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John Danowski Duke Lacrosse
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2010 IMLCA Convention, Day 1

Editor’s note: Grove City College student officers Andrew J. Dymski and Bill Sigmund spent time at the annual Intercollegiate Mens Lacrosse Coaches Association convention over the weekend and provided us with a great recap of the event. Check it out below!

Friday at the 2010 IMLCA Conference in Baltimore, MD

It is the who’s who of the lacrosse coaching world.  Coaches from all levels of the game converged on the Baltimore Marriot Waterfront Hotel for the Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association 2010 convention.  The opening night kicked off with two decorated coaches; Head Coach John Danowski of the D-I National Champion Duke Blue Devils and Head Coach Mike Daly of the D-III National Champion Tufts University.

Coach Daly of Tufts University

Coach Daly was the first presentation we hit.  He spoke at length about his mantra at Tufts: “We don’t need possessions, we need goals.”  Being a goalie and naturally defensive minded, this had me a bit concerned and on the edge of my seat to learn more.  The point that he instills through practice and into gameday is to play up tempo lacrosse; where most teams would pull it back, the Tufts push the cage.  Coach Daly is looking for “proactive lacrosse players” to succeed in this system.  They are aggressive, they are proactive, and they dictate the tempo.

Colonel Art Athens from the Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership

Head Coach Richie Meade of the U.S. Naval Academy introduced Colonel Athens by telling the audience of coaches “You will be a better man, leader, and coach for having listened.”  Coach Meade was correct.

Somewhere in the rigorous training that the members of the United States Armed Forces must undergo, there had to be a course in storytelling.  Every member of the military with whom I have had the honor to share company has possessed this talent, but none perhaps more that Colonel Athens.  During his presentation there were moments where I felt like I would follow this man anywhere he was leading.  He shared stories about his life and the lives of fellow marines.

The focus of his presentation was Back to Basics: The Fundamentals of Extraordinary Leadership.  There are three questions that each leader needs to be able to answer:

1. Do you know your job or are you striving to learn it?

2. Will you make the hard, but right decision, even if it costs you personally?

3. Do you care as much about us as you care about yourself?

There are also three C’s of Leadership:

– Competence: Know your stuff.
– Courage: Be a man.
– Compassion: Take care of people

These three C’s tie directly to the three questions that each leader must be prepared to answer.  At the end of the day, the most important personal attribute of a leader is: Humility.  Colonel Athens defined humility simply as the absence of arrogance.  He stated that arrogance blinds us because we never see it coming.  Watch out for arrogance, because it will erode your ability to lead others.

Take a tip from the Colonel and make a sheet to evaluate yourself.  Are you arrogant or humble?  Think about it.

Coach Danowski of Duke University

John Danowski Duke Lacrosse

The keynote speaker of the first night of the conference, Coach Danowski’s electricity and presence was felt as soon as he stepped on the stage.  Coach Danowski’s talk about the basic “non-negotiables” of Duke Lacrosse was reminiscent of a “back to basics” style address for many of the coaches in attendance.    By building a program with non-negotiable standards, his players are forced to rise to the challenge and develop personal character.  Coach Danowski outlined the individual character traits he reinforced by each of his individual “non-negotiable” rules.    Here are Coach Danowski’s “non-negotiable” rules of Duke Lacrosse:

1. Chasing ground balls (attitude, desire, discipline, statement, toughness, will)


1.) Two hands

2.) Defense – run to daylight

3.) Between the lines – run through it

4.) Offense – move the ball off the ground

2. Team Face-offs (teamwork, roles, sacrifice, discipline, toughness)


1.) Wing Play

2.) Box your man out

3. Team Offense (discipline, responsibility, decision making, trust)


1.) Exchanging the ball

2.) Run to the man you’re passing to

3.) Be aggressive with the ball

4.) Turn the corner from X

5.) Finish in front, don’t fade

6.) North South dodging

4. Riding (discipline, teamwork, role)


1.) General – two hand checks only

2.) Attack – ride to the midline

3.) Midfield – no one behind you

4.) Defense – no one in front of you

5. Team defense (discipline, attention to detail, seeing the big picture)


1.) Approach the ball

2.) Regardless of situation, approach must be the same

Snapshot view would tell us:

a.) That you have a plan

b.) That your feet are in the right spot

c.) Your stick is in correct position

d.) Your posture screams of conviction

6. The clearing game (responding appropriately)


1.) Goalies – better to overthrow than underthrow

2.) Defensemen – roll away from pressure

3.) Midfielders- run without it, break back to ball (1 word call)

7. Man down defense (awareness, high lacrosse IQ-Personnel, Passing Lanes, Less is more, Discipline, Anticipation, Trust)


1.) Sticks up

2.) Stop the ball

3.) Turn ball side

8. Goalie play (master of your craft)


1.) Stay between the pipes

2.) Run out all shots

3.) Use up to three seconds after making a save

4.) Have a bad memory

9. Transition defense (less is more, anticipate, discipline, communication)


1.) Defend the paint

2.) Stop the ball

3.) Turn ball side

4.) Stick in the passing lane

5.) No collisions

10. Transition Offense (alert, aggressive, athletic, react)


1.) Run without the ball

2.) Threaten the goal

3.) Follow the slide


11. Practice Situations (discipline, attention to detail, attitude, appropriate response)


1.) No offsides

2.) Appropriate immediate response

3.) Touch the lines

4.) No walking between drills

5.) No palms up ever

6.) No whining

7.) Eye contact in all huddles

8.) Listening/communication “clear and clean” – questions are okay!

9.) Run on and off the field “no walking!!”

12. Others


1.) Everyone celebrates after a goal

2.) Leave the bus clean

3.) Leave an opposing locker room clean

4.) We do not issue a press release about signings

5.) We do not issue individual awards at the end of the year

6.) We do not promote all Americans, all conference, etc.

7.) Everyone dresses the same, weight room, running, practice, game, travel.

Coach Danowski said that once he had given these rules and habits in a clear and consistent manner to his players, they had internalized and habitualized it by game day.  He also shared a story of how, in being clear and consistent in his message, he had to “ride certain players hard” who were the stars of his team.  Being consistent, no matter who a coach is coaching, is something coach Danowski stressed.  The biggest point coach Danowski made was that coaching was more than generating wins and developing national championship teams, but rather developing the character, leadership, and discipline of young men.  When you look back through his presentation, and see all of the valuable character traits Coach Danowski attempts to instill in his young men, it’s quite clear why he is such a successful coach.


About the Authors: Bill Sigmund is a junior defensemen, 3 year starter, and Vice President for the Grove City College Wolverine Lacrosse team.  Bill is a mechanical engineering student at Grove City, yet he hopes to stay involved with the sport of lacrosse even after he completes school.

Andrew J. Dymski is a senior goaltender, captain, and president for the Grove City College Wolverine Lacrosse team.