Coach Lasagna Interview


  I had the great pleasure of interviewing Mr. Peter Lasagna who is the Head Men's Lacrosse Coach at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, USA. Coach Lasagna has been at Bates now for 18 years! That is a very long time to be at one place, especially at the DIII level. Coach Lasagna led his Bates team to a NCAA DIII Quarterfinal appearance this past season where they lost to Wesleyan. As well as going undefeated in the regular season and earning that #1 ranking at one point in time. The conference that Bates competes in, the New England Small College Athletic Conference, NESCAC,  is regarded as the top conference for Lacrosse at the DIII level. Just another reason why it is insane that they went undefeated in the regular season. Anyway, enough talk about Bates and their terrific season and let's get into this Q & A from Coach Lasagna.

Q: You have been at Bates so long, what makes it such a special place?

A: "Well, It has a huge heart and soul and spirit. Which I actually felt a million years ago when I was doing Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, etc. tour. Bates has really good leadership and in a really amazing town. There is a lot of connection between the students, staff, and faculty at Bates and the people that live in the community. I think that is a little unusual for these kinds of fancy liberal arts schools and throw in just the lifestyle that you have living in Maine which really is different. So I would say all those things combined to make it a special place."

Q: You all had such a great season last year, could you kind of reflect back on that season?

A: "Yes. I can reflect on how its going to look like my IQ drops 200 points with the graduation of the class of 2017. It was a special and an amazing ride really that we have been building to for 17 years plus. Certainly, before I got here but in the time that I've been here. I would say the thing that jumps out at you is the change between when the class of 2017 were freshman when they had a really disappointing season and we lost 8 or 9 games and maybe won 1 game in our league to last year. When we advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals, being ranked #1 in the country for a couple of weeks there near the end and going undefeated through the NESCAC season which is just unthinkable. It was incredibly fun, incredibly gratifying to see a bunch of people to get you know that 3 first team All-Americans, all 3 captains were 1st team All-Americans. Six total All-Americans and 5 from that senior class, it shows you how hard those men worked to get us there. I will also tell you that for all of us that were inside of it as gratifying as it was to do a number of things that we had never done before we also believed that we had a team that was good enough to go even further. So the fact that we stopped a few wins short of our ultimate goal is something that really motivates us."

Q: What is the day in the Life of a Bates Coach or Player?

A: "WOW! Different for those two groups and also it differs what time of the year you are in. In this league, we spend whole lot more time not coaching our players than we do coaching our players. So, you really as a coach really focus on recruiting and not only finishing the current class but also getting as far ahead as you can, in this case, the 2019's and the 2020's. It also gives us, Coaches, an opportunity, which is why this is also a really neat place to work, to do a lot of other things. To be involved in the larger life of the campus and to be in the larger life of Lewiston-Auburn. So, I mean coaches are doing that as well as students but that is one of the real advantages to me of going from DI to DIII is that as a coach you really do have an opportunity to impact your whole college potentially and your whole community. You can obviously do that is DI and DII as well but you just have more time in this league. For the students, they are taking all the same classes that every other student at Bates College who isn't a varsity athlete is taking. There also spending a lot of time in their sport and finding ways to connect to other things that they care about, larger global issues and its busy. I think the hardest thing for students at these kinds of schools is that it's hard to be really exceptional at ten things but the kind of students and athletes that go to these schools is trying to be exceptional at ten things but I can't be so what 3 or 4 things, Academics 1st and Athletics next, what are two other things that I can be great at. I think that is the way Bates students, Coaches, and staff spend their days. Trying to make a difference in every way that we can."

Q: What is Recruiting like in DIII, specifically the NESCAC?

A: "It's relentless and I know I was a DI snob like every other DI Lacrosse Coach. Not because I looked down upon DII or DIII it's just that I didn't know it. My reality was DI and getting ready and doing recruiting battles with DI competitors both in the Ivy League and outside the Ivy League and what we know as scholarship schools and preparing for those teams that were on our schedules. So I came into this League 17 to 18 years ago and since then it has gotten even more competitive and in the NESCAC. There is not that great a gap, to be honest, and I think we've grown a lot, Certainly, the top of DIII and a lot of DI. Are there more bigger, stronger, faster, shoot the ball a little harder people in DI? Yes, absolutely but there is not the much of a gap. So the recruiting is everything. We're all much better coaches with much better players and there are more players nation wide then there have ever been and from different Socio-economic backgrounds and multicultural backgrounds. I think this is the most exciting time to be a college lacrosse recruiter ever but that also means that a lot of us are fighting for the same students. I think the real trick of it is to focus as quickly as you can. And we really do, you know were recruiting down the line as well, we are still very very focused on the current senior so you just try and see as many people as you can and you try to establish your stock to as many places nation wide as you possibly as you can. then you want to find out as quickly as you as possible who really legit academically and who is really intrested, because if there interested in one NESCAC school then they are probably interested in more than one or NESCAC like school. So what's different about Bates and how can I communicate that and what can we do to actually physically get them on campus. So, it never ends. You are doing something related to recruiting all the time and there are coaches that work really hard at it and are really good recruiters. I think the attitude that you have to have is that we are all gonna get ours, we just have to find the right people that are the right fit for our institution.

Q: You see so many kids with this DI or bust attitude, Why would you tell someone to play DIII?

A: "That's a great question and I chased that and that was my dream when I was going through that process. I had a big chip on my shoulder and the way that I was going to get that chip dealt with was if I could compete in DI lacrosse.So, I totally respect anyone who decides that that is the right fit for them. How could I not that's the dream that I chase?. I think that what has changed for me in my time at Bates and then in DIII is that it's not as simple as if you're a really great athlete if you're really committed to finding out the upper end of your potential in this sport then that has to send you in a DI direction. That is what I used to think and now I believe that it is not as simple as that. I believe that there are people where that is the right thing and that's what they want to do but I also have learned in all my time at Bates that there are a lot of students in our sport that would be very successful in DII or DI but they just find that these DIII schools offer the right balance of academics and life in Lacrosse. The only thing that is really different is that you are maybe a little more self-motivated, especially in this league, knowing that your coaches aren't going to be out there doing fall lacrosse with you and aren't going to surround and keep their hands around you, in the same way, all year round as they do in DI and DII. I think that is a difference maker for some students. I think the opportunity to study abroad, which almost all of the juniors on our team do. That is probably true for most of DIII and especially most in our league. I think this combination of life balance. Part of the reason why I left Brown after all those years, mostly because I married a woman smarter than me who told me we should think seriously about it, but because this balance of being able to do what I love to do but also spend more time with family, especially at that time when our kids were little. Just this balance is really amazing because it is not like its a sacrifice. For a player it's not like choosing DIII is admitting that your pursuit of athletic excellence is not going to be as important to me as if you went DI, its just going to be different and it's a different road. It's just that your schedule is a little bit more restricted if you are playing DI athletics than DIII."

Q: What is the state of the Game?

A: "I think that it is as healthy as it has ever been. We are actually seeing pretty regular growth at the DI level which not that long ago had stagnated. We were at 50, 51, 52 teams for a pretty darn long time is DI. So, that growth is really encouraging. We obviously still see tremendous growth in DIII and DII. People are adding lacrosse programs that didn't have them 3, 5, 2 or certainly 10 years ago. That is really really exciting but one of the pieces that is the most thrilling to me is what I said a few minutes ago. Seeing access to the game actually increase and whether it is where you live Tanner, Louisville, KY, in a quote non-stream area or whether it is because you are multicultural or a student of color, what ever it may be. Decision makers in our sport have been talking about how do we increase access to different socioeconomic groups so that you don't have to be a millionaire and spend $5,000 a summer just to get recruited. We have been talking about these issues for my whole career and to finally see pretty significant changes that are happening in that regard through Nation United, Metro Lacrosse, City Lacrosse, the Winners Program, Harlem Lacrosse & Leadership, etc. All that kind of stuff to me is the most exciting stuff happening in our game because it's not just about our game, Its about our country, our society, our culture and if our sport can more accurately reflect all the different people that make up our society and culture then that is a tremendously healthy thing for our sport and the game itself. Again, I like to write about this periodically for Inside Lacrosse, The rule changes in 2012 that compelled us all to play faster, let our players have more fun, and be in more control of how the game is played. To me, that is really exciting and we are gonna have a shot clock as soon as we can and so that's all part of this continued evolution to play faster and I think the game is more fun to practice, play,  and coach."

Q: If you could, What is one thing about the Game you would change?

A: "I would like to see face-off's take a little less time. I can't give you more detail really than that. Should we do that one year, I'm really dating myself now, where we took away the face-off and the team just got the ball after they got scored on. We only did that for one year and it was pretty fun and pretty interesting. We didn't really have time to coach to it because we just did it for one year. Don't get me wrong I love the face-off, I respect face-off people so much, It's a critical part of the game. I love the 50/50 ground balls on the wings, I'm a fan of all that. We have done a lot to speed up the game in the last few years in terms of rule changes but the one play that happens the most, especially if you are averaging 17, 18 goals a game, is the Face-off. You are facing off 40 times a game, for a high scoring team, so that actual play with the mechanics of it and how long it takes and how long those guys have to be set. Again, I'm not trying to give you answers here, I'm just answering the question and saying if that if there were something to do to speed that up then that would be a positive development."

Wow! some great answers there from Coach Lasagna. He had some really great things to say on a number of topics and, I'm not calling you old coach, that really speaks to how long he has been in coaching and how much he has seen and grown since his day's playing and coaching at Brown. I think he made a number of great points that any player or coach at any level can take away and use to their advantage. I truly want to thank Coach Lasagna for taking his time to speak with us and good luck to him and his Bates team this season. I know we will be following and rooting you all over here at Rville USA!

I hope everyone enjoyed this article and you can hear the audio on the next LPC Podcast when that comes out in a few weeks.

Have a great day and Stay Hydrated!