With the 2014 season in the books, Head Men’s lacrosse coach J.P. Stewart completes his 12th season at Virginia Wesleyan College (VWC). Coach Stewart’s 92-91 overall record is the most wins by any VWC head men’s lacrosse coach. 2014 marks the Marlins’ fifth straight winning season. Coach Stewart was selected to coach the South in the USILA North-South All-Star game this past Memorial Day weekend. In addition, Coach Stewart’s 2014 offense boasted two All Americans that were also national leaders in points scored per game.
Coach Stewart is a 1995 graduate of Hampen and Sydney College where he helped the Tigers to an NCAA tournament berth in his senior year. He has had coaching stints at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Colorado College.
What advice do you have for players interested in playing DIII lacrosse?
The dynamics are different at each school. Coaches have different expectations for their players. Also, coaches tend to have their own brand or style so they will approach the game in different ways. In DIII, time spent working out and playing in the offseason will vary between programs. So, recruits should think about what they need out of a program. On the flip side, they should consider what the program needs out of them.
What’s the best way to get on your recruiting radar? Anything recruits should not do?
Each college coach has a different way of recruiting. It’s important to figure out what certain coaches respond to. Definitely do not send 20 or 30 coaches the same blanket email. I generally overlook those.
Ideally a recruit will send me a brief email, “Hey Coach Stewart, great season. I really enjoy your run-and-gun style offense. It fits my style of play…” Then they will include some basic info about themselves and a YouTube link to their highlight tape.
Make the email very direct and attach a link I can click on while walking down the street with my family. In fact, I discovered a recruit this morning doing just that. They sent me a nice, clean link to a highlight tape, I liked it and now we will be in touch throughout the summer.
What’s a question you wished players asked you more during the recruiting process?
I really like when kids ask about specific aspects relating to the school like academic programs, location or cost. It shows they are thinking not just about lacrosse but also about the school and community itself.
I think it’s great when kids ask questions directly about a coach’s coaching style. Good starters are, “what’s your style of play?” or “how do you guys train, practice and work out in the off season?” It’s important to know what a coach is doing with his guys and it’s really important to understand the lacrosse side of things. Why would a kid who doesn’t like playing run-and-gun offense in high school play for a college team that also runs a similar style offense?
What type of player do you typically look for–raw athlete or refined lacrosse player?
I get this question a lot. The easiest answer I can give is that I just need a player that can play. I don’t care where a kid is from. I don’t look at zip codes. I just want someone who is sold on the program. All I ask is that a player buys into the program and buys into being a good person off the field. DIII doesn’t get a ton of perks like some top DI programs, and they don’t even get that much either. It’s all about how much better a player wants to get and how hard they are willing to compete. That being said, I would take athleticism over skill most often.
What’s special about being a student-athlete at Virginia Wesleyan?
We talk about getting the whole package here. Lacrosse is really the fifth part of that package. You’re also getting a good education coupled with great internship opportunities. Then you consider the location of the school, Virginia Beach offers a good outlet for the kids with beaches and the water nearby. We talk about the size of the school a lot. It means different things for different guys, but generally a smaller atmosphere means more visibility on campus and stronger relationships between faculty and students. The cost of the school is attractive to most recruits as well.
How has the accelerated recruiting process impacted your approach to recruiting?
The accelerated process doesn’t change our approach, but I think it definitely changes the kid’s approach to recruiting. There’s a trickle down effect. When kids hear about their friends making early commitments they sometimes look to jump on an early opportunity too.
Great, thanks Coach Stewart. Any final thoughts?
Players interested in pursuing college lacrosse should go in eyes wide open. As a player, really try to figure out what you’re getting yourself into. Do I have a spot on the team or will I need to earn a spot? There’s a lot of competition and a lot of kids that want to play. There are also a lot of schools with programs so be sure to do your homework.