Climbing the hill in D1 lacrosse is no easy task, but it’s the path that every program currently sitting a little lower in the rankings must take. Providence College is currently one of those programs working and hoping to make the jump, and we got a great look inside the PC program, to see how they are going about making change and improvements. Tommy Gilligan shot the PC campus and their alumni game (awesome photos below!), and I got to speak with Head Coach Chris Gabrielli.
(All photos by Tommy Gilligan)
When you took the job at Providence, what excited you most about the opportunity?
Providence College has provided our Lacrosse Program with all of the tools necessary to build a Championship Program! PC put into place a plan for Lacrosse to become fully funded with (12.6) scholarships by 2016. We were provided with two full time Assistant Coaches. A new lacrosse stadium has already been approved for construction in the summer of 2014, and the blue prints for new Lacrosse facilities were shared with me during the interview process.
We were able to make adjustments to our new Lacrosse facility plan that best suited our players’ experience and their development, and we recently moved into the final product, which includes new Coaches Offices and a Conference Room, a Player’s Lounge, Locker Room, a Lacrosse only Video Room with state of the art technology, and a spectacular Weight Room that will be shared with only our Hockey Programs.
What was your immediate plan for the program?
My immediate plan was to instill an atmosphere that was fun, competitive and embraced a blue collar, earn everything you get approach to our student-athletes’ experience at Providence College. Your record is what you have earned. Your GPA is what you have earned. Your reputation on campus, and in the community, is what you and your teammates make it to be.
What was your first interaction with the players like? Did they take any convincing, or were they on board with your plan right away?
Our initial interaction with the players was wonderful. They were a VERY coachable group from start to finish. They were eager to learn their new system and process of teaching, and they really embraced the style of play.
In what other ways is the school supporting the program? Is there a renewed focus on lacrosse within the Athletic Department? What are you guys doing to raise your profile on campus?
Lacrosse has become a priority on our Campus, and we are very fortunate! Our entire team and staff wrote handwritten letters of appreciation to our President, Father Shanley and our Athletic Director, Bob Driscoll, amongst others, thanking them for their belief in our Program, and their tremendous efforts to provide us with the tools necessary to become an elite Division I Lacrosse Program. The pieces are coming together quickly at this critical stage, now it is our job as coaches and players to remain obsessed with our commitment to excellence.
What are your team goals for the Fall? How has it gone so far?
Our team goals for the fall are to integrate and socialize the freshman class, establish a fundamental foundation on the field, perform well in the classroom, and have a positive presence in the PC community, and greater Providence area.
We have just one outside play date vs. Division I competition in the Fall (which was on Oct. 13th, at The Catamount Classic), and we are excited to see how we have progressed thus far, even though it is VERY early, and we have a long way to go! Our goals for the Fall are focused on our individual, group, and team development, and not necessarily scrimmage results.
Is PC a good fit for a specific type of student-athlete? What are you looking for in recruits?
PC is a perfect fit for the Lacrosse student-athlete. Lacrosse players want a complete experience. They want an experience that is certainly lacrosse focused, but also lends to their academic and social experience as well. Providence College’s academic reputation is fantastic, and it is only getting better. We offer an accredited Business School in a very personal Liberal Arts academic atmosphere that many Lacrosse athletes are drawn to. Our average class size is 17-20 students, and the fact that nearly 60% of our student body is female doesn’t hurt either!
The City of Providence offers our students immediate outlets for entertainment and culture. Rhode Island (The Ocean State) is home to some of the finest beach communities in the country, and nearby academic institutions like Brown, Bryant and the University of Rhode Island offer a community of young, bright and talented people to interact with.
Finally, being a member of the Big East and Hockey East Conferences, our players are surrounded by elite student-athletes that have similar goals, aspirations, and a shared commitment level. The chance to support our Basketball team at The Dunkin Donut Center, or our nationally ranked Hockey Programs at the newly renovated Schneider Arena on campus, certainly contribute to our athletes overall social experience as well.
Climbing the ladder in any D1 sport is tough, but what is a realistic timeline for a program to go from middle of the pack to contender? Why does it take so long?
We are going to attempt to get there as quickly as possible, but we know that we have work extremely hard for it, and have tireless conviction. The good news is there are Programs out there that have recently transitioned to an elite level. It can be done with the proper and necessary support, and we certainly have that!
What are your thoughts on Early Recruiting?
It is my belief that “early” recruiting does not have to be a negative experience. A decision of this magnitude will always be stressful, for all parties involved (including the College Coaches). As long as recruiting Coaches conduct themselves with great integrity and honesty, and the parents can provide reasonable guidance and clarity, it can be a fun and rewarding experience.
I would encourage all prospects to attempt to become as informed as possible before making any decisions. Great resources exist that can enable a Prospect to make an informed decision, including unofficial visits (unlimited!), official visits (senior year, 5 total), campus tours, institution websites, feedback from your high school or club Coach, or an athlete from your town that has gone through the process. It also makes a lot of sense to attend an on-campus clinic where a prospect can interact with a recruiting Coach. And finally, asking productive questions about Majors, opportunity to play, commitment level expectations, costs to attend and scholarship opportunities (athletic, academic, financial aid), just to name a few.
As PC rallies for the Spring season, what are some of the program goals? How do those mesh with what you did in the fall?
We want to play Lacrosse in May, but we realize that many tangible goals must be met along the way in order to earn that opportunity. For now, we will focus on the constant analyzation of our Coaching techniques and the development of our team.
Thanks to Coach Gabrielli for speaking with us, and for bringing us in for a much closer look at this potential program on the rise. For more from PC, check out this story on their team website about this year’s alumni weekend.