Sam Lane is the MAINEiax boys director and head coach as well as the head coach of men’s lacrosse at the University of Southern Maine.
Sam played at Washington College, a Division III powerhouse in Maryland, before moving on to become a well respected game grower and coach in the Portland, ME, area.
Sam has been the director and a coach for the MAINEiax lacrosse club since 2012. Sam is also the head coach of the USM Huskies Divison III men’s lacrosse team and has been with them team since 2011.
We had the chance to catchup with Sam recently and talk with him about the growth of lacrosse in Maine!
Please describe the state of lacrosse in your area.
GROWING! We have new high school and youth programs popping up each season. More and more kids are joining club programs and going to camps. We also have more players being recruited to college than ever before which means we have a larger pool of players coming back and coaching the next generation.
In addition to “growing,” the lacrosse community in Maine is very passionate. Especially the coaches. From youth and middle school to college and club coaches, each one is putting in time and effort to make sure their players are learning the game and having fun. They also put together multiple coaching clinics each year so new programs and new coaches get off to a great start.
In what way(s) are you involved with growing the game in your area?
I try to do as much as I can. I am the head coach of the men’s team at the University of Southern Maine and director of the MAINEiax Lacrosse club.
At the college level, we are trying to build up a non-NESCAC, non-private school team. My goal is to create a competitive team that in-state, as well as out-of-state players will want to be a part of. The success of schools like UNE and Bates/Bowdoin/Colby is crucial to our success because it shines a light on Maine lacrosse. USM offers student athletes who aren’t able to attend those schools a competitive lacrosse option. Let’s face it, people love Maine and don’t want to leave and not everyone will attend these other schools.
At the club level, we do as much as we can to teach the game to youth and high school players. We have a handful of NCAA coaches on staff as well as some of the top high school coaches in the area. The idea is to teach the game to all ages, boys and girls, and then help them get recruited. And yes, we will help them get recruited outside of Maine!
We also run a bunch of day camps during the summer. Not everyone can play travel or lives near a summer league so we offer satellite camps in select towns around Maine. This summer we will have 7 (maybe more) of these localized camps. They focus on building skills and game knowledge for boys and girls grades 3-8. The whole idea is affordable and available. We want as many kids to have access to the game as possible.
I also use the MAINEiax website and Facebook to share drills, videos, wall ball workouts, etc. so players and coaches have an easy to find, local resource for these things.
How did you get involved? Where did you learn about lacrosse?
I switched from baseball. Originally I just wanted to copy my older brother who played lacrosse. In 6th grade my dad said I had to play both to see which I liked better. I would miss lacrosse practice to play baseball games and vice versa. But eventually I wanted to go to lacrosse practice instead of baseball games! That didn’t work out too well because my dad was my baseball coach, so I made the full switch in 7th grade.
I grew up in Fairfield, CT and had amazing coaching from 6th grade to senior year. During this time I was coached by guys like Andy Towers, Jamie Munro, and Darryl Delia, and many more who were just as great including Mike Mulvey and Chris Parisi.
In college I played for JB Clarke at WAC. He is now the head coach at Limestone. We had an all star asst. coaching crew including Sean Woods (Colorado College), Graham Niemi (Yale), and Curtis Gilbert (Berry). Playing at WAC with this level of coaching was truly amazing.
But despite the level of coaching I received during my playing career, the guy who really taught me the game, beyond the x’s and o’s, and the reason why I continue to grow the game, is Neill Redfern. Neill started the youth program out in Steamboat Springs, CO. and was an all-american at UNC. He looks at the game differently and uses it to build real character. If you know Neill, you know what I mean.
What is your favorite thing about our sport? What drew you in?
I love the lacrosse community. Coaches helping coaches, players of all abilities and ages interacting, the networks it creates, and the fact that everyone involved does as much as they can to help improve the game.
My least favorite thing is “look good, play good.” I LOVE gear but I really love when a well coached player who doesn’t have “the” gear dominates a player wearing top-of-the-line sublimated custom argyle scandium socks with terrible fundamentals. Gear doesn’t give you skill.
If you could change one thing about our sport, what would it be and why?
Rule changes: add the shot clock and be done with it. As a college coach, my first 5 games this season started by meeting with the referees making sure we were all up to date with the current (as in that day) rule changes that had gone into effect. These rules are supposed to speed up the game. You know what slows it down? Too many rules.
I also don’t like early recruiting and club teams that play/practice during the high school season.
And everyone should have to play with college legal sticks. Heads and pockets. All ages.
Do you have a favorite lacrosse? Favorite player(s)? Why do you like them?
Favorite team: WAC! And USM.
Favorite player: anyone who can play defense, offense, and face off. They are tough to find these days. And of course everyone playing at USM and MAINEiax.
What do you do outside of lacrosse? (i.e. school, career, other activitities…)
I ski and fly fish. Maine was a no brainer when my wife and I moved back east from Colorado.
What would you say has been your biggest accomplishment when it comes to helping grow the game in your community?
I am most proud of our “Medicine Games.” MAINEiax has hosted two charity games over the past two years. These events are “pay to play” donation based events. Boys and girls, grades 3 – post grad are invited.
The first year we held a fundraiser for a father who was a fixture in the local lacrosse community that had been diagnosed with cancer. He was a great guy and passionate game grower. All donations were given to his family.
The second year we held a memorial event for one of our coach’s long time partners. He was an amazing person and did so much for the youth in Southern Maine. We raised money for the local boys and girls club and donated in his name.
Both events drew huge numbers and support from the local lacrosse community. We will definitely continue these “Medicine Games” because this is really what it’s all about.
What do you think the biggest obstacle for growth of lacrosse is in your area?
Resources and coaching. There are a bunch of towns looking to add lacrosse at the youth and high school level but do not have the funding and/or coaches. Our US Lacrosse chapter has done great things helping new programs with gear but we are just scratching the surface.
I am currently working on a gear “donation” program that will hopefully help down the road.
Who, or what, inspires you most to help grow the game?
My personal love for the game is my motivation. I still love to play and I love to coach. Its great watching players get recruited, learn the game, or simply learn to catch the ball.
Everyone who plays immediately falls in love with it, like I did.