On this week’s episode of New England Lacrosse Journal’s “Chasing The Goal” podcast, hosts Kyle Devitte and Jack Piatelli welcomed Medfield (Mass.) High School head coach John Isaf into the Seamans Media studio.
Isaf is a three-time state champion with Medfield and is entering his 11th season as the head coach. A graduate of Hamilton College, where he is still ranked second all-time in career assists, Isaf has an intense but inclusive coaching style.
With his guidance, Medfield has ascended to the top of the Division 2 ranks, and will now play in the third division of the revamped MIAA this spring.
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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: Let’s drill down a little bit on the connection between youth lacrosse, going to high school, and then playing at the next level. Are there principles in the way that things are taught to younger players that prepare them to play in high school? And then does that immediately translate to them playing in college?
John Isaf: I don’t have all the answers in the way we do things. It isn’t necessarily the only way to do it, or the right way, for someone else. I do coaches clinics for our youth coaches. Our high school players do help coach the winter clinics for the youth players. We invite youth coaches and youth teams to come to our practices.
One of my favorite scenes from last year was we had second- or third-graders playing at halftime of one of our games. I think it was a playoff game and I usually have the guys out on the corner. I’m trying to talk about what we’re going to do. You have to adjust things at halftime. And as we break up the huddle, they’re not paying attention. They’re watching the kids. They’re cheering for the kids. They get up and some little guy got a fast break and went down and scored. And all our guys are just jumping up and down and really excited for it; it was just a great scene. And that’s when I had to step back and say, “OK, remember, these are high school kids, right? Right.”
Whatever is happening in the snapshot of the moment for us in that playoff game, there’s a bigger picture of letting my guys be excited in showing the youth guys how fun it is for them to see them play. Because that adds up, and down the road, those guys are going to remember that and they’re going to want to do that. So, it’s a perpetual thing. You have to make sure you give room, too, and not just focus on the here and now and the winning and all that.
Jack Piatelli: In terms of your selection process with the varsity team and tryouts, how does that work for you?
John Isaf: We have tryouts the first two days of the season. So, the 21st and 22nd (of March) will be our tryouts and we’ll have to make decisions on the varsity after that Tuesday. What we try to do is keep as many guys involved as possible. So, if you’re a sophomore or junior that doesn’t make varsity, we want you to play JV to get another year of development and stay on our program.
We also do what I call a season-long tryout because we’ll leave several spots open. So as people develop during the course of the season, if we want to bring them up to varsity, we can do that, especially if they’re killing it at the JV level, or we have an injury at a key position, or we just need another player added. We’ll keep those options open through the course of the season.