There’s a gold standard in New Hampshire high school lacrosse, and it’s been set in Nashua by Bishop Guertin High School head coach Chris Cameron.
A Long Island native, Cameron was a multi-sport standout as a player, captaining the lacrosse and soccer teams at Lehigh, and played professionally with the Boston Blazers.
At Bishop Guertin, he has led BG to nine Division 1 championships. He also founded the NH Tomahawks, one of the region’s most respected and successful club programs.
He joined host Jack Piatelli on “New England Lacrosse Journal’s Chasing The Goal” podcast to talk about, among other topics, how to adjust when things aren’t going your way.
The full podcast can be accessed below.
Jack Piatelli: Neither of us started playing lacrosse until high school. Today some kids start playing in the first and second grade. What age is too late to start playing lacrosse if you want to play at the college level?
Chris Cameron: My first year at Bishop Guertin, which was 2003-04, we had 30 players in the program. I volunteered to be the freshman basketball coach. I think basketball players are the best athletes, and I recruited nine of the 13 kids to play lacrosse. Six stayed with it all the way through and four ended up playing in college. But I don’t know that kids now, with the skill level at Bishop Guertin, would be able to hang in there.
So what age? Those rare athletes can pick it up (in high school). To play at a high level, it’s just so difficult. But there’s a place for kids to play. Maybe not at the D-1 level, but if you can put the time in and develop the skills, you can do it. Maybe not at the ACC, Ivy or Big Ten level, but you can play college lacrosse if you haven’t picked up the stick until high school.
JP: I’m asked all the time, what sports translates well into lacrosse? You mentioned that you think basketball players are the best athletes.
CC: We have a lot of hockey-lacrosse crossover kids. Soccer kids, it’s year-round for them with the club circuit. Basketball has gotten to the point that, when their season ends, they’re playing AAU all spring and all summer. On our 47-player (lacrosse) roster, we have three basketball players and about 15 hockey players.
The crossover, from an eye-hand, from a physicality standpoint, hockey is a good fit, but also it’s a good fit (with the seasons) for allowing the kids to play both sports. But from a coaching standpoint, I use basketball principles like transition, six-on-six offense and, especially, defense. Defensive principles translate so much from basketball over to lacrosse.
JP: You had an opportunity to play for the Boston Blazers and, to quote you, it was the first time playing that you weren’t at the top, at least at the start.
CC: I had a year off, basically, from (playing) lacrosse because I coached during that my fifth year at Lehigh. And it was very establishment-like. The guys that were from UMass or Johns Hopkins got the first look and I couldn’t even get a tryout. … Then the first two or three games I didn’t dress. It was an adjustment.
JP: I’ve got a story. First game of the year was in Philadelphia and then two days before the game you found you weren’t dressing for the game. What did you do to adjust to that next level and get on the field?
CC: Rookie year was a little bit challenging. At that point I was only out of college for two years and a lot of people in the Philly area were excited to watch.
It was just a matter of getting used to the game. I knew from a size, athletic, skills standpoint I was in that top group. It was just a matter of learning the game. A lot of those my first year had played on the team for a few years. … Keep grinding, keep waiting for your opportunity. I remember that first game I did dress, I scored two goals. Once you know you’re in the lineup, once you got that first game under your belt and had success, I was comfortably in the lineup.
JP: It’s a good lesson for the players and parents out there. Going on to the next level, it’s not easy. You’ve got to have the mental capacity, be strong and believe in yourself, right?
CC: Confidence comes from within; I always teach my players that. But it also helps when you have the support of the coaches and they want you to succeed, and they instill confidence. … When you have the opportunity you’ve got to make the most of it and enjoy it. It’s a goal for people, but you’ve got to enjoy it. Enjoy the dream.