Fords lacrosse eager, prepared for success

Nolen Cooleen ’21 works upfield in a Gilman School scrimmage – March 11, 2021 – Jeffrey Yang ’22

With lacrosse back in full swing, the Fords are in the midst of what hopefully will be their first uninterrupted season since the spring of 2019. The long period of without practice or competition has presented challenges, but players and coaches have made a number of adjustments.

     Varsity Head Coach Brendan Dawson explained how each year produces a unique challenge, but certain aspects of Haverford lacrosse remain the same, even during a year like this.

     “We try to replicate a lot of the same things from year to year,” Coach Dawson said. “There are traditions—whether it’s how we walk out to the field, or the tradition of guys getting out on the wall in the morning and shooting in the morning. Things like that and the extra work have made Haverford lacrosse what it’s been, and that’s going to continue to make Haverford lacrosse what it is.”

     While these aspects have remained a staple of the program, certain features of the team have changed. Since the last time the Fords had a full season, new leaders have risen, new faces emerged, and new protocols are in place.

     “There is a yearly challenge that’s different from any other year, and it’s never the same,” Coach Dawson said. “There is a proven formula, but the shape the team takes every year is very different. It’s different players, different skills, and different personalities.”

     In response to this year’s unique challenges, the team devised unique solutions.

     “We’ve been incorporating a lot of Google Meets in our routine to go over plays and film,” Fifth Former Avi Mehl said. “It’s gotten to the point where we’re ready to go even before we set foot on the field.”

     “It’s a product of the pandemic,” Coach Dawson said. “We can utilize some of this technology to do things that we used to do in person. Not that we’ll never [watch film] in-person again, but we can definitely utilize time wisely, and we want to make sure we’re adhering to protocols and limiting group time together.”

     In addition to the Meets, Coach Dawson is having his players read James Kerr’s Legacy—a book about a remarkably successful New Zealand rugby team called the All Blacks. The book outlines the different traits an All Black player must have, including sacrifice, dedication, preparation, and hard work.

     “You learn these things about how the All Blacks are the best rugby players in the world, but they still do the simple things,” Sixth Former Quintin Campbell said. “For instance, they clean out their locker room after every game by themselves. And the point of that is: ‘Nobody takes care of the All Blacks, we take care of the All Blacks.’”

Varsity lacrosse scrimmage against Gilman School, March 11, 2021 – Jeffrey Yang ’22

     The players believe reading the book has helped with their mentality.

     “It helps us keep level-headed in terms of focusing on our common goal,” Mehl said, “focussing on the basic things such as our traditions and carrying on the legacy.”

     Fifth Former Pat Gillin said, “We can take something we’ve learned from the book and change it into our own kind of outline for how this year’s going to go and what each of us has to do to make the team the best it can be.”

     “It helps us identify what we want to focus on as a team,” Sixth Former Nolan Cooleen said. “We can use [the All Blacks’] success as a template.”

     On the physical side, players have held themselves to high standards while school practices were suspended.

“The guys stayed in touch. We did a lot of running, lifting, all sorts of conditioning, and then everyone was sort of champing at the bit during the school year to get out on the field and use the wall. When we finally got the okay to get on the wall, we had a great turnout.”

Quintin Campbell ’21

     “It was on the players individually to take care of their bodies,” Cooleen said, “especially after hard practices.”

     Campbell added, “The guys stayed in touch. We did a lot of running, lifting, all sorts of conditioning, and then everyone was sort of champing at the bit during the school year to get out on the field and use the wall. When we finally got the okay to get on the wall, we had a great turnout.”

     The team is certainly developing both mentally and physically, and Sixth Form leaders are gradually stepping into their new roles. Still, the pandemic has introduced some difficulties.

     “The senior class never really got to grow into a junior role; seniors were kind of thrown into just the highest leadership role, and neither the freshmen nor the sophomores have really gotten to play,” Campbell said. “We’re keeping in mind that this has happened to every team, and every team is going to have a learning curve, and we know we’re going to get through it.”

     To help the Sixth Formers grow into leadership roles, Coach Dawson has turned to previous leaders.

     “We had a special group of seniors last year—just great guys who really bought into the team culture,” Coach Dawson said. “One of my biggest disappointments was that our current team didn’t get to see that throughout the season in-person with our seniors. I really wanted [the former seniors] to be involved in teaching the younger guys, so we just gave the seniors that graduated last year a little bit of freedom to meet with the group in Google Meets just to talk about Haverford lacrosse and what it meant to them.”

     Overall, the Fords are optimistic that all of these efforts will prove fruitful over the course of the season.

     “It’s not a regular year,” Gillin said. “But I think we’re rolling with the punches and take whatever we can get and get better every day.”

Author: Mitav Nayak '22

Mitav Nayak has contributed to The Index since 2018. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief. Mitav won the fall 2019 Pennsylvania School Press Association (PSPA) Philadelphia-area Student Journalism Competition for Newspaper Sports Story Writing and was to compete for the state title in the spring of 2020 (canceled due to COVID).