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IMLCA Convention Recap – Part 1

It has been nearly three weeks since I attended the 2013 IMLCA convention. This post was crafted from memory in an attempt to show off my biggest takeaways from the event. The chief discussion point among my group of friends (high school and college coaches) was the value of the talks and presentations.

If you went to presentation A, the presentation B crowd immediately wanted to know the value of presentation A. Some talks are going to be a great refresher. They can remind you of something you used to do but have gotten away from for whatever reason. Some talks are going to validate what you already do. I found myself furiously writing down one drill until I realized I already ran it in practice but called it something else.

Some talks are going to be beyond your comprehension. Brown’s Lars Tiffany covered a man down tactic that hurt my face. In a similar vein, as much as I love Michigan assistant coach Ryan Danehy, I knew that there was no point for me to attend his discussion on film review because Michigan’s film software costs $20,000. I’ll never have that kind of asset but the fact that the topic existed reminded me to ramp up my use of iPhone and Flip cameras during practice. You have to be realistic within your own situation.

Salisbury’s Jim Berkman discussed man up theory at the first presentation of the first IMLCA convention I attended. He opened the talk by saying if the folks in the audience took just one thing away from the presentation that he would feel like they did their job. My initial response was we’ll never be able to do anything they do, because we don’t have the same caliber of lacrosse players. (The 14 yard bomb squad hashtag was invented during the presentation.) I reduced Coach Berkman’s efforts to being a Salisbury highlight tape and moved on with the weekend. Looking back, I now know that the presentation was a major influence on how we conducted practice at IU and approached man up chances.

Prior to that presentation, man up practice has been the same everywhere I’ve been as a player and coach. Man up review was done at the end of practice. Since the convention, we alternate the time man up sessions occur to help simulate game conditions. Man up in the beginning of practice means you’re players are mentally fresh, but perhaps not physically dialed in yet just like the first quarter. Man up during the middle of practices simulates a sudden change in rhythm. The players still have to be able to score or get a kill despite the shock in system. And of course, man up at the end of practice asks the athletes to execute despite fatigue.

If you have fantastic records of success already, consider your man up percentages in the first half versus the second half. Do you need to make an adjustment to how you approach this special situation? Following my first year as an MCLA head coach, I realized that we needed to devote a serious chunk of practice time to man up. We were going to spend a lot of time on both ends of the EMO and we needed to be able to produce positive results. The man up unit at IU improved every year because of Coach Berkman and his presentation at the IMCLA.

Salisbury Presentation Part 1

Salisbury Presentation Part 2

These coaches have no idea who is in the audience. They are charged with a topic and attempt to present it to the best of their ability. Whether they are a brand name D1 head coach or a D3 assistant coach at a school you’ve never heard of, they are professional coaches. If you go with an open mind, there will be something for you to learn.

I spent a chunk of time with Cascade and Maverik reps Ryan Demorest and Ryan Hoffmeister. Like last year, these outfits were the only hard goods companies of note in the exhibit hall. And because we’re talking takeaways, let’s get into the fashion world for a moment: since the reveal of the R helmet, I’ve had two major aesthetic issues with the product. One: everyone is ordering the helmet in matte grey. If everyone orders a matte grey helmet, no one has a matte grey helmet. If you’re ordering an alternate color helmet to be your primary helmet, you’re missing the point. Have to feel bad for the schools that actually feature grey as a school color.

Two: I heard that Cascade flattened the visor because people were using it to spear opponents. This safety modification has resulted in a small piece of the visor that drops down, which you won’t notice if the visor and shell are the same color. Because the R is a one piece helmet, the visor and shell can only be different with the use of a decal. A visor decal cannot cover the new flattened portion due to the different plane. Decals that attempt to fold over will eventually rip. Beyond the durability of the visor decal, the helmet looks sloppy because the shell color remains visible. Teams must be aware of this and have avoided adding a visor decal. Coupled with the novelty of the wrap around chin piece, almost all R helmets will feature the same design one color shell, off color chin.

Wisconsin Elite has come up with a unique way to combat the flattened visor. Perhaps more teams will go this route.  Would you be interested in adding this mini decal to an existing visor decal or simply highlighting the brim like Wisconsin Elite?

There was a faint breeze swirling through the hotel that the IMLCA convention could be on the way out. Why? The convention itself takes place immediately following coaches meetings so many of the bigger names hit the road as soon as possible to return to their families during the holiday season. One D1 school even held a prospect camp that weekend. Additionally, as word has spread regarding the quality of the presentations, more and more high school coaches are attending. One person suggested that college coaches don’t want to be bothered by high school coaches peddling their athletes. This means a smaller number of brand name college coaches in attendance and fewer options for presenters.

Furthermore, the timing of the coaches meetings is a concern. Any discussion that takes place regarding rule changes is almost futile because there isn’t enough space on the calendar prior to the start of the season. Coaches may be leaving prior to the convention because they feel like they haven’t accomplished anything during the week and once again want to get home to their families for the holidays.

One alternative could be to webcast the event and charge a fee to view the presentations. As much as I enjoy seeing old friends in the bitter cold of the Baltimore harbor, a $100 webcast fee is a no brainer. Valuable networking opportunities would be lost if the convention was webcast but there could be benefits. And no matter how you look at it, dissolving the convention all together would be a far greater loss.

This was my third time at the convention. Previously, I wrote about how to make the most of your experience. One tip I would add to that list is to not be afraid to attend presentations without your friends. During my first convention, a friend of mine convinced me to miss Starsia’s presentation. This year, I didn’t accept any input from friends and attended the presentations I needed to attend to ensure I would be a better coach in 2014.

If you do happen to attend the same presentation with friends and you know they like to talk, be comfortable enough to say “I need to sit by myself.” How many times a year do you get a chance to hear Lars Tiffany talk about man down defense? Take advantage of the experience, even if you don’t understand everything the coach is saying.

The second post coming soon will feature details from the presentations themselves.