On this week’s episode of New England Lacrosse Journal’s “Chasing The Goal” podcast, hosts Kyle Devitte and Jack Piatelli welcomed Lincoln-Sudbury (Mass.) High School head coach Brian Vona.
Vona has been a pillar of the Massachusetts coaching community for over a decade. His influence in building the Lincoln-Sudbury program into a regional power is evident. However, he also helped to build club teams and youth programs.
He is also the head coach of the Italian National men’s lacrosse team. In part one of a two-part podcast, Vona gets into how he got into international lacrosse and his overall coaching philosophy.
The full podcast can be accessed below and is available on all major platforms. If you enjoy it please leave a rating and a review.
This podcast is sponsored by the University of Nebraska High School and the NCAA. For more information on UNHS, visit highschool.nebraska.edu/nelj. For more information on the NCAA championships, visit https://www.ncaatickets.com/sport/mens-lacrosse.
Kyle Devitte: When I started asking around about teams and guys to talk to with my smaller network of national guys, I brought up your name a couple of times. And they were like, “You know, it’s Vona.” And I was like, “I don’t know what that means. What does that mean?”
And they said, “If you get him on the phone, you know, just be ready.” I’m like, “I’m always ready. What are you talking about?”
“Well, you know, he doesn’t he doesn’t mince his words.” And I said, “I love that.”
Then you and I talk for an hour and a half, maybe two hours, and it was great. I learned so much about you, your coaching philosophy, and everything. And then I went to see your NELS event and else all these high schools coming in, bringing their kids in and playing from all as far as like New York. And they got a Minnesota team, Washington state team — just so many players coming over there. I think that is emblematic of your style, which is very team first, as Jack said before we started.
Brian Vona: I mean, listen, I don’t have much of a filter, which is good that we can stop the recording on this. You know, I am who I am. I believe in our kids. I believe in effort. One of our lessons is that effort equals respect. I love coaching kids. I love growing the game.
Everyone sits here and talks about it. I just feel fortunate that I’ve had such great coaches and mentors in my life that have given me the game. The game’s given me so much. I just enjoy being part of it, you know? Sometimes I think I’m very headstrong, which is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a double-edged sword. But, I believe in towns. I believe in our high school. And, I believe in the effort that our kids give. That’s our whole M.O. I’m trying to match the effort of my kids.
Jack Piatelli: You’ve had so much success coaching, with (L-S) and winning national championships, state championships. What elements create a state championship team? What three elements would you say is the difference between winning and losing a championship?
Brian Vona: That’s a good question and it’s going to sound really corny, but I would say love is the number one thing. I think our kids love each other. Okay, so what teams don’t love each other, right? You know, everyone says they do so on and so forth.
I’m not saying that’s just exclusive to us, because it’s not. Our kids work hard. They work hard in the offseason together. The effort that our kids give is something that I will always be grateful for. Our motto is: “Effort equals respect.” So, we will start a kid who’s the best player in practice the next day no matter what. He’s on the wing. And trust me, I have the goals against to prove it, you know.
But when that kid picks up a groundball, when that kid does something great, our bench explodes. They explode over something like that versus exploding over a behind-the-back goal or a laser shot or someone taking the kid’s stick away from them defensively. I think that within the effort and the respect for the effort, because there is respect for the effort, it creates a bond that for me feels different. I’m not telling you that it wins every game because it doesn’t.