Growing The Program: University of Michigan

MCLAFan.com is proud to introduce Growing The Program, a summer content series presented by Maverik Lacrosse.

As we all know, the MCLA is growing and gaining more and more exposure each year. To help fuel the momentum, MCLAFan.com is conducting interviews with each and every coach in the MCLA about growing their program. We hope to create a valuable resource for current MCLA teams, new programs and potential recruits. We’re proud to have Maverik Lacrosse and Bigfoot Lacrosse on board to support this movement.
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Next we get the privilege of heading to Ann Arbor, MI to speak with John Paul, Head Coach of the prestigious Michigan Wolverines lacrosse team.

Michigan lacrosse

MCLA Fan: What are your goals for program growth this off-season? What are you doing to reach them?

Coach John Paul: We are currently focused on recruiting, first and foremost, with two of us spending most of the summer at many of the various recruiting tournaments and events around the country. We’re in a bit of unique situation because we have a new athletic director who is publicly in favor of adding varsity lacrosse here in the near future. However, there is no timeline or concrete plan in place yet. This means we have to plan as if D1 lacrosse is going to happen even though we don’t know when or even if with 100% certainty, which changes the way we recruit and budget a bit.

We’re excited about the future, but at the same time – unless and until plans are in place for D1 lacrosse – we remain primarily focused on winning another MCLA national championship. We were really pleased with how our team overcame adversity this year, but we felt that we drifted a bit from the culture that got us to our current level back in 2008 and 2009. Our focus now is planning to get back to that level of commitment and drive. Almost none of our players are in Ann Arbor, or even in Michigan, for the summer, so we try to stay in contact with them and keep them in contact with each other to stay motivated. We just sent out our summer workouts, which are an 8 week buildup to fall practice, along with the fitness testing we’ll be doing. We’ll be making some tough roster decisions in the fall, and how the guys approach their summer conditioning and skill development will go a long way toward determining who will be with us this spring.

Where do you see your program in 5 years? How will it get there?

We are hopeful that we will have an NCAA Division 1 program here within five years. We finally see a light at the end of the tunnel toward that end. We have worked hard to get there, and we now have an athletic director who is open to that. (All the work in the world doesn’t matter until you have that.) Ultimately, we will get there through a combination of our success, organization and political efforts within and outside of the university – and most importantly through the generous support of our donors. Lacrosse has become a very attractive possibility here because our administration realizes the development potential for the sport.

The big question, aside from reaching D1 status, is what happens to the club program if varsity lacrosse becomes a reality. The MCLA needs to address this possibility now for any school that adds a varsity program and continues to maintain a club program. Obviously a club program here under those circumstances could still be good, but it wouldn’t have nearly the support our current team does.

If varsity lacrosse does not happen, to be perfectly blunt I see our program eventually taking some pretty big steps back. We have reached a budget and organizational level that is not sustainable as a club program over time without a multi-million dollar endowment, and that kind of endowment is not going to happen in the near future. Hopefully it’s a moot point.

What are some key steps you’ve taken (or your program has taken) to promote your team on campus and create relationships with administration?

We work hard to network throughout the university community. It certainly doesn’t hurt that I have a professional history within the university, both in the athletic department and on the academic side. I think our success and media coverage have combined to create respect on campus throughout the student body and alumni. People are aware of us, and they support us.
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Maverik Lacrosse: Growing the ProgramContact: Drew Adams, Maverik Lacrosse

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What has been the most important part of your program’s success so far? Do you have any advice for other coaches (or team presidents) who are working to build a better program?

The first step toward our current level of success came when I was able to start coaching here full time. I did that through a combination of leaning on my wife for a few years and generating income through camps. This program owes more to her than to me, to be honest. Without her support and understanding, I never would have been able to leave my old development job to coach full time. Beyond that, the most important thing we do is recruit. Recruiting doesn’t just bring in better players. It brings in players who are motivated to make lacrosse the central focus of their experience here, which is a huge difference maker at the club level. It also involves their families at a much higher level, which in turn results in more support. Finally, we have assembled such an incredible staff here. It’s no coincidence that we started winning championships when Ken Broschart joined our coaching staff, Holli Schoonover became our trainer and Joe Hennessy became our full-time Director of Operations. Those three full-time people, along with all of our part-time coaches and staff, had made my job much easier and have allowed our athletes to focus on school and lacrosse.

OOC games are always an integral part of making it to the National Tournament. What do you look for in OOC opponents when scheduling?

We look for quality. Home games are important to us, and it’s sometimes hard to draw great opponents to Michigan, so we’ve had some teams here that might not have been top-25 caliber, but we are committed to putting together the toughest schedule we can every year. If that means we have to play a lot of tournament teams on the road, so be it. We feel like the tougher our schedule, the more prepared we are for what we need to do in May.

Along those lines, we made a commitment about 7 or 8 years ago to only scrimmage varsity teams, both in the fall and in the preseason. We’ve had the opportunity to play some great teams, including Johns Hopkins, Army, Ohio State, Penn State, Bucknell, Bellarmine, Robert Morris, Denison, Stevenson and a lot of others. I can’t tell you how important this has been for our development, and it also allows us to keep our MCLA schedule completely fresh every season. It’s a nice recruiting tool as well.

When recruiting, what do you tell potential recruits about your program and university? What do you have to offer?
From a school standpoint, Michigan is one of the top public universities in the world. That alone is a pretty big draw. Ann Arbor is a great college town, and of course a lot of students are drawn to the athletic traditions. We have the largest living alumni body in the world, and they are literally spread across the globe with big concentrations in the major business centers. That network is incredibly valuable, and the pride our alums take in the school is a huge benefit and recruiting tool.

From a program standpoint, we offer a Division 1 lacrosse experience in a lot of ways. In fact, a lot of the things we provide go above and beyond what most NCAA programs have. Our equipment and apparel sponsorships put us among the top handful of D1 programs in that regard, and our staff and support services assist our athletes at a pretty high level on and off the field – including the areas of medical, academic and career support. Of course, our on-field success is a pretty important consideration also. Our recruits know they will have the opportunity to compete for national championships and gain pretty good exposure during their time with us.

Thank you for your time Coach. To learn more about the Michigan Wolverines, head over to their team website here.
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If you’re interested in learning more or contributing, please feel free to contact us at info@lacrosseallstars.com.

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