We recently got the news that Jack Morrison has been hired by the Philadelphia Youth Lacrosse Association and Team Philadelphia as the new Director of Lacrosse Operations. Instead of dropping a press release on you, we sat down with Jack to discuss his vision for the program. He’ll be working with Tom Slate (who we all know from this Summer’s Lax Evo Camp Series) and it sounds like they have a solid plan in place! It’s time for another Fireside Chat Interview!
What ages does the PYLA (Philadelphia Youth Lacrosse All-Stars) cover? And what will your roles involve as Director of Lacrosse Operations?
Jack Morrison: We cover the whole gamut of possible teams. Under 11, 13, 15’s and rising sophomore, junior, senior groups with 2 elite teams in the high school bracket. As director I am involved in all aspects of running our PYLA and Team Philadelphia programs. My number one role is to make sure our players and parents have an enjoyable experience, learn the game, have some fun in competition, and make long lasting memories and friends. Other responsibilities include, but are not limited to, communication, budgeting, facilities, organization, practice and game planning and recruiting top notch players and coaches.
Are you guys more of a teaching group, or a recruiting group? What is the mission of the PYLA?
Jack Morrison: We are a hybrid of both. We believe strongly that teaching fundamentals and repetitions are the keys to improvement in the sport. As the guys mature and grow over the years in our program, we want to give our players the opportunity to showcase their skills on the recruiting circuit as well.
Members of the Philadelphia Youth Lacrosse All-Stars (P.Y.L.A.) and Team Philadelphia will be given the opportunity to not only learn from some of the greatest lacrosse teachers, players and coaches in the area but play against some of the best players from around the country their age. We are an all-star team that has an all year-round commitment. Pride, dedication, and opportunity are all aspects of P.Y.L.A. and Team Philadelphia that we focus on to create a positive and extensive tradition. The purpose of the P.Y.L.A and Team Philly is teach our young men the fundamentals of the game, raise their lacrosse IQ and give them the skill set and opportunity to showcase it for college coaches. Our mission is to create all-star teams from the greater Philadelphia area that will compete in 4 select tournaments each summer. The coaches will range from top high school and college coaches as well as well as former and current professional players and coaches. Each participant will be presented with a high level of teaching, coaching and a competitive atmosphere that will propel their games to the next level.
We always love to hear more about where people learned the game themselves, so what’s your lacrosse background?
Jack Morrison: As a player… Ridley High School 1996, Morton PA – competitive public school program, several state championships from mid – late 90 and early 00’s. 2 year letter winner and I played defense and attack for the program.
Whittier College 2000, Whittier CA – 2x all league, 2x defensive MVP, Captain, North-South All-Star
MAB/GMH post collegiate club team 2001 – 2010 – ALL Champions 2006 / 2010
And as a coach… St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, PA Assistant Lacrosse Coach – Defensive Coordinator; East Fremantle Lacrosse Club, East Fremantle, Western Australia – Player / Coach; San Francisco Dragons, MLL – Defensive coordinator/Assistant coach; Camp assistant director / counselor emerging markets – North Carolina, Texas, Colorado, Oregon, Washington.
Love the diversity. Seems like you’ve played all over and coached all over. Also love that you played in Perth. I was a Wembley guy! So how will your many levels of experience help guide these kids to a successful, and enjoyable, lacrosse experience?
Jack Morrison: In all my experiences with lacrosse the sport was always a passion and lots of fun for me – and is still today. I want to share and teach the lessons I have learned over my time in the sport, make sure our kids always see the fun to be had with it, and cultivate their passion for lacrosse. We feel this approach will create a successful and enjoyable approach for all the people involved with our program.
Lacrosse still has a bit of an elitist label, although that seems to be going the way of the Dodo quickly. What is the socioeconomic background of your players and the surrounding area?
Jack Morrison: We draw from the city of Philadelphia and its surrounding counties . The socioeconomics fall in line with any major metropolitan area with extreme wealth and poverty included in the regions we draw from.
Does the PYLA encourage scholarship offerings for kids who might not be otherwise able to play?
Jack Morrison: Absolutely – we see lacrosse as an emerging powerhouse sport and we would want to support all kids having an equal chance at experiencing the sport as it continues to grow. In fact, the city of Philadelphia proper is an area where the sport has a lot of room to grow.
All photos courtesy PYLA’s website.
Other than scholarships, what is the PYLA planning on doing to Grow The Game?
Jack Morrison: In the Philadelphia area, the suburban neighborhoods closest to the to the city have the most tradition with the sport. However, the counties just outside of this area and in south jersey are still developing and growing. We are supporting these areas by trying to recruit athletes from these towns into our program, which we think will help the learning curve of these players as they return to their youth and high school teams. Also we are open to supporting clinics anywhere and anytime when we are able. We also will be holding a recruiting round table and youth coaches clinic over the year to help provide guidance at different levels of the game.
Where can the PYLA be in 10 years? What are the long-term goals for the group?
Jack Morrison: We want to continue to grow as an organization over the next 10 years. Hopefully we will be considered one of the top teaching and recruiting programs in the country by that time. We would also have 10 years worth of alumni playing or having played post-high school lacrosse. In addition, I would love to have some of our alumni as colleagues in the coaching ranks. And of course I would also hope to have have my kids on the under 11 team by then…
What’s your training methodology? Lots of drills, lots of playing, one on one instruction? How do you make sure the kids get the most out of what they are doing?
Jack Morrison: We believe in sport specific training (fitness), teaching (instruction), repetitions (drills) and game experience (competition).
By default from our methodology our players improve and learn if they are open to it. We also like to stress enjoying the journey and having fun. We feel the combination of the above gives kids a chance to get the most out of their time with us.
Do you guys have any sponsors you’d like to give a shout out to?
Jack Morrison: Sure!! We are proud to work with Laxevo, Lacrosse International, Xcelerate Lacrosse, FOGO lax, and Maverick
Philly is clearly a lax hotbed, so what is the NEXT big lax area for growth?
Jack Morrison: Denver is a great place for the sport right now with its lights out support for their pro and college teams. But as far as growth I have seen lacrosse grow at an incredible rate in the Pacific Northwest over the last five years. Through my experiences working camps out there I think that is an area where lacrosse is going to continue to expand at a high rate over the next five years.
Is there room for even more growth in the hotbed areas?
Jack Morrison: Always – with the popularity of football, basketball and baseball, some athletes in hotbed areas never pick up the game because of their commitments to other sports. I think as the sport continues to grow nationally, more “non” lacrosse athletes will be open to trying the sport and it will therefore continue to grow in our hotbed areas.
What made you want to get involved with the kids?
Jack Morrison: I had some great coaches who have had a huge impact on my life still today. They helped me mature, learn how to work with teammates, develop leadership qualities and grow up. Essentially they taught me life lessons through the sport of lacrosse. I hope I can do the same for some of the kids I work with. Also it is pure comedy, kids in the ages we work with are hysterical, there is never a dull moment and it helps keep you young.