News came out today that three time NCAA D1 All-American and 2014 Loyola graduate, Joe Fletcher, had been named as the new Director of Operations for Loyola Men’s Lacrosse. So what does a Director of Operations do for a college lacrosse team, exactly? Are they another coach? Do they plan and cook team meals? Are they in charge of the whole team?
The title may seem to suggest the latter, but they are not…
So… What Is A Director of Operations?
Let’s work on a job description first. Thankfully, there are a couple online! Back in 2013, the University of Maryland posted a job description for their Director of Lacrosse Operations position, and the text describing the job goes as follows:
“Assist the head coach for men’s lacrosse with the organization, development and implementation of a nationally competitive, Division I intercollegiate program. Specific responsibilities include coordinating team and recruiting travel and logistics; assisting with monitoring operating and scholarship budget expenditures; assisting with the academic development of student-athletes; assisting with scheduling practices and contests; coordinating the use of facilities; assisting the equipment manager with ordering, issuing, and collecting athletic equipment; arranging special/alumni events; fundraising; and other duties as assigned by the head coach.”
Notice there is NO mention of on-field coaching anywhere or off-campus recruiting. It should come as no surprise at all that there is actually a good reason for this. NCAA D1 teams have a limit on the number of coaches they can employ, have on the sideline during games/practices, and recruiting off campus. Another paid assistant coach is simply not an option, and volunteers need to pay rent. As these issues intensified, lacrosse welcomed the Director of Operations position, which has been seen in a number of other NCAA sports for years, and things changed.
In the past, coaches not only coached, but they also handled a lot of the above responsibilities, laid out by Maryland, in addition to their on-field duties. As recruiting pressures ramped up, social media took on a new importance, and lacrosse began to grow, these college programs were all trying to do more with the same amount, and something had to give.
Smart, well-funded programs found an ingenious work around here, taking many of the off-field responsibilities and lumping them together into the recently created Director of Lacrosse Operations (DoLO) position. This has been done in other NCAA sports before, but was relatively new to lacrosse. Now you had another person on staff to handle logistics, recruiting, scholarships, and more. While they can’t be on the field during games or any practices (pre-season, regular season OR post-season), they do allow the other coaches to focus even more towards on-field issues. By opening up more time, and shifting burdens around, the other coaches can coach more.
Johns Hopkins’ first ever Director of Lacrosse Operations was Tim O’Banski, and he helped both the mens and womens teams and their coaching staffs. A 2009 graduate of the legendary D3 program Salisbury, O’Banski was a volunteer at Georgetown before being offered this new position, and one of the facets that the Hopkins press release touted was O’Banski’s importance in running Lacrosse Summer Camps at the school. If he’s running camps, the other coaches can be out recruiting, and the program still generates camp income… you see how that could help.
Of course the Director of Lacrosse Operations can also serve as an additional coach at times. If not officially, the DoLO will learn how practices are run and will be involved in multiple aspects of the games and prep for them, working with the other coaches on this in many cases. A DoLO may be fixing a stick for a player, and if they happen to impart some knowledge on the game, so be it. A Director of Operations can also also do chalk talk, film break downs, and work on plays with players off the field. For a small sport trying to grow its audience, the evolution of this additional position in the college ranks seems to be working well. It opens up another spot for young prospective coaches to get their feet wet and learn the ropes of how a program runs on the back end. It prepares young coaches to move up the food chain, and often gives recent alumni a chance to work for the program they helped build.
So who gets these jobs?
A lot of times the Director of Lacrosse Operations job goes to a recent alumni of the school, as I said above. The player was either a standout, team leader, or a guy who wants to get into the lacrosse world full-time. In the best scenarios it is a combination of all three, and Joe Fletcher’s hire at Loyola embodies that pretty nicely. Mike Phipps was a DoLO at Maryland, his alma mater, as was Fran Gormley in 2012 and 2013. Gormley is now an assistant at NJIT.
To replace Gormley, Maryland was looking for someone with a bachelor’s degree, and they also wanted someone with a year or two of coaching experience. A requirement for Maryland in 2013 was 2 years of previous experience running lacrosse operations, but their current hire, Todd MacFarlane, comes from Chapman and Malvern Prep, and he has 15 years of experience in the game and operations. While recent graduates sometimes get the job, it’s a competitive and desired position, so even long-time coaches will show interest. To get this job, you need to already be stellar in most areas, or have a ton of potential.
While some people may stay in the position for a couple years, it is not looking like the type of position where you want to stay forever. The pay can be lower in the lacrosse world than say basketball, and the hours required are long and arduous at times. For those who really want to break into the college coaching ranks, or make the jump from high school, MCLA, or D3 all the way up to D1, it’s a great way to learn the ins and outs.
While the Director of Lacrosse Operations position could be considered a job where you are “paying your dues”, it is also one that can open serious doors to rising coaches with hopes of running their own program some day. Coaching can be a hard life at times, and this operations position is demanding, but when people apply themselves to the job, great things can eventually come of it.