Lacrosse Magazine has been crushing it with its "30 in 30" series, walking through fall ball with aplomb while piloting a tanker truck full of hot fire. While much of the project has touched upon the theme that generally dominates the fall period -- What are teams doing to address their question marks? -- it muscled its way through a curve yesterday with something I find more interesting than anything else right now: The approach to and development of new Division I programs.
Joe Amplo, the central figure in Marquette's maiden voyage through Division I lacrosse, spoke to Corey McLaughlin about pioneering the game in the Midwest and what it takes to get a program moving in the right direction. When you read the piece, you start to realize just how impressive it is that Amplo is going to be leading his charges into the breach in just a few months when, just under two years ago, his job at Marquette didn't even exist. Here's some of the best stuff.
On creating a culture:
We looked at kids who fell through the cracks and were looking for opportunities. We attracted some transfers, guys who wanted an opportunity for whatever reason. We got 28 young men to come here last year. They went through practice just like a regular Division I team would every single day, they did weight training, but they didn't compete.
That allowed us to start to institute standards and create some hierarchy and leadership. And it allowed us as a staff to make some mistakes in our development and learn from each other. That was the first goal for us after hiring the staff. We needed to get kids on campus. Bringing in those 28 kids was check mark No. 1.
Then it was just the daily grind. What are we going to wear in the weight room? And when a kid isn't wearing the right thing, how are we going to hold him accountable? How are we going to empower the team to hold them accountable? When we walk to class, what are we expected to do? Are we expected to walk with our heads down or say hello to everybody and engage as many people on campus as possible? What do we look like when we do community service? Are we just going to do a one-hour community cleanup or are we going to put our hands around a big, major project like a toy drive and try to fill a tractor trailer with toys? What's going to be our standard for everything that we do?
This isn't a program that's been sitting around Milwaukee discussing bratwurst theory; this a program that has been putting in the work, not only on the field and in the weight room, but also in the community and in the realm of personal growth and responsibility. That may not translate to wins in 2013, but it does lay a solid foundation for pursuing success in the future, not just in terms of wins and losses but in program volition and community engagement with the game. Good deal.
On lining up skulls to try and crush:
Because this year is an independent year for us, we're not technically in the Big East, I wanted to get as many Big East opponents on our schedule as possible. I wanted to get that comfort level or see where we fit competitively. Villanova and Rutgers, we really tried to get on each other's schedules, the timing just didn't work out. Notre Dame, Georgetown and St. John's did work out. After that, who else could we get to play here? The school gave us a generous guarantee budget so we offered teams money to come in and play us. Unfortunately, we only got two: Detroit Mercy and Duke.
* * * * *
After that, where do we fit? We'll go anywhere. We wanted to get to different markets. . . . It's the Marquette Barnstorming Tour.
Marquette is a team without a country right now, and that's how you end up with two -- two! -- home games in a season. It isn't going to be an easy season for the Golden Eagles, what with bus trips and airlines and, if possible, the pirating of seacraft to storm the shores of some unknowning lacrosse opponent. But there is something really important here: Marquette was willing to throw some dollars at Amplo to try and put together a workable schedule. That's the biggest piece of this entire thing -- support, and the Golden Eagles have it.
On geography and dealing with huckleberries:
We wanted to explain the fact that lacrosse is not spelled with a capital C as it is in the town of LaCrosse out here.