Coach Lewis Interview

 I had the great pleasure of talking with the head coach of Rollins College in Winter Park, FL, Chris Lewis. Rollins competes in NCAA DII and is in the Sunshine State Conference which has quickly become a power in the DII landscape the past few years. Coach Lewis and I were able to talk about Rollins, Playing DII, Sunshine State Conference, Recruiting, and just about lacrosse in general. Now let's get into the Q&A with Coach Lewis.

Q: Sunshine State Conference?

A: "The Conference sponsored Lacrosse starting 4 years ago. We finally had six members this past season. Originally St. Leo was the first school in Florida to add a lacrosse program, Rollins was second, Florida Southern was 3rd, Tampa was 4th, and then we added Lynn and Florida Tech. So, currently, there are eight members in the conference. Just this year we added Embry Riddle up in Daytona Beach and Palm Beach Atlantic. So, in the 2018 season, we are going to have eight teams in the league. That is nice that we are getting to be a fairly good sized league."

Q: How Competitive is the Sunshine StateConference?

A: "I like to compare it to SEC football, Tampa has been the best team in the league since the start. They have won all 4 conference championships. After that, we have had a different team finish second each year. It has been St. Leo, Florida Tech, Rollins. The other five teams in the conference take turns beating each other up and we all end up 3-2 and 2-3 in the conference. So the last game of the season usually determines if you're getting into the Conference tournament or not. Also, two years ago the Sunshine State Conference was ranked the #2 conference in DII. We had an 81% nonconference winning percentage and we had 4 teams in the top 20. Last year, I believe we had 2 teams in the top 20 and we still won 72% of our non-conference games. So, It's a tough league so you have to be ready each game."

Q: The growth at the DII level, specifically the south?

A: " It's Amazing. When I first started coaching in 2008 up at Merrimack College I believe there were 38 DII schools and I believe we are up to 64 as of now. And this is just 9, 10 years later. So, especially down here in the south I mentioned all those teams here in Florida that have added. There are 7 teams in Florida that have added in the past 10 years. There have been probably been at least that many in the North Carolina area and then there are a bunch of teams in Colorado. So out there and then kind of it the Ohio Valley with schools like Indianoplis and Lindenwood and some of those that are doing really well coming right out of the gate. So, the growth of DII Lacrosse has been fast and furious and the quality of the lacrosse is something that always gets me. You know it's highly competitive and it's a bunch of teams that are very good and all want to beat each other so it's a lot of fun."

Q: You see so many kids go around with this DI or bust attitude so why would you tell someone to play DII?

A: " It depends on what kind of experience you are looking for really. The difference between DI and DII is not always a matter of the quality of lacrosse. So for example, when I coached at Merrimack we used to scrimmage some DI schools that we would beat and we scrimmage DI schools here at Rollins in the fall and the spring. We haven't beaten any yet but we have never lost by more than 3. So we are really close with some of the southern schools down here in terms of DI. So, what you really want to look at especially at a school like Rollins, which is one of the best academic schools in the southeast, is what you want out of your college experience. Some DI schools you are an athlete first and a student second. So, one of the differences in DII is that you have some opportunity to be a student first and an athlete second. That is how we focus on the task here at Rollins."

Q: What advice do you have to HS players trying to get recruited from those non-traditional hotbeds?

A: " Get out and play where the coaches are gonna see you. We have kids from all of 20 different states on our team. We have kids from Kentucky, Tennessee, Carolinas, Florida, a bunch from Texas, California, Seattle, Colorado is becoming a big one for us and then Michigan and Ohio. So, you know a lot of those states have individual hotbeds within them. In Tennessee it's Nashville. In Kentucky where you are at its Louisville In Georgia, the best lacrosse is played in Atlanta. So, if you know where to go look in some of these states that are considered non-traditional hotbeds your gonna find coaches that are teaching the game the right way. We are willing to go look for them and bring them in from all over the country. If you can go get on a travel squad, that is one of the best ways to get seen by coaches if you're playing in the summer. Also, you can talk to your head coach and if a head coach is willing to advocate for you with a college program that tells the college coach that this is a pretty good kid because a high school coach doesn't want to advocate for a player of his and have him go to a school and not be a player and decent kid in terms of the off-field behavior. So, you know if he were to do that then that college coach is not going to listen to him anymore and he will have trouble getting his kids recruited."

Q: Day in the life of a Rollins Player? 

A: "In DII in the spring when we have our championship season the NCAA allows us to have 20 hours a week working on lacrosse related activities. So, typically we are going to lift a couple times a week so we will have strength training, not 6 AM. Tuesday's and Thursday's are always big meeting days for us as well. So if you look at a Tuesday that will be your busiest day. You might have some strength training in the morning, around lunchtime we will do some film work dissecting the game we just played. Then we will look at our opponent and give the guys the scouting report and look at the game plan that we will be working on in practice for the next few days. We usually have practice from 4-6 every day. So the busiest day you would have will be a 45-minute strength and conditing session, 45 minutes of the film, and then a couple hours of practice. So, total you would be 3 and a half hours of lacrosse-related things that day. On a day when we didn't have that like a Wednesday or Friday you would just have that 90 -100 minute practice session." 

Q: What would you say the state of the game is? 

A: " Its growing man. It's fantastic how fast this sport has taken off. You used to not be able to find any kids who were playing in Kentucky and now you have dozens that are capable of playing in college. So, it's not just in the traditional I-95 Corridor between DC and Boston where you used to have all the lacrosse programs. So it's growing all across the country and it's exciting to see."

Q: What is one thing that you would change about the game?

A: "I think the big one is coming down the pike and we are looking at putting in a shot clock. Not, this year but we have all been asked to scrimmage with it during the fall. It keeps teams from being able to slow the ball down. As somebody who played in HS in the 70's where we didn't have a shot clock but we had two-way middies so we didn't have guys that specialized in playing Defense. So if you were a midfielder you ran up and down the field before you came off so there was a lot more transition and I think the game was more exciting. So I am one of those coaches who is in favor of the shot clock. I like to be able to run up and down and run the transition game a little bit. But I was also a basketball player so I like that getting  up and down kind of flow to a game."

  What some great things Coach Lewis had to say there.  We hope that you all were able to take some things away from what coach had to say. Also, we want to thank Coach Lewis and wish him and his Rollins program good luck this season.  I know we will be following and rooting for 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!