Hudson Valley’s Lacrosse team has been going through a lot of change in the recent months.
New head coach Matthew Johnson has been installing a new system and a new philosophy into the program.
“The focus right now is on learning the system,” said Johnson. According to Johnson the system is a “hybrid” of the fast-paced UAlbany system, and the Native American box Lacrosse style.
“We’re modeling a lot after the Thompson brothers at UAlbany. They are a great example,” he said. The Thompsons shared the winning of the Tewarraton trophy last May. The Tewarraton trophy, as described on the award’s website, “is presented to an individual involved in the sport of lacrosse, who nobly reflects the finest virtues of the game, and who, over the course of his or her life, has made a significant contribution to society and to the lives of others.”
They are also modeling themselves after the creative play of the Native Americans. The Iroquois Confederacy has its own national team that competes with the United States, England, and Australia at the national level.
“The fact that they can compete on a national stage with the United States is unbelievable,” said Johnson. “They are doing something right, and we’ve learned a lot from that culture,” he said.
Johnson also talked about how he is training the team. “The biggest part is making these guys mentally tougher,” he said.
Johnson has really changed the team’s mentality and uses Navy Seal type training methods to make the team mentally tougher.
Johnson said that it’s more about the mentality that the players have than about the physical training. “The [Navy Seal] model is working on how to keep a positive mentality and mental endurance for sustained periods,” said Johnson.
“We are not talking about doing long PT for four hours or any of the crazy stuff that they do, but we are using that as an example,” he said. Johnson said the Navy Seals are not the greatest athletes, or the most physically gifted people, but they are elite because of their mental state. “The Navy seals are not the pro football players or the Olympic swimmers; they are the average guys that can keep their mental focus for six months at a time, and can focus on the next task. They are the most elite fighting force in the world,” he said
“I’m giving [the team] tasks that seem impossible, and teaching them how to take bite sized pieces,” said Johnson, about his training program.
Team captain Paul Burlingame said the team has bought into the system, and said “We have to focus on what is there.” Burlingame broke down the Navy Seal mentality when he said, “We have got to think about one thing at a time. If we get this drill done, make this pass, make this shot then we’ll be alright. But if we worry about how the third quarter is going to go, or how the fourth quarter is going to go, then we are going to get overloaded.”
Johnson said that he’s confident in this team. “We couldn’t ask for a better crew,” he said. “These guys are working into a new system. Chemistry is the biggest thing for them,” he said.
“Everyone on the team has really stepped up and taken to the system really quickly,” said Johnson. “The pace of practice is incredibly high, and the intensity level is through the roof. To go that hard for that long is very difficult,” he said.
Johnson said that he’s proud of the team for stepping up to the challenge and holding themselves and each other accountable.
“We have guys getting in each other’s faces constantly, and at the end of the day they give each other a hand shake and move on,” Johnson said. The team has really come together and worked hard according to Johnson. “These guys are unbelievable,” he said.
Assistant captains Nick Clark and Victor Terry said that there have been a lot of changes to the system from last year.
“We have a lot more enthusiasm at practice,” said Clark. Clark also made a point about the team being close. He said, “We all love each other here, we are all brothers. It is one big family.”
Clark also said the team is working very hard. He said, “We’re just trying to get better every day. We’ve got one goal and it is to win a National Championship.”
Johnson said the team does not want to look too far ahead. “We have another month till we’re hitting someone in a different color, so that’s a long time to stay focused for any team,” he said
Johnson also said that the team has not looked back at last year’s frustrating 1-7 season at all.
“The focus is on March 20 and 21,” said Johnson. Those are the dates of their first two games, scheduled for back-to-back days. The first is at Niagara, followed by a game at Monroe. The team then has their first home game the next Wednesday, Mar. 25 against Dean.
Johnson said he’s excited for this season. “They are going to be a lot of fun to watch in the spring,” he said.