“Championships are won in the off-season.” You will hear that phrase from athletes at every level and in every sport, including the upcoming Super Bowl. This holds true for elite high school lacrosse players and even the top shooting coach in the mid-Atlantic region. The recent Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday was a day off to most people, but not for those truly committed to winning lacrosse championships this Spring. Coach Scott Pugh and professional lacrosse player Pat Harbeson (UVA/Denver Outlaws) challenged some of the very best in the DC area to get even better at their MLK Day Clinic at Wheaton Sports Pavilion.
Fourteen standouts from private school powerhouses Gonzaga, DeMatha, Georgetown Prep, Good Counsel, St. Albans, and Paul VI, as well as top public school players from as far away as Poolesville, Md. turned out to challenge themselves and learn from two of the best young teachers in the game. It might seem strange to some for rival players practicing together in the off-season, but not to Charlie Horning, head coach at Georgetown Prep — one of the nation’s top lacrosse programs: “I encourage kids from our program to work with Coach Pugh during the off-season. He runs high energy sessions that really focus on fundamental shooting, footwork, body and stick control. He identifies situations on the field where they can be aggressive and successful within their skill set. Whether its a freshman looking to gain confidence or one of our highly decorated recruits – we have been very pleased with our kids progression under Pugh’s tutelage.”
The off-season challenge holds just as true for the coaches as it does for the players. Pugh recently returned from the prestigious Nike 3d Blue Chip training camp in Orlando, Florida where he was able to pick up new skills and drills from other top coaches from around the nation. His commitment to improve and evolve as a coach only strengthens an already established resume, which most recently includes working with the last three Washington Post Players of the Year — ’12 Connor Reed (Gonzaga) – Hopkins; ’13 Alex Corboy (Gonzaga) – Fairfield; ’14 Charlie Horning (Georgetown Prep) – Villanova.
But the clinic didn’t just include elite level coaching from Pugh. Recent University of Virginia graduate Harbeson was selected in the Major League Lacrosse supplemental draft by the Denver Outlaws with the 24th overall pick. The number of professional lacrosse players is a select few and being tutored by someone of Harbeson’s undeniable talent only added to the impact of coaching acumen and demonstration ability on display this afternoon.
With less than a month until the official start of the Spring sports season, players are clamoring to attend Coach Pugh’s weekly shooting sessions. “I take a lot of pride in preparing my kids for the next level, but I take very little credit for the success these kids have on the field. Most of the players I am lucky enough to work with come to me with very good skills already. I really just motivate them to push themselves and point out some of the finer things a coach might not be able notice when juggling 30+ kids at practice. I want all my kids to have fun come Spring and know that requires a ton of hard work to master the fundamentals when no one is watching. That’s my niche and I’ve been truly blessed to do what I love.”
Snow may be on the ground and Spring may be just a hopeful yearning for most these days. But for a select group of kids, it’s most likely that more than a few championships were won this recent holiday weekend while many other hopefuls were enjoying their day off. He may not take any credit for their victories, but when the trophies are hoisted at the end of this season, those victors will know where that championship effort began.