I was on the first ever lacrosse team at Weston High School. We went 8-8 and lost in the first round of the playoffs in our first year. We did the exact same in our second year. But that was back in the late 90s. Fast forward to the late 200s and the team was still stuck in a rut. However, Jim Wilcon took over the team and things changed immediately. Last year, Weston won their first-ever State Championship in Boys Lacrosse. I got the chance to sit down with Coach Wilcon for our latest Fireside Chat and learn a little bit more about how success is now achieved at Weston High School.
When did you take over as the Head Coach of the program at Weston High School? And what was the state of the program when you took over? How competitive was the team?
I took over as Head Coach in March of 2009 – only a few weeks before season started. I was very fortunate in that there were talented kids on the team already, but the issue was that they played more as individuals, and everyone was not pulling in the same direction. The team was 7-9 the previous season, and missed the tournament.
From my perspective (as an alum of WHS), it seemed like the team improved quite a bit in your first year and quite a bit more in your second year. How were you able to help the program make such big leaps two years running?
Yes, we did make a nice jump the first year, where we went from 7-9 to 14-6, doubling our wins, making the tournament, and winning our first play-off game. But the key was getting everybody involved in the program to pull in the same direction. This inculded the kids, the parents, and the youth program. I told the kids in our first meeting that we needed to focus on that, and if we did, the wins would take care of themselves. We had a Team Rope, painted Maroon, White, and Black and it was used as our motto: “everybody pulls in the same direction and the rope will stay tight, and we would be ok – but if people pulled in different dierctions we will come apart”.
All the kids bought in and really did a great job of playing together as a TEAM and we were on our way. The second year, we continued to grow as a united program and improved our record to 16-3, won 2 games in the tourney and lost in the semi-finals.
Last season (Spring of 2011) you guys took home the team’s first ever State Championship (which I LOVED seeing!) after another great regular season. What was the difference between 2011 and 2010? Just another year of experience for the team? Or was did you guys do something truly different?
Last season was as special as they come. Anytime you win a title, there is always more than one factor that contributes to your success.
First of all, the kids deserve all the credit. They put in the time, effort, and developed their skills which allowed them to be successful on the field. They also never wavered on sticking together no matter what, caring about each other, and representing the program the right way on and off the field, at all times. We also had unbelievable support from the parents in so many ways, the youth program is strong and growing, and our asst. coaches at all 3 levels (Varisty, JV, Freshmen) did an incredible job working with the kids.
We definetly benefitted from the experience the year before, and were lucky to have a strong nucleus of kids return from the 2010 team, along with some new contributors. Even though every year is a different mix of kids, we really have great chemistry every year, which I also believe is a huge factor in our success as a program. We really didn’t do anything different from 2010 to 2011, we just kept improving in all aspects of the game, stayed healthy, and played really well when we needed to down the stretch.
You make it seem so simple! Do you have a core set of coaching principles that you rely on? It seems like you see success no matter where you go! How do you consistently help teams elevate themselves so quickly?
We actually do have a core set of rules or expectations that we talk about all the time and follow as a program:
1. Be Coachable
2. Work Hard at all times
3. Be a Good Teammate
4. Have Fun
We really believe that anything and everything that happens over the course of the season can fall under one of these categories, so we try to keep it simple and follow those four concepts… As I mentioned before, we also expect the kids to represent the program the right way ON AND OFF the field at all times, and that covers the classroom, at home, in the community, weekends, and even the off-season. Last but not least we try to make sure the kids care about each other, which to me, is the key to our success and contributes to our wins as much as, if not more, than any strategy we use.
On paper you could say I have had success at a few different places, but I really don’t like to talk about myself – sorry. All I will say is that I been very fortunate to have learned a lot about coaching from some excellent other coaches and staffs. Also, I learned the key to coaching along time ago… it’s not the X’s and O’s, it s the Jimmie’s and Joe’s. We have great kids at Weston and they deserve all the credit… I actually heard another coach (who I don’t even really know) said to a mutual friend, “All I know is that the guy cares about his kids more than any coach I know”- I can certainly live with that.
Who are some of the stand out players and leaders from last year’s team that will be back for 2012? Do you guys have a good chance to repeat? Or is it still too early to tell?
As you might expect, we really don’t try to recognize individuals as much as possible, because everything we do is so TEAM oriented. We do have some very skilled players, but all the guys know that everybody plays an equally important role. I can mention our Captains for this season because they were selected by their peers. Our Goalie is Jared Fong – he is a 3-time Dual County League All-Star, had over 200 saves last year, and will be going to play at Gettysburg. At Attack, Joey Pasquale is a 2-time DCL All Star, was our leading scorer with 103 points (60 goals, 43 assists) and is playing at Hartford next year. On Defense, Steve Iodice is a 3 year starter, runs our Defense, and will be playing at St. Anslem next year. At Middie, Adam Guerin does it all; taking face-offs, scoring and playing defense – he is undecided right now for college, but looking at a few different options.
As for the Repeat… Of course, tell everybody else not to even show up… just kidding. The kids really do a great job focusing on that “one game at a time” mentality… we were 20-2 last year, but we honestly just looked at it like we went 1-0 twenty times.
Coach John Lewis was the first-ever coach at Weston (and my coach in HS!), and he did a lot to help start lacrosse at Weston High School. Unfortunately, John passed away a number of years back, so how does the team remember Coach Lewis?
I am sad that I never got to meet Coach Lewis. I have heard so many great things about him as a coach and and a man. He deserves so much credit for starting the program, growing the program, and laying a solid foundation for others. We have his picture in the Athletic office and some great words about who he was what he represented. And we also give out the annual John Lewis award at our banquet to remember and honor him as part of our program. I am humbled to follow in his footsteps.
Well, Coach, as a kid who played for Coach Lewis I can tell you he’d be incredibly proud of the work you’re doing on and off the field at Weston! Keep it up, and we’ll be sure to check in with you again in a couple of weeks to talk more in-depth about Massachusetts lacrosse! Thanks for introducing your program to us!
All photos were taken from Weston High Boys Lax website, and were snapped by Chris Williams!