Bryan, you’ve been coaching for a quite a few years now. How and why did you get started in lacrosse? When did you discover that you loved it?
Ya know, my dad tells a different story than I tell. I am convinced that he pulled me out of the outfield in the middle of a baseball game in third grade and took me down to the old high school and signed me up for lacrosse. He says he was all set to coach a baseball team and then when we went to tryouts, which were held in the old gym I just walked away over to a guy in the corner who was playing lacrosse highlights and signing kids up for lacrosse. But either way, it started in third grade and there was only fifth and sixth grade lacrosse, so I played up for two years and just got destroyed- but loved it. It stuck quick.
Obviously lacrosse has developed into a long-term love affair. Did it develop slowly or did you know right away, wow, this is it for me?
No, you know, I was and still am into snowboarding and surfing a lot, and I liked lacrosse. I remember in 8th grade my dad played an April Fool’s Day trick on me and told me they weren’t letting kids with braces play that year. And I was so upset.
But I loved it. I had a great coach my senior year of high school. He’s the current head coach at Penn State, and he was the old University of Virginia defense coordinator, and for like a year in between he stopped in at Ridgefield High and coached me. I think that’s when I fell in love with lacrosse and he convinced me that I could play college lacrosse. Merrimack was great and when I got out of school I knew that I didn’t want to go into any sort of job that I didn’t love, which left three options really: surfing, lacrosse, or snowboarding. And I was most skilled at lacrosse, so that’s what I picked.
When did playing in Australia come in?
When I was in my sophomore year I broke my navicular bone, which, along with the femur, are the longest healing bones in the body, so I missed the whole season. You get 4 years of eligibility for college sports, so I took a medical redshirt year and decided to do 5 years at Merrimack. But I wasn’t behind in credits, so I took a fall semester off and went over to Australia and played for the New South Wales state team. We played all over Australia but I left before the World Games because only native-born Australians could play for the state teams at that time, so my buddy and I went over to Hawaii and played in the Hawaii Invitational as the two international exceptions that year. We also played in a tournament out there and were named as members of the international all-star team, which was pretty cool.
When did you start coaching?
I started coaching in Middle School, where I coached my sister’s basketball team. And I loved it. In high school I coached a bunch of youth basketball teams. In college I coached a little bit of youth lacrosse, little bit of high school lacrosse, and did a lot of camps and stuff. When I got out of College I stayed on board with Merrimack for a little while and then went to Haverhill. I’ve just always loved coaching. I like working with kids.
So what made you decide to start Home Grown?
I didn’t want to be involved in traditional business, really. And I knew that I liked coaching. In the beginning, I liked coaching individuals more than I liked coaching teams. No one was doing it. No one was saying, “All right, Johny, you’re a pretty good player. But if you were to work on the finer points of dodging and shooting, and we could improve your lacrosse IQ and your vision of the field, you could be an awesome player!” I really liked doing that. And that’s what started Home Grown.
When we got started we had like a bowling alleys worth of turf 150 ft. long and it was just net, net, net, and we just went private lesson, private lesson, private lesson. It was just me and my buddy Tim Murphy, and then Pete Smyth came in really quickly after that as an intern for us, and then Corrine after that. And then it just snowballed from there- we had too much demand that we couldn’t fill so we expanded the field and morphed the business and we all got into coaching team lacrosse and loved that. And then the academy was quickly born.
So what does a normal day look like for a lacrosse coach and business owner?
Ha, busy. I usually wake up and stretch for an hour to get all the knots out of my back from shooting on goalies all day. Then I get into Home Grown and deal with voicemails and emails, take care of accounting, market whatever we’ve got going on, do promotions, generally have a couple of recruiting meetings with parents and players about what’s going on in the recruiting process for that kid and what they need to continue doing, along with what they’re doing well. Then I usually shoot over to Merrimack for a two hour practice. Then the coaches and I will chalk talk for an hour or two because we can’t help ourselves. Then I’ll probably come back, answer a few more emails and phone calls, and do a private lesson. It’s a long day.
What’s your favorite part about what you do?
The most fun for me is watching a light come on when a kid figures something out. I love when a kid just goes “oh, I understand what you’ve been telling me, I understand why I need to do it, I understand how I need to do it, and I’m pumped because it’s working.” That’s my favorite thing, when they just get a dodge, or all of a sudden their hands are placed in a better location and they start shooting harder and more accurately… or if it’s like a big picture thing, and you’re like, “hey, listen, off ball, when this is happening, you should be doing this” and then you see them do it in a game and get a goal off of it or a nice assist… that’s the best part about what I do…. And I don’t have to put on a suit and tie. Ever.