In Part I of our Fireside Chat with Weston High School (MA) Head Lacrosse Coach Jim Wilcon, we focused on the team at Weston HS, and how they came to see so much recent success. Coach Wilcon took over a middling program with talent and won a State Championship within 3 years of taking the reigns. He’s clearly a guy who knows his lax and his leadership! Now we’re taking a deeper look into Massachusetts lacrosse and getting Coach Wilcon’s thoughts on Growing The Game and so much more!
Last time we talked about the current team, so now we’ll reach back into history a little bit! Has it been easy to connect with the alumni from Weston? The program has produced a number of NCAA D1, D2, D3 and MCLA lacrosse players over the years so what are you guys doing to get people interested in staying up to date on things?
Yeah, it is great that so many kids have gone on from Weston to continue playing at the next level, and we are trying to increase that yearly. I believe there is a facebook page set up for Weston Alumni Lax players. We also have our Weston lax website through the WHS boosters at the school where current players and alumni alike can check in on the team.
Many people in the lacrosse world view Long Island, Upstate NY and Maryland as the “true” hot beds of lacrosse. Do you think Massachusetts can now make a claim to be in that group?
Yes, those areas are strong and have been for a long time… but Mass is definitely closing the gap and you see more and more kids from Mass dotting the college rosters. This is especially noticeable at the NESCAC and Ivy League programs, which have the combination of great academics and solid lacrosse that so many Mass kids fit into.
Have any ideas on the future of lacrosse? How big can/will it get? Is all of this growth a good thing? What can we do to keep the game fun, growing, and available to new people?
Who really knows how big it can get… it is amazing how much the sport has grown in just the last 10 years or so, and it certainly doesn’t seem to be slowing down because so many kids are playing at the youth level. I think the growth is a good thing as long as it doesn’t to the point where it is too competitive at the youth level, and kids start getting cut or turned away from programs because they are not as skilled as the next kid.
Unfortunately, right now there are so many sports (such as hockey, hoop, lax, soccer, etc) where the expectations for kids is for them to play year round, we really have to be careful. In some cases coaches are telling kids to pick one sport and “specialize” in it if they really want to advance and I don’t agree with that at all.
Plus kids can get burnt out and eventually the sport isn’t fun for them if they play it non-stop year after year… so it really is a fine line and I think we all need to be aware of it.
What is your lacrosse background? Where did you grow up and who really taught you the game? Does that influence your decision to stay involved through coaching?
I actually got a late start (in today’s standards at least). We didn’t have a youth program on our side of town so we all played baseball in the spring until HS, and then the kids that got cut or grew tired of playing baseball switched over for the most part. Also, one of the football coaches was the lacrosse coach at my high school (Newton South) so I am sure he “recruited” a few of us to try it out.
I was just one of those kids that played anything and everything all year round. As long as I could get outside and run around I was happy, no matter what sport it was. Plus I kind of liked contact, so if you told me there was a sport I could hit people with my body and a stick, I was 1st to sign up! We actually won a State Championship my senior year so that was really exciting and I think I was probably hooked from there.
I was certainly influenced by all my coaches in football and lacrosse in HS and college, and I knew early on that when I was done playing I wanted to coach both sports so it has worked out pretty well for me. Again, I feel very lucky to have learned from so many great coaches and have been given the chance to coach and develop relationships with so many great kids along the way.
What do you look for in a player? Are their key traits you want your kids to display? Do you like a mix of interesting characters? Or are you looking for those lock-step soldiers?
6’2, 190 lbs of solid muscle, runs a 4.4 and shoots around 95 mph+… or you’re cut!
Honestly, I have never once told a kid I want him to be a certain size or speed for a position. Sure, we all want our kids to be bigger, stronger, faster, more skilled, etc so they can be potentially great players but I fall back on our rules we talked about last time: Be Coachable, Be A Good Teammate, Work as Hard as you can at all times… and Have Fun.
I think those traits strongly outweigh and can overcome a lot of size and speed “disadvantages”. Don’t get me wrong-I want my players to be in great shape and work out to make them stronger to prevent injuries and be a more effective player at their position, but I certainly think every kid has a different path that works for him so I want them to be themselves and do what works for them!
I remember the old days in football where teams would have a “300 lb bench club” or a “400 lb squat club ” or something like that, and you would get a t shirt. Well, what about the kid who is 5’4 and weighs 135 lbs, never misses a day of practice, works out like a mad man but is never going to bench 300 or squat 400 (and shouldn’t for his size)… where is his t-shirt? Plus I love the different personalities we have on our team… that again is huge in our team chemistry.
If you had to make a prediction on the next team in Massachusetts to win their first-ever State Championship, who would it be?
In our Division, Dover-Sherborn for sure! They are so well coached, so skilled and have had great success for a long time.
Brian MacGloughlin and Gene Zanella are top notch coaches and their kids play the game the right way. They have been in the Final 4 and the Finals a bunch of times but the ball just hasn’t bounced their way yet. You might have to check the books because I am not 100% positive that they have never won it all, but recently they are always the top team to beat around here at our level. Unfortunately we are in the same division so I hope they finish 2nd again… but don’t tell them I said that!
Too late, Coach! You already told them yourself! It seems like you guys will have another competitive season in 2012 and we wish you the best of luck. Thanks for being so willing to discuss your philosophy with us. I’m sure it will help other programs around the country improve! We’ll finish up with a little video from Weston’s run to the ‘ship last year! Great stuff!