Since the 2013 fall ball lacrosse season is wrapping up, I figured it would be a good time to reach out to see how the boys at Brown University are doing. Brown hosted some pretty unique scrimmages this fall, let’s see what’s going on with the head coach Lars Tiffany and the Brown Bears, shall we?
How does fall ball work in the Ivy? What are the limitations put on fall practices? And does this put you at a disadvantage? Or do you just have to do things differently?
The Ivy League allows 12 dates in the fall with the entire team together in a lacrosse setting, whether it is a practice or scrimmage.
Each practice is limited to 2 hours in length. In addition to practice, all college programs are allowed to have what are termed Skill Sessions. 2 hours per week per athlete. The Ivy League limits skill sessions to 6 or 7 (7 if one is a goalie) athletes. Non-Ivies do not have a limit on the number of athletes at a skill session.
The Ivy League coach definitely has less time with his / her athletes than the non-Ivy in the fall. There is really no way around the rules. Captain’s practices occur, but us coaches cannot attend, watch film of, or even provide a plan for them. Does this put us at a disadvantage? I hate to admit to this, but I will admit that the best time to play a real game against an Ivy is in February. We are a few weeks behind at that time of the year and the difference can be noticeable early on. The Ivy League has a Spring Semester start date for team practice of February 1, whereas non-Ivies can start practicing as a team at any time their academic institutions allow in January.
Why did you choose to host England and Sankofa? That is a different way to compete with outside teams, so what did it do for your program?
My attitude is: the more lacrosse in one day, the better. Matt Bagley of Team England contacted me about playing October 25th, so we locked it down. When Chazz Woodson (Brown ’05) of the Sankofa Ambassadors reached out to me about playing, I told him I had the perfect date – the same date as England’s. It was a truly unique day and one that I will not forget. Fred Opie (Syracuse ’85), Kyle Harrison (John Hopkins ’05) and Chazz were exceptional with their messages for the rest of us during the pre-scrimmages presentation that officially launched the Sankofa Lacrosse Alliance. The competition that both Sankofa and England gave to us was well needed: we found both teams to be challenging and they both exposed multiple phases that we need to improve upon.
What was your big goal for the fall? Do you feel like you accomplished what you set out to do?
Our fall continues, so I cannot answer any questions concerning accomplishments. Our biggest goal of this fall was to bring the freshman class up to speed with the college game and to introduce our schemes earlier this fall than past falls. All coaches face the balancing act of player development vs. scheme development. How much do you focus your team practices and skill sessions on each? 50 / 50? We decided to put more emphasis into our scheme development this fall due to a heavy graduation hit on the defensive end of the field (Del Prince, Ferguson, Ford) and at midfield (DePeters, Jones, McHugh, Sherman).
What does Brown need to do to win the Ivy this year? It’s always competitive, but how competitive is the League looking this year?
I do not see any holes in the league. Everyone is bringing in strong recruiting classes and with a relatively calm several years with few coaching changes, there is stability and cohesiveness at most programs. Graduation hit some programs harder than others, but I don’t see any rebuilding projects out there due to the strong recruiting and player development.
The Ivy League continues to produce powerful teams that have been forged through great competition within the league. For Brown to win the Ivy, we need to win more possessions at the Faceoff X (we need to be at least 50%) and develop a young, inexperienced defense. We are spending a great more time this fall on our team defense.
What do you think about Early Recruiting? Do the Ivies have any additional rules in this regard? For schools that pride themselves on academics above all else, does the issue of early recruiting come up often at meetings for Brown or the Ivy Lacrosse coaches?
Early recruiting is like cussing. It is not appropriate, especially with younger people. But yet it happens, and it is only getting worse. I wish we could roll back the clocks on this issue and return to an era where high school seniors made official visits to a few schools and then made a decision – a decision at age 17 or 18, not 15 or 16. As a league, we talk about Early Recruiting each year at our meeting in December. We want it to stop. We have a respected voice amongst the other conferences, but on this issue our stance appears more as self-serving than righteous.
Early Recruiting will not stop until the NCAA and its constituents (us!) decides it has to. No “gentleman agreements” will suffice when it comes to recruiting – unfortunately recruiting is too vital to the health of all of our programs (and to the security of our jobs) to have a code of honor system guiding us.
How many two-sport athletes are there on the lacrosse team? Are the days of the two-sport athlete over at D1 schools? Do you look for kids who played multiple sports in high school?
Unfortunately we have no multiple-sport athletes with our program. This was not always the case. We used to have several football / lacrosse players (Walt Cataldo ’88, Ron Dalgliesh ’91) at Brown during my playing career. But this is not to say there are none at Brown. There are several women here playing two sports as well as several male athletes. ABSOLUTELY I look for the multiple sport athlete during the recruiting process, almost to a fault! I have a hard time continuing to pursue a prospect if he tells me he is only playing lacrosse in high school. I cringe when I hear that. I want young men who love competition, and fall or winter lacrosse just is not the same as lining up on the varsity football or soccer field, the basketball court or on the ice.
When you recruit a student-athlete, what are you looking for? Do you have a list of boxes to check off, or do you take a more personal approach, and look at each kid for what they are?
First, the recruit has to be extremely talented. We will not get excited about a prospect until we believe he has a quickness, a speed, a skill set and a lacrosse acumen that will help us win games and win an Ivy Title. Then we discover the prospect’s academic success, evaluating the strength of his class schedule, this GPA and his SAT or ACT scores if available.
Once that has been established, we begin the process of learning what the core values of the young man are and how great of a teammate he is. We interview coaches (both high school and club lacrosse as well as the other sports he competes in) to learn more about the character, competitive nature and grit of the prospect.