On The Grind With Lacrosse Coach Paul Jones
Nickname: “Coach”…my second favorite thing to be called. My favorite is being called “DAD!”
Team: Western Mass SharpShooters club program and Westfield (MA) Youth Lacrosse (where I get to coach my 11 year old son)
Years On The Grind: I\’\’m 46 now, and started coaching at 19…so I\’ve been coaching for 25 years. I wouldn\’t give up a day of it either!
RT: Why Did You Get Into Coaching?
Coach Jones: When I first started, it was because my former high school needed a JV coach, and I happened to be available
RT: Besides Talent What Else Do You Look For?
Coach Jones: Talent is important, but I actually look at 2 other things first. I tend to look at athleticism and coachability. I don\’t care how talented someone is…if they aren\’t coachable there is no place for them in the team atmosphere I create. Athleticism kind of speaks for itself…I can teach what they need to know, but you can\’t teach raw athletic ability on its own. I\’d take 20 coachable athletes over 10 superstars who won\’t listen to direction and instruction any day
RT: Best Advice You Could Give A Player? A Parent?
Coach Jones: The best advice I can give to both parents and players is to focus on school first. If your grades aren\’t there, no college is going to take the chance on bringing you in, and most people won\’t wind up playing professionally, so your education is very important. Next would be to master the fundamentals first…I see way too many kids who think they have to showboat to play well, which is not the case in my eyes. I preach and coach fundamentals (with both hands) before EVERYTHING else, and if you don\’t have the fundamentals, you\’re not going to be a big asset to the team. Lastly, learn the difference between confident and cocky. Confident players on my team will wind up on the field during a game, while cocky players will learn how to coach because they will be spending a lot of time on the bench next to me
RT: Do You Get Butterflies Before The Game?
Coach Jones: I have always gotten butterflies before games, and still do to this day. Whether I am playing or coaching, there is nothing like the nervous energy I get in the hours before a game. I use the butterflies as a personal cue to focus my energy on the task at hand. For me, they go away as my players take the field just prior to the game starting
RT: What Is Your PreGame Ritual?
Coach Jones: My pre-game rituals start with what I am wearing on the sidelines. I make sure I am dressed for the weather, and I hate to wear a jacket while coaching if I can help it, so I have to have the right layers on. Once at the field, I tend to walk the entire field, checking both nets to make sure there are no holes. As I\’m walking, I put my pregame speech together in my head to be able to get my guys pumped and focused, and to remind them of what I want done on both ends of the field. I also tend not to eat much on game days, until after the game is done.
RT: Part of the game you love the most?
Coach Jones: My favorite part of the game is the build up of energy during the hour or so before a game actually starts. At the field, players arriving, refs arriving, fans spilling in…all of it! Once the game starts I am so totally focused on the field that I don\’t notice much going on around me beyond the bench…but I love it as fans show up and the noise level increases in anticipation of the excitement of the game starting
RT: Practice or Game, which do you like better? Why?
Coach Jones: This one is very difficult for me to answer and I find myself waffling back and forth as I\’m trying to answer it. I think I prefer games, just because of the raw energy and excitement leading into it. Coaching in a program that had lost every game for 5 years prior to me taking over, they allow my team and I the opportunity to show what we can do and how far we have come since then. I will add, however, that without solid practices leading in to the games, I\’m not sure I would feel the same way. While practice is the most important part, it\’s work. This is kind of like asking which do you prefer…the work week or the weekend?
RT: Favorite Practice Drill?
Coach Jones: I have 2 favorite drills, one for early in practice and one for later once we\’re warmed up and really going. My favorite drill for early in practice is the star drill. This gets everyone moving, catching throwing and doing it on the run, and allows me to make sure they are working with both hands, and has everyone in a relatively confined space. I really like this when we get 2 or 3 balls going at once, because it forces everyone to talk and to play with their heads up.
For later in practice, my favorite drill is short field, odd man, continuous. I love this drill because it has everyone involved, and is much more like game situations, and focuses on quick ball movement and finding the open man, with everyone running up and down the field.
RT: If you didn\’t coach lacrosse, what else you would have coached?
Coach Jones: This is an easy one to answer because I have coached another sport. If I wasn\’t coaching lacrosse I would be coaching soccer. I was a pretty good soccer player growing up and was recruited to play both soccer and lacrosse coming out of high school…and I was a captain of both sports. A lot of my coaching philosophies actually came from my experiences on the soccer field, with chunks of details from my lacrosse experiences. Both sports require a lot of attention to fundamentals and use of both hands (feet) to play at a high level…and in both cases, the team is greater than the individual