Eric Dance was born into a football family and grew up playing the game. He did not begin his athletic career as a lacrosse player nor did he ever imagine himself playing lacrosse. Dance’s friend came down to Tampa from the northeast and showed him the ropes on the game. This change from football to lacrosse began early on in middle school and has been consistent ever since.
“The second I started playing I got hooked. I played football for my entire life and it was cool to be able to do something different, still physical and still active but different.”
When discussing his family’s role in his lacrosse career, they have been nothing but supportive. “My dad was a big football guy as well but now it’s a complete switch. We’re a lacrosse family. They’re all in the area. They still watch the tournaments around even if we’re not playing in it. My dad started coaching so he coaches youth teams now. We got really big into it.”
Dance’s younger brother followed in his lacrosse footsteps but his older sister had already made her own path.
When asked about transferring back to the Tampa area, Dance explains his desire to help the local community. “Being from Tampa, it’s nice to know there’s a team that would help the area out a lot and get things going around here.”
Being an exercise science major, coaching fits right into place after college. “I’d like to coach college lacrosse. That’s my main [goal] right now. Other than that, I got offered a tryout for one of the pro teams so I’ll probably try that and see how it goes.” The tryout is for the Philadelphia Wings, an indoor lacrosse team.
With his heart set on athletics, other aspects of coaching interest him as well. “I’d probably like to be a strength and conditioning coach for a college team and maybe eventually get into a pro-level team or even just helping out. I’ve been a youth coach doing youth training for a couple years so I wouldn’t even mind doing some of that or sport-specific athletic stuff with younger kids.”
Dance explains that the level of dedication and motivation this year has improved making for a stronger team this year from the opening season of Tampa lacrosse. “This season compared to last year, our work ethic and just our attitude are just a lot better as a team. Last year, I don’t think anyone expected us to do well or as well as we did.You see a lot more kids in the weight room this year, a lot more kids doing extra [training] outside of practice. That 3-5pm range we call ‘Edge Workouts.’ That’s one of the things I brought back from my other school.It’s just anything outside of the normal practice time.”
Team goals for this year reach high yet are attainable for Tampa’s second-year lacrosse program. “This year we’d like to win the Deep South Tournament. Last year we were regular season champions and this year we’d like to win that. We always talk about a national championship. A lot of times you hear a lot of teams say it, but I think this year with the guys we have, we’ve got a pretty good shot so that’s one goal right now.”
When asked about the home season opener against Limestone, Dance is confident in the team and its pre-season training to prove itself in the game. “We’re pretty good. Limestone is obviously really deep and they’ve always been a powerhouse in the south but compared to last year, we’re a lot deeper. We’ve got at least two good lines for every position on the field, where last year we were struggling to find some depth. But this year, we’re deeper. I think we’re a lot more ready. A lot of the younger kids have matured and we’ve got a couple more transfers that have made a big impact as well as some new freshmen.”
With the regular season beginning, Dance explains his relaxed pre-game routines. “Personally, I really don’t have too many rituals. The only thing is I always put my equipment on right to left. As a team, we have a pretty cool run out. We play on of the parts of 300 on the loud speaker and we all come running out after he yells, ‘This is Sparta!’ We actually just got a new break down so we’re going to try that out for the first game.”
This year will be a monumental season for Spartan Lacrosse. Dance and the Spartans know that this season will need to exceed expectations and to start off right where the team left off, but that is not anything different than the team’s expectations for each other. With high team morale at the start of a season, Dance strongly declared, “Everyone’s really pumped. Everyone’s excited,” showing the determination and outlook on the season.
Written By Mary Lee Gibson