Editor’s Note: Please welcome Dustin Rich to the LAS Network. Born and raised in Springfield, Missouri, Dustin Rich knows a thing or two about growing the game. Rich currently coaches the men’s team at Missouri State University and in his spare time enjoys all things lacrosse.
Show Me Lax talks with Kings Head Coach Brian McCann about his 2013 Springfield team.
Show Me Lax: Brian, good to see you.
Head Coach Brian McCann: Good to be seen.
SML: Let’s talk some lacrosse shall we?
SML: How many kids are on in your H.S. lacrosse program?
McCann: Right now we have about 30 kids on the team. That is for JV and Varsity.
SML: Talk a little bit about the amount of growth you have seen in the past few years.
McCann: This is only my second year with the team, so I haven’t seen too much growth. We are still struggling to recruit players because we only start getting players in high school and by that time they have pretty much chosen what sports they want to play. We are starting to see athletes come out and play, whereas before it was students who did not really play any other sports that would join the team.
SML: What are the keys to growing your program in the next 3-5 years, and is there a youth program in Springfield?
McCann: There is no youth lacrosse program in Springfield and I believe that setting one up is the biggest key to growing the program. We have had summer sessions where anyone who plays or is interested in playing shows up once a week. It usually consists of high school and [Missouri State] players that are in town over the summer, but this past summer we were having kids as young as fifth grade showing up. It was great to see them out there, but they can’t play with people that much older than them and us expect them to enjoy it and want to keep doing it. They need to play against kids their own age.
We are working hard at trying to set up a youth league and attempted to do so last summer, but we were unable to get enough interest. I think between the cost, the fact that many parents haven’t heard of the sport, and that there isn’t going to be a huge turnout, it turn parents off from signing their kids up for it. We need to start getting high school students who have already played the game before they join the program. Everyone knows it takes time to develop lacrosse skills and for us, by the time they are really grasping the game and showing their potential and ability, they are juniors and seniors and it’s hard to build on that.
Unfortunately, we are struggling to get local organizations to help us out and we cannot get proper facilities that can entice kids to come out and play. It’s going to be a struggle to get a youth league started but until we do, our high school program is going to continue to fall behind the St. Louis programs because they are starting to play at a younger age and gaining that experience.
SML: What are some of the changes you have tried to make with the program since you have taken over?
McCann: I’m trying to change it from a team where you came out and fooled around for a few hours after school to a program that can be taken seriously. I’m enforcing rules for practice and games and setting high standards that I expect all of my players to meet. I have been going to the high schools in Springfield and actively recruiting new players.
Most students did not even know that we have a lacrosse team, so exposure is really important for us. We’re also working to do a lot more fundraisers and looking for sponsorships. I’m hoping to reduce the cost from what was once over $400 per player to less than $200. All of this takes time though and we need both school and community support for this to happen.
SML: What are some of the big goals you have for your team this year?
McCann: Obviously, we are looking to build on our win total from last year. We showed a lot of improvement last year from two years before, going from zero wins in 2010 and one win in 2011 to three wins last year. It’s going to be tough but I’m hoping we have a more well rounded team this year where we can count on anyone on the field to come through for us. Also, we’re looking to just increase our team numbers and build a program.
SML: How about your varsity roster?
McCann: 5 freshman, 8 sophomores, 12 juniors and 5 seniors. By position we have 8 at attack, 13 middies, 7 close defenders, and 2 goalies.
SML: Tell us about some of the players to watch for this season.
McCann: We are really looking for Colin Bishop to step up this year and show everyone that he can shut down any opponents’ best player. He’s got the talent and the athleticism to make plays and really help our defense. Offensively, we are looking for Kyle Hunter to build on his successful freshman season. Michael Irwin is another player that we hope can make a name for himself as someone who you can’t give an open look. We are counting on Scott Balisle and Trey Parker to really make our offense go and control our tempo.
SML: Who are some of your biggest rivals?
McCann: It’s tough for us to have a huge rival because no one else in our Division that is nearby. We do schedule a game with Republic at the end of the year and it’s a big game for both of our teams players. We’re hoping to really build it into a bigger rivalry.
SML: Do you have any big trips your team takes this spring?
McCann: We do not have any trips planned. We travel to St. Louis and Columbia for all of our away games, and until we can lower player costs, I do not see us making and big trips.
SML: Tell us about your senior class. How much will they define the season, what have they helped do in their time, and are any of them playing in college?
McCann: We have a small senior class and only four of them are returning players, so we are really looking for those seniors to step up and lead the team. All of them have the potential to impact our team and make big plays for us this season. We need them to lead the team and show our younger players how to play the game with class and effort. As of right now, only Colin Bishop is planning on playing in college. Tanner Wood is looking to wrestle in college and the others are still deciding.
SML: Coach thanks for taking the time to chat today. Good luck this year.
McCann: Thank you.