The High Point Panthers are in the midst of their first year of NCAA D1 Men’s Lacrosse, and I was able to steal Jon Torpey away from his regular duties as Head Coach to discuss the program. We covered a lot, ranging from the ideal High Point recruit, to how other new programs can see success on and off the field as quickly as possible.
Below I will run through the most interesting portions of our conversation, broken up by subject.
Is Year One A Success?
Coach Torpey immediately noted that they, meaning the entire staff and team, are “not happy with 2-8” (now 3-8), but he also noted that the team is “taking positive steps, and we have shown great poise considering 31 of our 38 players are freshman“.
Overall, “the players set the bar high for themselves, and try to get better as athletes, students, and in all things“, and Torpey trusts them to lead this program into the future. Not only does he trust freshman when the game is on the line, partly because he has to, but he also utilizes his players’ input when it comes to recruiting, and he doesn’t have to do that.
So is year 1 a success? Based off their record, Torpey would say no, but based off of everything else, so far, it’s been a huge success. A key component to year one is “getting past those little mistakes”, which are expected. Moving forward it is about building consistency, and Torpey feels the program is well on its way in that regard. I would have to agree with him!
When it comes to recruits, Coach Torpey and High Point are looking for:
Finishing, and athletes who can get a step. A high lacrosse IQ is great. Competitiveness is a huge key: we want guys who are always getting better. And we want guys who WANT to go to High Point. It’s a beautiful campus, and the school is supportive. You get a big time sports and college feel, but it’s smaller and more student-centric.
He also noted that they are willing to go after blue chippers as well diamonds in the rough, and everything in between. Dan Lomas is a great example of an impressive Canadian lefty finisher that Torpey and co. were able to bring in, and if the kid wants to go to High Point, and has high character, Torpey seems like he will be interested.
I’ll get into the issues of character and morals in the section on advice to other new programs, but to gloss over it in the reciting section would be remiss. Finding high character players came up time and time again in our conversation. It wasn’t about only recruiting saints, but a hard working, honest player is definitely very high on the list of priorities for the Panthers.
It was a little hard to get Coach Torpey to focus past their next game (which they won against Mercer 12-10), but that’s a great trait in a coach, so I instantly forgave him. When we got going on the future, I loved what I was hearing. I was really interested to hear how the team dynamic could change once there are more established juniors and seniors:
Looking forward, it (the team dynamic) could change, as we will have more upperclassmen, but they will be an extension of the staff and program, and having a history and increased leadership will only help.
Torpey also commented on their location, and the future of D1 lacrosse in the South:
We are an attractive option for northern schools to visit on break. Duke and UNC are close so we get teams that come to play them. More schools in the Southern Lacrosse Conference will add the sport. We are in a good place.
Advice For New Programs
I also spoke with Coach Torpey about some more general issues in the game, but I really wanted to hear what he thought about new teams, and how they could best see success. Considering he has HPU at 3-8 in their first year as a D1 team, and the school had little to no lacrosse history before then, he’s a perfect guy to listen to.
I loved to hear him talk about team mentality:
We have usually have 7-9 of our 10 starters being freshman. This can be daunting, but we didn’t step back. We kept it urgent, and cut throat, forcing ourselves to take steps forward. Now we’re on to some finer points, and our staff is learning too. It’s a new challenge, but it helps our team bond. At any time, we are only one play away from opportunity.
Coach Torpey’s thoughts on what the guy running the team has to do were also intriguing. Much like the mentality thing above, for the coach, it has to be about doing things right:
Don’t compromise on morals. Keep your culture right, and don’t look for guys who are simply great players. It’s more than that. Once you have the pieces, set achievable expectations. Our goal is really simple: Get Better.
Thanks to Coach Torpey for taking some time out to speak with me, and for filling us in on some of the finer workings of High Point lacrosse. Good luck to the Panthers moving forward!