Editor’s Note: As part of our ongoing Fall Interview Series, Krieg Shaw sat down with Tom Carmean, the Head Coach for Guilford College Lacrosse. Carmean has been in lacrosse for decades and has played at all the highest levels. Before coming to Guilford, Carmean spent his time coaching in the hyper-competitive NESCAC.
Not too long ago I received an email from a fellow West Coaster that pointed me in the direction of Guilford College. Guilford is an NCAA Division 3 school in a pretty unique situation. Having a newly acquired head coach with a TON of experience, Guilford turned a 4 win per season average (since 2005) into a 9-7 record in 2011, and the team is looking to build off that this upcoming season. Guilford is also located in the Southeast – so it’s not your traditional lacrosse hotbed area either!
As I did more research on the team, I learned that Coach Tom Carmean and the Quakers are primed and ready to do whatever it takes to reach that next level. To find out a little more, I sat down with Coach Carmean to get the 4-1-1 on the lacrosse program he’s building at Guilford College.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your lacrosse background?
I grew up in Ithaca, NY and played high school lacrosse at Ithaca high school. After a a year at SUNY Farmingdale (on Long Island), I was fortunate enough to attend UMass and play for Dick Garber. That was followed by a lot of club lacrosse, 11 years of professional indoor lacrosse and 1 year in the MLL playing for the Barrage. During that time I also coached quite a bit at all levels of play and eventually ended up at Amherst College.
How did you get involved with Guilford College and what has your experience been like there?
A few years ago I very much needed a change and had been looking for opportunities in the South. When I visited Guilford and saw the beautiful campus, new turf stadium and athletic facilities, and met with AD Tom Palumbo, I knew that it was an excellent fit for the goals I had in mind. 14 months later I know that I made the right choice for me at the time.
Having grown up in Ithaca, spending a lot of time in Massachusetts and coaching at Amherst, you’ve been around quality lacrosse your whole life. How would you describe the growth of the game – especially after experiencing it in North Carolina and having met recruits from around the country?
Earlier this Summer I drove down to Birmingham, Alabama to watch the Mississippi vs Alabama High School All Star game. The level of play was outstanding and many of those players were going on to start college careers, including one heading to Guilford. All over the south the level of play is tremendous. There are still pockets where the game is just being introduced, but for the most part the sport has really flourished throughout the region.
In your first season with the team, you were able to lead the Quakers to their best season yet, going 9-7. What would you credit this huge turnaround to?
I think that both the coaches and the players were really geared up to meet a challenge, and we made sure that we fed them a steady diet of positive motivation to help them along. I mean I’m not going to kid myself, we also got lucky a few times in overtime and had a few bounces go our way at the end.
Guilford is a part of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. How has competing against teams like #7 Roanoke and #19 Lynchburg helped the growth of your program?
It is very important to the program to know that we will be playing some of the top teams in the country each year. It is important to prospective recruits to know that they will be playing in a very demanding league, and that they will get chance to prove themselves against some of the best players in Division III.
What are your team’s goals for the 2011-2012 season?
I am very pleased with our recruiting class and feel like we have the athletes to compete with anyone now. More importantly, however, I know that we have created a strong foundation upon which we can continue to move steadily forward.
Being a D3 school in the south, what sorts of advantages/disadvantages do you have in recruiting?
The obvious answer is of course the weather. We bring kids down here to visit in October and November and they can’t miss the idea that it is really nice to not have to dodge snowstorms and sub freezing temperatures throughout the Spring. The other thing is that there are a lot colleges in the south that are instituting lacrosse programs these days. In five years time the road map of college lacrosse will look very different and I believe that quite a bit of the change will take place in this southern region.
A lot of West coast kids might not know of D3 schools like Guilford or even heading to the Southeast. What would you say to a prospective senior considering heading back east to play?
I would just reiterate what I always say to kids in this situation, which is it to just be open to possibilities that may be a little different or vary from what everyone else is doing. This past year we brought in kids from 12 different states and it has really made for an interesting mix, especially now that the college football season is in full swing.
Thanks so much for your time Coach, and good luck this year with the Quakers! Stay updated on the Quakers via their Guilford College website.