Kyle Harrison is an absolute veteran of lacrosse. He’s spent over 22 years in the game and is a Tewaaraton winner (2005 when he was at Johns Hopkins, the year they went 16-0 and won the National Championship), played in the World Championships in 2006, McLaughin winner, the list goes on. Currently sponsored by STX and Nike (among other companies), he will be taking his talents this coming week across the pond, kicking off the All-Pro tour of friends of LPG, Arch Level Lacrosse. I was able to talk to Kyle to see what he’s looking forward to about the tour, expanding the game both internationally and domestically, and who he sees as this year’s Tewaaraton winner.
How did you get involved with Arch level lacrosse?
Vince reached out last Fall, I think. It was via Twitter, we started the conversation there, then jumped on the phone and I’m clearly excited about what they’re doing over there and I’m very passionate about growing the sport. So now we’re headed over there next week!
You’ve been growing the sport for a while, so where have you been/where are you going to grow the game?
I’ve been fortunate to actually travel a fair amount. I went to Japan when I was back at Hopkins, and I’ve been to Italy. Joe Walters and I went to Rome I think 2 years ago. I just recently went to Finland, and clearly I’m heading over to England. I think I’ve got a trip planned to New Zealand as well. I’m also headed over to Turkey in the Fall, and just trying to do my part to bounce around and give back to the sport because it’s done a lot for me.
What is your experience with lacrosse in England and Arch Level at this point?
I went out there when I was in sixth grade, I believe. My rec league would send players over to England and they would send players over here, so I went out there. I haven’t been able to go back since, though. I haven’t had much experience with them, though. I played against them in the World Games in 2006 and clearly they’re competitive guys, they love the sport, it was a lot of fun. But I haven’t had very much hands-on experience in terms of working with them, so I’m looking forward to getting over there, teaching them, seeing where the talent level is, and continuing to do my part.
What do you think is the most important part of growing the game?
I know it sounds repetitive, but I think it’s teaching people the right way to play the game. I’m fortunate enough to be from Baltimore, one of the hot-beds (You know the Baltimore, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey areas) and I’ve had great coaches all my life. The game is exploding all over the world, but we’ve got to make sure that people are learning the right way to play. When you go to some of these places, kids love doing tricks, doing those type of things when the most important thing they should be focusing on is stickwork and developing stickwork. Then the rest of that stuff will come a lot easier. I think without a doubt, stickwork is the most important thing. You look at a guy like Joe Walters or Steven Brooks, and those guys can do all kinds of crazy stuff with their sticks, and the reason that they’re able to do that is because growing up they had their stick in their hands all the time. Whether that was wall-ball or shooting or whatever, they just got more and more comfortable. As a result, those guys can do some pretty crazy stuff.
So what are you looking forward to on the Arch Level All-Pro Tour?
For me, I’m just looking forward to getting over there, and working with the guys there. I love teaching the game, I love being around kids that are passionate and excited about the game, and I know that’s what I’m going to get when I head over there. That’s definitely what I’m most excited about, just how passionate and excited they’re going to be. You know, over in Finland, my favorite part about working with those kids was, we went pretty hard for about three days straight, like 5-6 hours a day, and I know it was harder than they’d ever probably been pushed before, and I could see them all exhausted and sore, just kind of losing it, but they would not quit. They kept on fighting, and kept on working. So I’m just excited to see how passionate those guys are about the game.
As a former Blue Jay, how do you think they’re season is going so far?
I actually got to catch them live a couple of weeks back, back in Baltimore, and they’re a young team, but of course they play hard and I think Coach Dwan, Coach Pietramala and Coach Benson have them all where they need to be come May. It’s still a little bit of a learning process, because they’re a young team, but they’ve got a lot of talented guys. You know, Chris Boland, Kyle Wharton down at the attack, Zach Palmer and [John] Ranagan also on the midfield. They’re a young team, and it’s going to click sooner or later, and they’re fine.
Now about the Tewaaraton (Harrison won in 2005), who do you think it’s going to go to this year?
Now, I don’t follow stats and all of college lacrosse as well as I should as far as stats go. I clearly watch the games but I don’t know all of the specific stats. But if I were to pick someone I’d have to go with my man Shamel Bratton from Virginia. I think every time he touches the ball, something good happens for his team. You know, they have a great team, with [Steele] Stanwick down at the attack, and [Chris] Bocklett, you know they’ve got tons of players on that team, but I think Shamel is definitely a game-changer.
Speaking of growing the game with younger players, you’ll be coaching next year at JSerra High School. What do you see as far as the expansion of these younger programs out West?
I think it goes back to the same ideas as expanding internationally, and seeing the talent level internationally rise. There have been tons of players who have moved to the West coast from guys like Garrett Stanwick to Jason Leneau, and Max Ritz. I’m out here, my younger cousin Maxx Davis is out here. Just tons of guys who played Division 1 or high-level lacrosse back on the East coast, and have moved out West to start coaching to kind of push the game. I think we’re seeing tons of talented kids coming from the West Coast. Look at a guy like [Rob] Emery of Virginia, he’s got a younger brother who’s pretty talented as well. I think next year we’ve got a lot of talented freshmen that’ll be coming into JSerra to play. I’m just excited, doing my part.
What do you think is the most important things for these younger players here and in the UK to improve their stickwork?
For younger guys, it’s learning to practice at full speed when no one else is around. I think everybody goes to practice and everybody plays hard at practice, because you have to when your coach is yelling at you and your teammates are playing hard. Whether it’s with a buddy or working on stick-work, whatever it is, it’s learning to do that at game speed and only training yourself to work at one speed. I think that’s something younger kids should definitely work on and without a doubt you always have to be developing your stick-work, because at the end of the day that’s the most important thing. If you don’t have great stick-work, there’s really not much on the field you can do. That goes for poles too, you look at last year you’ve got a long-pole coming off the top of the face-off clean and scoring a goal to win the National Championship game , and you’ve got these guys in the Pros who are able to handle the ball and play offense with a pole. I think if you look at kids like Joel White at Syracuse, it’s not only short sticks that need to work on their stick-work, defensemen have got to be banging the wall, too. If you look at college coaches, they’re looking for guys who can handle the ball.
I’m Sammie, and am not A “lax babe”, I’m THE “lax babe”. My first big-girl crush was on a laxer, who let’s just say is still on the field (and in the box) today, and it’s only expanded from there. I live and work around bros, who I love and could hang out with all day every day. One could really even call me a “bro in babe’s clothing”. While lax is (with a bullet) my favorite sport, it’s not the only one I follow, growing up a diehard NY Giants/Yankees fan. If all I had was YouTube clips of MLL skills championships, my aviators, my Ipod, Summer days, pinneys, and laxers, I’d be one happy chick.