A Conversation with Coach Tierney

A Conversation with Coach Tierney

A Conversation with Coach Tierney

A Conversation with Coach Tierney

Lax.com: Last year you publicly took issue with your seeding in the tournament. What affect will automatic qualification have and will it solve the problem?

Coach Tierney: Well first of all last year was a highly emotional time and we have moved on. We had to get the job done on the field and did not get it done so that is the end of that story. The automatic qualifier, the jury is still out on that. In a league like ours, the Ivy League, its not a good thing right now because the tournament only take twelve teams. With the four conferences with automatic qualifiers and the western qualifier that only leaves seven spots for an at-large bid. When you think of who the independents are you have Syracuse, Hopkins, Loyola, Virginia, Carolina, and Duke. It is easy math, so, unless somebody has an off year it is hard for leagues like ours to have more than one team go to the tournament. The hope for all of us in lacrosse is that in September we present a proposal to the NCAA to up the tournament to sixteen games, and if that happens than I think the Automatic qualifier is great.

Lax.com: Does automatic qualification also get your team a good seeding?

Coach: No, but the seeding committee is made up of good credible people. I think the decisions will be made a little more carefully this year, but you have got to play a good schedule. You know, its all great and wonderful if a team has a great year, a flash in the pants type of season, but it is not fair to the teams that play a tough schedule and lose a couple of games not to make the playoffs. So, it has got to be based on strength of schedule.

Lax.com: Word on the street is that you actually banned offset heads from your players. How do you feel about offset heads?

Coach: Well we did last year and it was not any particular brand in general, it was just the offset head. I think that the problem with a sport that is growing like wild fire is that the kids that are using these sticks are learning the hardest skills with ease because of the heads, and in turn never really learning the skill at all. Catching and carrying the ball under pressure are the two hardest things to do in the game, and so, with these offset heads everything gets caught. The ball just sinks in there. It goes so deep into the pocket and we have all these great checkers out there and even the best checkers can't get the ball to come out. The trouble with all this is when the kids get to a higher level they have got a tainted motion in how they throw, and when they have to make a quick pass they're unable to because of this motion. When it comes to catching and shooting, when you have time to wind up, they're the greatest thing going because everyone can shoot 95 miles an hour. So now you have a kid who wows everyone in pre-game drills, but under pressure in a big game all of his passes are at his players feet because the ball won't come out. I saw so much of that last year that I just said, 'that is it'. This year I'll allow it, but the kids know; if the pass starts hitting the ground over and over they get the double whistle. The double whistle means they come out and somebody else goes in for them. We have maybe the deepest team we have ever had this year, not many stars, and so we told the players if they want to take a chance at sitting on the bench because they keep throwing the ball on the ground than that's fine. We gave them enough rope to hang themselves with, so to speak.

Lax.com: You have two sons on the team. How has that experience been.

Coach: The first thing I think about is the unique satisfaction that their hard work is paying off, because I've watched them grow up. Very few others have that opportunity to have their sons play for them, and at this level it's very special. I think it's tougher on them, but for me it's just a joy to walk out on the field everyday and see the two of them out there; to watch them mature and progress. Believe me, I count the days knowing that this is not going to last forever.

Lax.com: Who was the toughest kid you ever coached?

Coach: One of the kids was Greg Waller, he was our faceoff guy in 92'. When I think of toughness I think of a lot of our faceoff guys like Paul Murphy, and James Mithell. Also defensemen like Mike Mariano, Nick Lane, and Kurt Lunkenheimer and guys that were in those positions. Interestingly enough, one of the toughest guys you probably wouldn't think of, was Chris Massey. He just got beat up, with his style of play, and he never said a word. He took a beating every day in practice and never got the accolades that Hubbard and Hess did and he never complained.

Lax.com:How about conditioning. What do you stress? Is there a weight program?

Coach: The thing unique about Princeton's conditioning, which Dave Metzbauer is in charge of, is we are keenly aware of time. We never lift as a team, we believe that when you work in a place like Princeton you're going to get bright kids, you're going to get motivated people, that will do their lifting. Matt Britsky is our strength coach and they believe in high intensity training. One set of maximum weight to fatigue with a couple of negatives at the end and in essence you can get a full body workout in forty-five minutes. It gives the kids time to do all the other kinds of things they need to do like study. Also, we have the kids run a six minute mile at the end of practice on monday's and four times a year we run a mile and a half in nine minutes. I believe kids should have fun in lacrosse. They don't need to be with their teammates six days a week, ten months a year, for two and a half hours a day. There are too many other neat things around places like this to enjoy.

Lax.com: If you could share one drill with coaches across the nation what would it be.

Coach: Well I guess when I think about the last eight or nine years a lot of people have asked me how I get my players to slide so well defensively. Well if that's the case, which often it isn't, I guess a good drill for that is a drill we run which starts off in a half field 6 on 6. We call out a defenseman's name and, depending on which side of the field he is on, he must go and touch the opposite sideline. In the mean time, the defenseman on the ball must apply heavy pressure while everyone else covers. By that time the defenseman who left is on his way back and the defense has to adjust to man to man again. That is the one drill that has helped us the most in terms of communication and being able to scramble, and that's why sometimes we're better shorthanded: because you can get lazy all even.

Lax.com: You coached the Hopkins Blue Jays soccer team to the NCAA tournament in 1986 for the first time in 11 years. Did you know anything about soccer?

Lax.com: I had a really good grad assistant and when I went to the first practice I told the players I was just going to watch them play from the stands. I went to the stands with the grad assistant and as we were watching I asked him what was going on. What am I supposed to do. We actually changed some things. We did line drills like in lacrosse. I drove other soccer coaches crazy, we changed midfield lines every five minutes; we had 28 kids on the team and we were playing all of them, and if you know anything about soccer that was sacriligious. That actually got me the job at Princeton. They figured if he can turn around a program in a sport he doesn't know, what can he do with a sport he has got an idea on? The one thing I learned is that I certainly appreciate soccer more now that I have coached it. I was always a football-lacrosse guy.

Lax.com: Can you sum up your coaching philosophy?

Coach: Well, I think in a time when people think that you can't be demanding on kids, I think our staff and myself believe that discipline comes back and rewards you greatly. And, I don't mean the yelling and screaming. I actually think the guys like it, the kids respond to it. We have found a way that is successful here and we have stuck with it, but we are also flexible enough to change what we have had to. 92' and 94', with the type of players we had, we were very much a half field team. We were patient, and once we got Hess and Hubbard in here we were runnin' and gunnin' in 98'. And now maybe it is time to adjust again. I guess you could say that we have been disciplined, we found a style that works and yet have been flexible enough to adjust to players. Certainly, around here it is more than just living lacrosse with the kids. You know, there are too many other things that we talk to and deal with these guys. You've got to make them realize that you care about them as much off the field as you do on, in fact here maybe more. I also try not to make rules that I don't live by and they trust you more.

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Is this guy serious?
    by (#10) on 2/08/00 @11:34PM
Not letting his team use offset heads because they hold the ball too well? What's next? Not letting them wear cleats because they give far too much traction?
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