Junior defensman Matt Walrath started his college career close to home at Stevens Tech in Hoboken, New Jersey. In the Summer of 2009 he decided to take his talents to the west coast and Chapman University. He scored two monster goals against Michigan in the MCLA semi’s last year, but as we know his team couldn’t get the victory. We chatted about all the turnover at Chapman and their upcoming season.
First, tell me about your summer. We ran into each other in a pizza shop in Manchester, England. How was your experience in England and what else did you do this summer that was lacrosse-related?
Matt Walrath: After losing to Michigan in the semifinals I had that feeling that every lacrosse player has when the season is over, “that’s it?” What do I do now, after spending 4 hours a day trying to get good at this game? I decided what to do was to just play more lax. I didn’t spend more than 2 weeks in any one place over the summer. While at home in New Jersey, I was playing in the Jersey Shore Summer Lacrosse League, as well as some pickup games against a team consisting of local legends like Reid Jackson, formerly of the NJ Pride.
I also had the opportunity to get the VIP treatment in Baltimore for final four weekend and the LXM kickoff party with a crew of my best friends from Chapman. I even had the opportunity to play with the legendary team Jammin’ Salmon in Vail. We lost to team Maverick by a slim margin considering their super-star roster, and won out the rest of the way finishing 5th place in the tournament. We did happen to meet in Manchester while I was traveling with USA (pronounced OO-Suh) Starz, and your definition of pizza is a loose one, but overall I have to say that the World Games was an incredible experience because of the people I met, and the lacrosse that I had the opportunity to see.
I never thought I would see a Bermudan Lacrosse team play, let alone offer my entire suitcase and first-born child for a Bermuda Shooter, those things were steezy. I’m also glad I got to see the Clayton brothers tear it up for New Zealand, especially Andrew who was the 3rd leading scorer IN THE WORLD. At the end of the summer I played for team Hatteras in War at the Shore, which is something that I have dreamed about doing since I can remember. Our premature finish was a testament to our ability to party.
There was a highly publicized coaching change at Chapman. How has the transition been and what major changes have taken place?
Matt Walrath: Regarding the coaching change: I was the player representative for the coach selection committee this summer. After the firing of Coach Wood, Assistant coaches Rich Sheinin, Rory Burke, and Dan Kirkparick took it upon themselves to perform the scheduling, recruiting, and other administrative functions for the team. Mike Pelly, who founded and coached the lacrosse team over 20 years ago, representatives from the athletic department, and I reviewed candidates’ resumes and narrowed the applicant pool down to a few highly qualified coaches.
Coach Hartley looked the best on paper, and blew me away during the interview. It was an easy choice, but as with any change, he was met with some resistance. Some major changes in the program are: Coach Hartley is holding us to a high academic standard, fall ball included Monday and Wednesday conditioning at 6:45 am; the sessions were run by yours truly, the ever present coach Wood has been traded for a coach with a family and a day job, and the management of practices has become more efficient. It is also important to note that a former USD head coach has taken over as defensive coordinator with the additional departure of Will Hemsley from the coaching staff.
One of the hottest topics in the MCLA has been the amount of decisions made by the players themselves. What type of decisions in regards to coaching, scheduling and equipment/apparel does your current team have compared to you last school?
Matt Walrath: It is a misconception that every team in the MCLA has control over team decisions. At Chapman, we are run like an NCAA division 3 program because we fall under the umbrella of the athletic department, not club sports. If it were up to me, we would have a set of denim unis for our game against Simon Fraser, a set of flannel unis for our game against Oregon, and matte-black helmets with all-black team gear for our game against Michigan.
Connor Martin was a huge part of your team’s success and brought immeasurable amounts of publicity to Chapman. How does a team attempt to replace arguably the most famous player to ever play in the MCLA?
Matt Walrath: I think the most important thing I have learned in the last few months is the strength of the team. For the raindrop, happiness is entering the river. It is undeniable, Connor put Chapman on the map with his CBC videos (I’m a huge fan), but realistically we only graduated 3 starting players Connor, Chris Small, and Blake Whitcomb. We still have our team, and now we have a new coach who has a history of success. We have made some personnel adjustments, and I believe we are stronger than ever.
You will soon see that our attack line, in the absence of Con, is going to be unstoppable this year. All three attackmen are scoring threats, and the addition of Will Morrison, formerly a midfielder, will also give us the the luxury of the hardest riding attack line in the nation. Con will be missed but his personality that has made him famous is already part of our team culture: we are epicurean with unrivaled work ethic and a knack for helping those in need.
Transferring from a traditionally successful NCAA D3 team in Stevens Tech to a relatively unknown club team at Chapman, what made you decide to transfer? What are the biggest misconceptions of club lacrosse, especially at your school?
Matt Walrath: My transfer decision had absolutely nothing to do with lacrosse. Lacrosse was my favorite part about Stevens Tech. The team was my family, the field was my home, the locker room was my home away from home, but I realized that 70+ hour workweeks, cold weather, and wall street were not my life goals, so I reconsidered the path that I was on.
NCAA lacrosse hasn’t quite made its way out of the 13 original colonies, so my only opportunities to play lacrosse AND live in a desirable climate would be with an MCLA team. I applied to about a dozen schools in SoCal, Hawaii, SoFlo and Texas. I only heard about Chapman because I have a cousin who earned his Masters there. He told me to check it out, I did, and applied. Most schools don’t give scholarships to transfers, Chapman did, and the rest was history.
The biggest misconceptions about club lacrosse are the very misconceptions that I had going into Chapman. I thought everyone West of the Mississippi sucked at lacrosse. I was wrong, there is a lot of talent out West and lax grommets on the West coast have some serious otaku as the Japanese would say. You can question the work ethic of MCLA players all you would like, but at Chapman we woke up at 645am for conditioning every week this semester until the conclusion of fall ball at the end of November, and at any point in the day I can guarantee you will see a lacrosse player either on the field or in the gym- in the fall.
During the spring we operate just as any other NCAA team would. 3 hours of practice 6 days a week, and you can bet your ass that someone will be at practice an hour early working on their shot, warming up their stick, etc. I think that the only missing link in the MCLA is experienced coaches, we need more Dallas Hartleys and Joe Kerwins.
Strength and speed training are a huge part of your success. Describe your personal workout routine and give our readers your favorite workout tips.
Matt Walrath: I am a level 1 certified Crossfit Trainer and all of my strength and conditioning this semester has been my own programming performed in my own gym. Last year crossfit was my primary strength and conditioning regimen, and I trained at Crossfit Costa Mesa while in Cali and Crossfit Shrewsbury while in New Jersey. My personal off and pre-season workout routine involves 3 consecutive work days followed by 1 active day of rest. I workout about 2-3 times a week during season pending the game schedule.
I could talk for days about my workout philosophy but here is my preseason philosophy in a nutshell: practice like you play by combining complex, full range of motion movements performed at high intensity with a test of mental focus. For examples of such workouts check out the lacrossefit section of my blog: laxbox.wordpress.com
Some quick tips: train at a high intensity and avoid isolation movements. You will not get better at lacrosse doing bicep curls. Bench press is cool but lacrosse is played standing up! Eating vegetables or another source of dietary fiber at every meal will help you lose fat. You do not need more than 1 gram of protein per pound of body mass per day as an athlete. When your coach says you need size, they really mean you need to get stronger.
I see you have started Lacrossefit, a personal lacrosse fitness program. What type of services do you offer and what can a prospective client expect to get?
Matt Walrath: Lacrossefit is a lacrosse-specific strength and conditioning program that I have been working on in my spare time. Its goal, in addition to making you stronger and faster is to train you to think under duress, a concept I learned training with Reggie Bush’s agility trainer Kappel Leroy Clarke. It started after I earned my Crossfit certification and planned to start training any Chapman student, athlete or not, in my gym. As I would soon find out, college students would rather do 100 sets of bicep curls and spend an hour on a treadmill than work at a high intensity for 40 minutes or less, so I had to revamp my model.
Instead of trying to be everything to everyone I took my knowledge of strength and conditioning and 12 years lacrosse experience to create the plan. As of now, I have a preseason plan that is both complete and a work in progress. It is complete because I have everything planned up to day 1 of practice, but a work in progress because it was complete 10 days ago, and then I reworked it based on some new research that I stumbled upon in addition to some player feedback. As soon as I get back to California I will be training my teammates pro-bono in groups of 3.
It is a mutually beneficial relationship because I get guinea pigs who can provide real feedback, and they get their asses in shape! By the end of the 2011 season I will have a preseason, in-season, and off-season plan completed. By the end of the year I plan to have started primary research into the specific physical requirements of a lacrosse game by position so that I can develop workout plans by position.
You scored two huge goals in the Michigan semifinal last season in Denver. What pointers can you give LSM’s who are either afraid to shoot or are a little TOO shot happy?
Matt Walrath: The thing about those two goals is that its a cool personal achievement, but I have no ring on my finger. All I care about is winning a national championship with my team and that is the message I can give to others. I lost that game with my team, and about a week later I was sitting in the stands of M&T bank stadium with my teammates watching CJ Costabile score the game winning goal for Duke in overtime. Now how cool would that be? Seeing his entire team, including staff pile up on him in celebration is the fire under my ass. I am beyond jealous!
So my advice to other LSMs is this: if you are afraid to shoot, don’t be. The LSM is the wild card, you are there to make big plays, and sometimes that involves taking the shot when no one slides to you. Once again I will refer to CJ Costabile, if you watch the kid play he scores most of his goals overhand, and they go in because the goalie has trouble identifying where the ball releases when a pole shoots overhand. To those LSMs that are shot happy, just remember lacrosse is a team sport, and your one bad shot could turn into a two goal swing.
Coming from New Jersey do you still go to the gym then to the tanning salon and then the laundromat every morning?
Matt Walrath: Funny thing about that – It was taking up too much of my time to have to blowout my hair, put on my beater, oil up my body, head to the gym, rip out a set of tricep extensions in front of the smoothie bar girls and then have to drive my beautiful ass all the way to the tanning salon to get my bronzed god on before having to drive all the way to the laundromat where I have to use 4 separate washer s- one for my collection of affliction and ed hardy tees, another for my diesel jeans, the third for my beaters, and a fourth for all of my underoos.
My solution? I consolidated. My washer dryer is in my gym, and my gym has a giant garage door that opens up to the sun. Its amazing I can actually G, T, and L all at the same time.