goals to #11 and #16 in pursuit of a singular goal that says so much more about what we have become as a team.

I think the officials might have subsequently invoked the 15-dash-1 rule early in the game, and not much was done to stop the game by whistle after that. We were done in a little over an hour and a half.

After our initial thrust of fifteen minutes, we proceeded to change the look of the game. The final score was 22-2, and we had quite a few “experiments” going on. For example, one fun bunch trio of middies came and declared that they were ready and worthy as an attack unit. I am always available for auditions, so I gave them the old green light. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t as easy as all that, and if I’m not mistaken they might have been partially humbled by their lack of production. Don’t quit your day jobs, boys.

Well, we’ve had a few games to get healthy (not quite there), pad our record (10-1 looks nice on paper), as well as our stats (whatever). Now it is time to get back to playing at a much higher level of competition. I welcome the change. Give me adrenalin or give me death, or, if we don’t play anyone that forces us to step up at that moment in time, then what fun is it anyway?

Friday, April 6

Well, they went ahead and did it; they voted us #1 in the new USLIA poll that just came out. Being #1 in April is not certainly my long term goal, but us being #1 at all just shows what can happen if you just keep pounding away. Not to worry, there are still plenty of nonbelievers out there. Michigan was a very close second, and I’m sure they are already plotting our potential rematch.

We are still recovering from the Michigan trip. I can barely keep up with the growth of our team’s capabilities right now, and as long as that continues to happen, I can only think one day at a time, one game at a time, one new wrinkle at a time.

We are on the threshold as a team, preparing to chase a dream. I hope we get all our little karmic ducks in a row tomorrow and endeavor to be – mistake free. I think we can open some eyes.

We still have a few injuries, but I suppose lots of folks do by this time of year. Our understudy in goal has rehearsed his lines endlessly this spring, and this day will be his time to play the goalie role.

We will have to play the game at a little higher skill level than usual because this team will have a lot of skill with their sticks.. They will put extreme pressure on the ball, and try to take it away, and things like that. They (C.C.) also have a few real stars, especially their long stick middie, Chircop, a potential D III All American.

Nothin’ to it but to do it. Bus leaves at 9:30 a.m. from the Moby lot. We’ve had some good trips that started there.

Soon it will be our time.. I can feel it coming. Soon, but right now we just pound away, day by day, play by play.

“The things we do in life echo an eternity”.

Saturday, April 7

My fiftieth year started today with me looking down at my odometer on the way to the bus and seeing the dreaded 66.6. What are the odds? One in a thousand? For someone partially handicapped already in terms of superstitions, this was not the perfect start to the perfect day. I started raging at the dashboard of my F-150 Ford pick-up, which I must admit made me feel much better.

We lost to CC 10-9, a game we had every opportunity to win. We fell behind 3-0, but I already knew that this was not like years past. I knew we were at least as good as them, even though the first quarter time of possession was about 14:38 for them, and :22 for us. They played this incredibly controlled game, just running play after play, not really doing much, and their players were certainly not allowed to create or think for themselves. This knowledge alone gave me a surge of confidence, but sooner or later we would need to actually have the ball. Our close defense was absolutely stellar all day. So was the goalie.

We started pressuring them more to do something with the ball. I’m sure that was exactly what they wanted us to do, but I couldn’t help myself because I got tired of watching them (CC) play catch. We started being more aggressive and interrupting their patterns, and then we buried a few quick ones, and it was 4-3 at half, and we had almost tied it just before the half. I liked where we were at the time.

The field was hard, not very varsity program like. More like the hard pan at Patty Jewitt (Colorado Springs golf reference). Maybe some water would be nice. We have some serious torn up skin after this one.

In the second half we exerted our will, and we took control of the game, playing with still some, but fewer mistakes. We led 8-6 with less than 10 minutes left in the game. With the score tied at 9-9 and less than a minute left in the game, we had an extra man opportunity, which we squandered with bad ball handling/thinking, leaving CC the chance to actually win it, which they did with 18 seconds left. I give them all the credit. They (CC) hung in and did what they had to to get it done. Something we need to do better. We need to close the deal in a game like that and we didn’t.

I am a little angry, but all I can really think about is how much better we are getting. A few things that we just started to work on this week looked pretty good. There’s more stuff to do. They want to get better. That makes it fertile ground as far as I’m concerned.

What would I have changed? Some things, but not everything. It would be nice to get that first face-off of the game, like we often do, and actually get it to the attack, which we sometimes don’t. I would change our choice of clearing passes on our first few chances today. I think I need to make a few more changes in terms of how we rotate personnel, but that is always a work in progress. We could have buried that team with our A game. I’m sorry, but that is how I feel. Now, how do I get the A game every single time? I know it’s possible. One or two could help me by making better choices the night before the game.

I’m not sure that the result of the game is as profound as I had envisioned, but hey, everything can’t be the Iliad.

My wonderful team/entourage had a little post game celebration pre-planned for my birthday. Our tall and lovely bookend scorekeepers couldn’t make the game because they had ROCKIES TICKETS, but were there via cell phone as they sat in the stands at Coors Field. We had a cake with that dreaded single candle that screams, “you are so old now that there is no way we are going to put that many candles on a cake, and anyway, if you tried to blow them all out you’d probably have a heart attack, so here’s one fat one, now make a wish”. We truly are a family. I truly am Papa, and I don’t think I could love them much more if they were all mine.

So I guess win or lose, we cake. I made a wish, and perhaps not exactly the one people might think.

Monday, April 9

We are now, in my mind, beginning our stretch run to the post season. We have 4 regular season games left, three at home. Over the next 10 days we play the University of Arizona Laxcats, who come to the Fort this Saturday, April 14. They are ranked 8 or 9, and are on a roll. I do not have tape of them, but we played them in Las Vegas last Halloween. The day is parents and alumni day, kind of a “family day” for the CSU lacrosse program. There will be a Fort Collins high school game before, and a dinner at the Holiday Inn after the U of A vs CSU game, which starts at 1:00 p.m.

The CU Buffs have also been playing great lacrosse during their travel odyssey which is their 2001 season. They have climbed to #11 in the poll, and had a great eastern trip. They are almost a lock to be in St. Louis, too. This league game is always huge. It is Wednesday 4/18, in Boulder, only 9 days away.

Interesting results from the weekend included Michigan beating up on BYU 10-5 in Ann Arbor. It didn’t surprise me that Michigan won, but the low total and margin of victory did. Auburn is looking like a player with a one goal win over Virginia Tech, a team that has had some big wins. Sonoma seems to be getting stronger and stronger, beating Stanford fairly easy over the weekend. We are positioned well in the USLIA for the post season, but we have to “hold serve” or everything changes.

We know we are going to St. Louis. We also know we are going to Fort Lewis first for the RMILL championships in Durango. We must plan for these trips, but right now I am a builder, and can only think about finishing the Ark in time for the flood of challenges ahead. I pray that all the animals get healthy, too.

Tuesday, April 10

Denver University’s club team has already cancelled tomorrow’s game. So much for that experiment, and no RMILL status for them next year either. We didn’t need that game anyway. I would just as soon focus on getting ready for the University of Arizona on Saturday. This game will be huge for the Laxcats and for us. Anytime two top ten teams get together there is the potential for a big swing for one team or the other. I know they will be very tough.

It is supposed to snow 4-8″ tonight. Of course, I hope it doesn’t, but I really want a nice weather day on Saturday for our first “homecoming”. I hope the Uof A has a safe trip here. They are the first big time USLIA program from another league to travel here to Colorado to play us. The first of hopefully many.

One great thing came from the CC game. We clearly have two great goalies ready to do the team thing. It’s like ’99 all over again only better.

All I think about is defense… and a little EMO when I’m feeling calm. They have some good answers for our style of defense now, and I want to keep the pressure on!

“We are on a mission from God” <><><>Ellwood Blues<><><>


Wednesday, April 11

It snowed, more like drifts of 4″ to 12″ at my house, but at the college I’ll bet it will mostly be gone today. It was almost an Arctic Express kind of storm by 3:00 a.m. The Shining. If it weren’t for Stephen King, I wouldn’t know what to say about all these storms this winter.

No practice today, but we will go tonight, inside at 9:00, and I will try to work on conditioning as.we are not yet exactly on my preconceived conditioning schedule, which would have us near or at our top conditioning gear or level by now.

Thursday, April 12

I am now finally writing the journal on my new iMac instead of my tempermental lap top. Oh, thank you!

Today’s practice suffered because we only had one goalie. It wasn’t that long ago that one goalie was all I ever had, and full field scrimmages were almost unheard of. Now, I don’t see how I could coach without 2 or 3 goalies and some full field almost every day. They (players) would say I do too much 4 on 4 and not enough 6 on 6, but to me, six on six is pretty much an earned privilege, not just a right of daily practice, and 4 on 4 is how I can best teach, and they can best learn.

We ran a lot today.

Friday, April 13

I am a little nervous about tomorrow. Lots going on. There is a Fort Collins High JV game and a varsity game vs. Golden as well. If the weather is good, we might have a “record crowd”.

They (Arizona) will come in with nothing to lose and everything to gain. I worry that we are too confident just because we beat them in Las Vegas last fall. The Laxcats certainly have the respect of the USLIA lacrosse community, as they got some #1 votes as well in the last poll. They are an offensive powerhouse, averaging 17 goals per game. I’m not sure of their record, but I think it is similar to ours at 10-2 or something like that. I don’t know who our healthiest goalie will be, as both starters are less than 100%.

We need to come out defensively and control their high powered offense early or it could be a long day. I like the way we are playing now. We need many things, not the least of which is to get healthier, but I like our chances tomorrow if we just play the way we can. I think we are just getting ready to “go off”, and I hope it is tomorrow. I want to take the “A train” and play our “A game” from here on out.

High school players still e-mail and call almost daily about coming to CSU. The fall meeting should be a very interesting one.

We had dinner at Woody’s Pizza. We love to be together as a team. I know I keep saying it, but it’s like we all have these other things (problems) in our own lives, but somehow when we are together we are whole and it hopefully gives us strength to handle other aspects of our lives.

Personally, it is a difficult time. It’s the busiest weeks of the year for Rock-it Pocket. I also always have another birthday, and then we finish it off with April 15, pretty much the day of the year I hate the most, even if it is the 16th this year. If those checks I wrote to the IRS don’t bounce (from, coincidentally, St. Louis) back to me, I might just survive until May, when we will bring our own kind of check to cash in St. Louis.

Saturday, April 14

Well. we did go off today, taking care of business and then some against Arizona, 25-7. It was 13-4 at the half, and 25-5 with still almost 11 minutes left in the game. I felt that today was very much a “statement” day for us. I wanted to send a message to anyone who cares that we are a major obstacle in your way if you plan on winning in St. Louis 4 weeks hence. Other than that, it was a nice win, but we have so much more to do.

Our attack really played the way I thought they could, but hadn’t quite seen before. They had over 30 points as a threesome! Our extra man offense was more than efficient, it was almost savage in the way it attacked the Laxcats man down defense, crippling it and then finishing off almost every opportunity with a goal.

We only had a couple man down situations (no whacking), and I always feel that we are tough when we don’t get fouls. Every time Arizona had the ball, we did the things that we do, and we took the ball back.

I keep harping away that it is not about who we play, but rather how we play. That’s what it was today.

I have to go now. I think some of the alumni are going to try to get me drunk.

Sunday, April 15

I went out and “tilted” a few with the boys (past and present) last night, but I’m pretty sure that I’m gladder about how I feel this morning than they all will be some 4 or 5 hours from now when they get up. Actually, knowing some of the alumni, they might still be out there chasing down a keg.

We had our “Family Dinner” last night with the team and many of their parents. It was wonderful. Our team officers are getting good at putting on an event like this one with dinner for 100 at the Holiday Inn. We raffled a plane ticket to St. Louis. The seniors were each given the jersey (signed) that they first wore in St. Louis in 1998, our first trip there. We have new uniforms this year.

When I saw all of our seniors standing there, a flood of emotions washed over me, not the least of which was the one I felt realizing that, with 8 or 9 of them, we will lose almost a whole team of players next year. That one was fear mixed with excitement. I have always felt that fear is a tremendous motivator. I can’t worry about any of that right now. Besides, we are never going back to where we came from.

The family doesn’t change, the kids just grow up and leave home, and, sad or not, this is a good thing. (They need to go make money to give to the program).

These homecoming kinds of things are the cornerstone of our overall “program” concept. I think we all felt very much like a program last night. Imperfect? Yes. Blemishes? A few, but this is very much what I set out to do when I got in my car and left Santa Barbara in August of 1996.

I think the fact that our players pay a lot of dues, $1000 and more per season, is a good thing. When they have a financial commitment it makes things a little different for everyone, and it obviously allows us to function on a fiscal level. They take pride in things that they invest in (theory).

I sometimes think I do all this just because I love to see the look on the Mom’s face when I talk about her son on a night like last night, or when they come up and ask to have their son’s picture taken with me after the game, and maybe the kid never stepped on the field all day. This is all about so much more than whether a school funds your program or not.

Ultimately, the university itself is far more about control than they are about financial support. They do usually give us a little exta $ due to the fact that we compete in “nationals”, but they do not have the resources to send us to St. Louis. I want the players to pay dues, but at the same time I wish that when we got to the trip to St. Louis we didn’t have to turn around and ask them all for another $300 or whatever. The honor of going could only be greater if I could figure out a way to pay for it. Actually, I think one of my off-season projects will be to try and set up some kind of “St. Louis” endowment for CSU lacrosse

Tomorrow we get ready for CU on Wednesday. I was thinking about driving an hour to Boulder to watch Arizona vs, CU later today, but I’m thinking I might be too lazy. We played them earlier, and I have the CU vs. BYU game on tape. We will probably watch that as a team on Monday.

Tuesday, April 17

Life has been incredibly hectic the last few days. If only I could just be a coach; plan practice and write in my journal, what a wonderful world it would be. Instead, I feel like that guy who went on the Ed Sullivan Show in the 60’s and spin like 87 plates on top of skinny poles. He would just run around like a maniac trying to keep all the plates spinning. I don’t think the act would fly in this century, but after all these years, especially now that I have a one year old, I now know how the Hungarian plate spinner felt.

We play CU in Boulder tomorrow (Wednesday, 4:00) in a big league game. If we win, we play CU a week from Friday in Durango at 7:00 p.m.. Coincidentally, the same thing happens if we don’t win, except we would wear green instead of white. One will be the #2 seed in Durango and the other will be #3. #1 is BYU, who beat both CU and us, and they will play #4 Fort Lewis. That is how the semifinals will look. The game tomorrow doesn’t technically mean anything specifically to the playoffs, but of course it is a big game for us as we endeavor to get better. CU is always a big game, because they are always a good team. They get very up to play us. Beating us would make CU’s season, and also put them in great position for St. Louis.

Now is no time for a letdown. We have some injuries, and we are missing one of our best due to a death in his family. He will be gone a week. We are taking a CSU bus to Boulder, and it is $400 we probably shouldn’t spend, but I very much want to keep us together and focused as much as possible from here on out. It is difficult enough with only 2 weeks left in school, and exams coming up. They will all change living arrangements for the summer over the next few weeks as well. It becomes a real challenge to have high quality practices from now on.

I don’t think any of us at CSU lacrosse are anywhere near ready for this season to be over. I think we collectively feel like we are just getting started.

Wednesday, April 18

I must be getting too demanding in my old age. We handled CU pretty well today, and won 17-6, but I’m just not happy with the way we played overall, and the number of “unforced errors” we had. Sometimes I think that I am the only person in the world that thinks that there is absolutely nothing more important than catching the ball. You can diagram yourself the unstoppable play and it will only work if you catch and throw. I don’t diagram anything most of the time. I demand that you move to the ball when you want it, and catch the ball always. That is all.

We made some mistakes on defense that I consider to be “cardinal sins”. We have work to do. We did only give up 6, but probably 4 were basic breakdowns by us that they capitalized on. Cale saved our bacon in the goal a bunch of times. We got many more ground balls and took a lot more shots. Those are trends I like.

Tomorrow we will be the walking wounded as I saw so many ice packs cellophaned to players bodies after the game that it is making me a little crazy.

Teams that we play focus on and talk about our two Mikes a lot. Meanwhile, Ryan just quietly gets better every day. He had 5 or 6 today. He is often the straw that stirs our drink

It seems like every time we play CU a bizarre happening makes the second half something totally new and different. In February, when we played them in Fort Collins, a fan ran on the field and tackled the referee. It took about 45 minutes to get that all sorted out before play resumed. We almost had to forfeit. I think the “crack” CSU police department is still trying to figure out who did it. Fortunately, BYU was there videotaping the game, so the “police” have that to work with. I’ll give you a hint: it was a big, fat half naked drunk guy. After he did it he just hurried off, head down, like Al Pacino did in the Godfather after he whacked those two guys while they were eating spaghetti. I’m thinking that half my team, and about 500 other people know exactly who the guy was. They should have it solved sometime after all the students are back home for the summer. They are still giving me my daily parking ticket, though. Confetti. The collection agency should be calling any day.

Today, there was a minor brawl near the end of the game, and among other things, two of our players were ejected and will have to sit out the next game. It took the officials quite a while to sort all that out, and truthfully I’m glad it wasn’t my job to do it. Both teams played most of the last few minutes of the game three men down. It was like playing the game without midfielders, 3 on 3 in settled situations. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, but this has been a year for that. Fortunately, I just learned that our two “fighters” will be sitting out this Saturday against Air Force B, and not next week in the playoffs. So, I feel a little better knowing that. I’m so glad now that I added that game to our schedule.

I hate fighting, but I love for them to have the attitude of fighters. I want them to “turn the other cheek” and thereby get the extra man situation. They always say, “Coach, we have to protect each other”, etc. Bottom line is that I’d take the results of not retaliating every time, but I’m not mad at the ones who got ejected. They were worried that I would be. I’m just mad that they won’t be there Saturday. It is pretty much 33% of my extra man team for one thing. Mostly, in my perfect little world, I just like going into battle all together and fully armed all the time.

Thursday, April 19

I awoke this morning to a couple of e-HATE-mails. They were colorful diatribes, pointing out my size (lack of) and questioning my sexual orientation several times among other things. One also explained how bad we (CSU) will be next year because of graduation and the fact that I can’t actually coach. Has it really come to this? Gee, I wonder who could have sent them. Sticks and stones….


Today our most valuable player will be Dr. Ron, a local chiropractor who has helped us stay together by donating his time to this team one day a week. He has been a God send.


One thing we have this year that we have never really had before is three solid midfield lines. It is working great. This is no big deal for most coaches, but in the past I often didn’t have clear cut lines, they just rotated, and all of them needed to be able to play as a unit with different people at different times. Now we have trios that have been together for a while, and I can really see each group’s progress as the season moves on. Now, if one of the nine middies goes down, I try not to shuffle lines. We just plug the next guy in, and try to keep the band playing on.

Air Force B on Saturday at 1:00 in Fort Collins, our last home game and last regular season game as well. Soon will be the “second season”.

Ollie (Olive Oil), I think of and miss you today, as I always do on April 19.

Friday, April 20

I found out yesterday that April 20 is, in fact, a bit of a holiday. We didn’t have this one when I was in college. Maybe we thought every day was April 20.. Practice should be fairly amusing. There could be a little bit of a “twist” on the signifigance of being a “hungry team”. I’m sure today they will all know their rolls.

Our president, Jeremy finalized the last of the St. Louis arrangements today, booking us 16 rooms at the HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS IN FENTON, MO.. Maybe with the day off we have this time I might see something besides the bus, the field, and the hotel parking lot. I saw the arch once, but it was in 1967.

We have something pretty cool that is new. Our web guru, Bill has put some video clips of our game last Saturday with Arizona on our CSU web site. Also, Patrick, our charming senior face-off expert is becoming a regular on the local Fort Collins radio drive home sports talk show (they might be a teeny bit desperate, but I’m not saying that they are), Monday’s 4:00 – 6:00. Media darlings are we.

The bus driver, Greg, who took us to Boulder the other day is becoming a big fan. He took us part way to St. Louis when we won in ’99. He is used to taking the CSU football team, and how organized they are, wearing ties (we don’t) and keeping quiet (we chat). So I think he finds it amusing that I have no lists or anything else that would make me look efficient. When a certain select group shows up last, because that is what they do, I know it’s time to shut the door and go.

They look out for each other all the time. Last time we flew no one even missed the plane.

Saturday, April 21

We survived a slow start and and the absence of 5 starters, and went on to beat Air Force J.V. by the score of 16-7. We didn’t show up very inspired, and in fact, as I was sitting there 45 minutes before game time with 3 other guys, watching AFA go through warm-ups, I began to wonder if we were going to show up at all. The players all straggled in. I’m sure it is my fault. I never pointed to this game on the schedule until the day before yesterday.

They (AFA teams) always worry me, because they usually can run all day, and do fundamental things well. It was obvious that they hadn’t played a lot of games together, though, and I’m sure that many of them are freshmen and sophmores. But they could definitely catch and throw, as well as score when we made mistakes.

I guess I feel pleased with our performance for a couple of reasons. We had important people missing from our line-up, but we still played the kind of team game that is becoming our “style”, both on offense and defense. We made some mistakes, but we all mostly know now what we are trying to do in most different kinds of situations, and they are ALL trying to do the things we need to do to help us be successful as a team. When that happens, our game stays more consistent, no matter who is playing. That’s what I want more than anything, for us to look like the same team, no matter who is in the game. With time it can become more polished until the whole team really shines.

Three of our seniors didn’t play at all today, and a couple of freshmen stepped up to the plate. One in particular played very well, filling in for Rock Star. He is not quite ready to throw to the wolves yet, but let’s just say that I am most pleased with the young man’s recent progress.

We had nothing to play for today, which also always worries me, but we still were fairly solid in several areas. We all collectively know the things that need to be spotlit for our next 4 rehearsals leading up to showtime in Durango next weekend.

We strive for CONSISTENCY, DURABILITY, ACCURACY, and DEPENDABILITY, just like the pockets that we use. This coming week I will make them focus on making sure we don’t get anymore illegal stick penalties and things like that. Everybody needs to get their equipment and all the little details of their game (socks, long or short?,, etc.) in order for the playoffs when everything is magnified because there is so much meaning to each game.

Their (AFA) coach said two things to me that pleased me. He said he thought we had a good program. He said program, and not just team. From someone who sees Division I all the time, “good program” would be the best thing he could possibly say to me, except that then he said something even better. He said that it looks like we really have fun. For this team, there is no “I” in fun.

I might take tomorrow off. I don’t know if I remember how.

Monday, April 23

Today’s practice was pretty good. It wasn’t fabulous as far as tempo or intensity goes, but in terms of the number of different subjects that we touched on in a positive way, it was very good. We ran quite a bit, but still we are not where I want to be conditioned-wise. We definitely have a few injury uncertainties, too. We are fortunate to have more depth than ever before. I hope it is enough to give us six more games that grade out at or somewhere near the A level.

Good coaching often has to do with how well the coach listens. When players are able to really read and understand game type situations and come up with possible answers to a problem, it’s all good as far as I am concerned. It increases everyone’s learning curve, and it is happening for us more than it ever has before. For example, the man down, having practiced against the EMO all season, has learned how to read and cheat when they recognize what the extra man offense is doing. This is not a rare occurence in lacrosse. The traditional lacrosse team tendency is for the EMO to whine that they are no longer scoring goals because the man down defense “knows our plays,”.and blah, blah.

This 2001 EMO group (9 players who rotate in 6 positions) tends not to do this as much, but rather looks for answers with me to questions that a defense, man down or otherwise, poses. They hopefully see that this is a part of the learning process that will make them able to pass whatever test is at hand. Good adjustments come from asking good questions.

Another mistake generated act is a lacrosse tradition: the one where defensemen have a knee-jerk reaction to being scored upon. The first thing many self-respecting defensemen do is to immediately turn around and blame some poor short stick midfielder when the other team scores a goal. This is a tradition handed down for generations, and to me it is often as silly as the proverbial chain of command which punctuates failure by the kicking of the dog who was just lying there doing nothin’ but just being a dog. It is a natural response,, because it is totally politically incorrect to ever yell at the goalie. This team rarely falls into this kind of pattern, mostly because they understand the roles and the risks of our team oriented defense. Plus, with us, everyone usually knows which individual caused the team breakdown, including and especially the player who did it. I try to only magnify this situation when I am trying to teach or make a point.

Middies can’t help being middies, and their sticks are 3 feet shorter, making a defensive mistake magnified all the more..

Our team wants to know the story of what the other team is doing, and how to recognize certain keys which tell us what to do.. Understanding brings about insight, and more than that, excitement. We are hell bent to devour as much of this particular book as possible, or so it would seem. This is not a coincidence. We talk all the time about how to “read” what a particular team’s defense is doing, etc.. In a perfect world, the ways we deal with specific situations in a game become, to a large degree automatic, on offense, defense, and everything in between..

Today was mental. Tomorrow I will think a lot about pace when I plan practice. In my mind it will be a bit like field aerobics, Taicrosse Let’s get physical.

Finals are coming up soon. We must be sound of mind, body, and spirit if we want a chance to get those RMILL and USLIA “diplomas” that are a big part of why we all came to CSU.

Tuesday, April 24

One thing I forgot to mention Saturday is that Napi got his 100th point against Ari Force J.V. The numbers are extremely balanced, like 52 goals and 48 assists in 15 games. It is a terriffic accomplishment. He has had a wonderful season so far, and I’m hoping that there is another point or 50 left in his wand for the SECOND SEASON.

Of course, I was the last to be informed. “Coach, Napi only needs 2 more (for 100)”. Normally he would have been sitting down, but I let him get his 2 more. It didn’t take long.

Wednesday, April 25

Tic toc, tic toc, the clock is winding down on the 2001 season. Tomorrow we leave for Durango at 7:00 p.m., after classes, a shortened practice, and a bite to eat. There are conflicting reports on how long it will take to get there on the bus, but I’m thinking we should arrive at the hotel at about 2:00 a.m.

We play CU at 7:00 p.m. Friday. From all reports, the field and lights aren’t too bad. If we survive CU, the turnaround time to play BYU will be much like it was in Michigan, when we only had 19 hours between playing Michigan Saturday night and Sonoma Sunday afternoon.

Passing these kinds of tests is what team accomplishments are all about. Winning championships is about being able to handle all the different circumstances (off as well as on the field) that are thrust or otherwise fall upon your team. I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do I want to be the #1 seed in St. Louis? Yeah, you bet. Do I think it will be easy to get? No way.

Thursday, April 26

The weather has been great, very condusive to playing lacrosse, but also many other springtime distractions. Yesterday they wanted to do their laps in a pool instead of on our hardening more every day field. Actually I have this suspicion that many had been frolicking in the pool earlier in the day and didn’t have much left for practice.

I think it’s time to really let them feel their oats, give them their head, and just let them run. I just want to hang on for the ride. Everyone knows about us, and who are players are and what we do.. In fact everyone pretty much knows about everyone by this point in the season. Now it is just time to go get it on.

Friday, April 27

We are leaving for the field in less than an hour. I know we are ready to play well. I just hope we do. I worry a little that they read too many of the articles that are being written about us, or think about things like all stars. You are only as good as your last game, and tomorrow our last game will be tonight’s game with CU.

I’m at the point that I am not concerned how individuals play, but rather I am obsessed with how we play as a team.

I am also wondering if and when my little lap top is going to explode. She took a nasty fall on the bus last night, which, of course, didn’t arrive in Durango until 4:00 a.m. How can any place that is the same state be so far? I think I was in denial about how far it was.

Saturday, April 28

In the spirit of what is the CSU lacrosse season of 2001 we had some wind and rain for the game. We took care of the first piece of business that we came to Durango for, beating CU last night 14-5. It was very much like the other two games we played with them this year, as we led 9-2 at half and then cruised to victory. Unlike the other two, however, there were no particularly bizarre occurences after the intemission. We played well, but spent much of the second half in the penalty box, and I’m saying they were not Phi Beta Kappa penalties. I’m saying we better not do that today, and in fact 4 of the CU goals were when we were in the box, and the other goal for them came when we were a man up. That one was actually my fault for not making an adjustment to EMO when a player got injured and we were actually playing 5 on 5, and not 6 on 5 like it should have been. Bottom line is that they did not score one even strength goal on our defense. Cale the goalie made some saves today after I had alread uttered my “they will score now” expletives. It looked like he saw the ball great. We also cleared the ball very well last night. Thank you, boys.

I am pleased because I don’t think we totally wore ourselves out in the process of playing against CU last night, and I’m feeling good about how we go into our game today with BYU, who beat host Fort Lewis by something like 26-11. A track meet with face-offs. I hate playing in, and actually I’m not that fond of even watching those kinds of games. It is certainly NOT what I am looking for today

BYU always gives us trouble. With them we need to get over the mental hump of hoping to beat them, and try to get to the place where we expect to beat them. It is no small task, and neither will be today’s game, but I feel that if we play our A game we can beat any team right now.

“Coacher, where would you rather be?”

Sunday, April 29

Yesterday was not the most fun I’ve ever had, that is for sure. We lost our RMILL championship to BYU 13-12 in overtime. We led 6-2 at half and 10-5 after three quarters despite not really playing that well. In the 4th quarter our wheels kind of came off. I felt the BYU comeback coming on, but I thought we could withstand it, because all year we have been the kind of team that has not let teams back in games when we have a lead. I thought we had it won twice overtime with great scoring chances, but overtime is not where we lost it. We did not close the deal earlier in the game. We most certainly could have, and that is good for us to know.

I could say that the BYU coaching staff made all the right adjustments or whatever, but at the same time, their “6 million dollar” man Steve Austin certainly took the game over in the second half. When they changed the goalie in the mid third, they also changed the energy of the game. We all thought he (Jason Lamb) should have done it (change goalies) about 10 games ago. By the way they responded (to the change in goal), I’m guessing that BYU players had been feeling the same way. I congratulate the RMILL champs, much as it hurts to do so.

This really was a painful experience, partly because I’m not sure I’ve ever had a team come back on one of my teams like that, either as a player or as a coach. I have certainly been part of plenty of teams that have done it so I know how that feels. I don’t like the tables being turned.

We couldn’t get face-offs in the second half, and, of course we got too many stupid penalties. We dropped or threw the ball away too many times, and I always feel like if I would have been smarter or somehow more aware we would have been more successful.

Our family harmony was severely tested and we didn’t do that well in that department either. There was a little bickering, which we try not to do. Maybe in my mind, because this is the best team that I have ever coached, I expect them to be perfect, and that is too much to ask of any team. We are still good, and we are not dead. No, we won’t be the first seed in St. Louis, but I can’t see why we would drop more than one or two spots in the poll.. Yes, we will have to play 4 tough games to do it, but we can definitely do it. It pretty much depends on how much we want to.

Then, of course, the perfect day yesterday was punctuated by an 8 hour bus ride which got us into Fort Collins as the sun came up today. As I played with Jordan this morning, I realized that he, as a 15 month old is totally unaffected by what happened yesterday, and so is most of the rest of the universe. Time to get on with the next thing, and that would be catching up in “real life” and getting us ready to be our best in St. Louis.

Congratulations to Pat Coy for being RMILL defensive player of the year, and Mike Napolilli, offensive player of the year. Mike Roth also made first team attack. Other all stars named from CSU are Ryan Robichaud on D,, Chris Gemperline Long stick middie, Loren Husson and Pat Lambert on midfield, and Cale Vanvelkinburgh in goal, who I think should have been first team, but I am certainly more pleased with our representation this year than ever before.

Life is full of little challenges. Let’s see how I and we respond to this one.

Monday, April 30

Getting prepared for St. Louis is an interesting process. What used to be frustrating, I now find to be a creative challenge. The players have exams next week, but we are leaving Monday.. They are allowed to come late or leave early or otherwise do whatever they need to do to take care of school by next Monday. I will actually administer some final exams while we are in St. Louis.

I used to be angry that I couldn’t have “perfect” practices to get ready for national champuionships because of so many distractions, which now includes girlfriends returning from a semester overseas, and more than ever, players missing their own graduations. Having finals, moving, and St. Louis on the horizon weren’t enough. Anyway, now I just focus on upbeat, fun practices that touch on the things we work on without depending on exact personnel or whatever. We “go through our paces”.

We don’t need massive adjustments or reinvention. We need to fix a few little internal things and reemphasize what the family thing is really all about, but even though I am not happy about the way we lost the game Saturday, I still have confidence in our experience and maturity to show through. I have always believed mightily in our talent and ability to play as a team. Do I still think we can beat anybody? No, I know it. If we do play BYU again, I have a few ideas about our approach to playing them, but I remain most focused on what we do and how we play. Our A game is good. I know that is all we need to achieve our goal. No more, no less.. It’s my job to help them find it for 4 games.

Now it is about enjoying our last couple of weeks together, and really having fun playing and honing the 2001 CSU lacrosse team to be sharpest when it counts the most.

Tuesday, April 10

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