John Svec is entering his fifth season as the head men’s lacrosse coach at Siena College. A two-time Anaconda Sports MAAC Coach of the Year, he led the Saints to the MAAC Championship game in each of his first three years as well as a pair of regular season titles (2012, 2014). Svec has posted a 35-29 (.547) overall record including an impressive 18-6 (.750) mark in MAAC play over his first four seasons. Svec was appointed to the NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Rules Committee in July of 2014. Prior to becoming Head Coach at Siena, Svec served as Defensive Coordinator at Hobart from 2009-2011; and served in the same role at UAlbany from 2001-2008. In the spring of 2011, Svec served as an assistant coach for the North team at the 69th Annual USILA/LaxWorld North/South All-Star game. A 2001 graduate of Loyola, Coach Svec reached four consecutive NCAA Tournaments as a defenseman for the Greyhounds, including a trip to the 1998 Lacrosse Final Four.
Coach Svec recently took the time to answer some questions for Capital District Lax.
How do you prepare your team for a season which begins in the northeast winter?
JS: It begins with recruiting players who aren’t afraid to be uncomfortable. This certainly isn’t Miami in January & February. Once we get going we’re pretty good about keeping practice moving at a fast pace. Our staff plans each practice with the idea that playing and moving fast (even between drills) will transfer to playing fast on game day. Flexibility is another key component. Mother Nature has a habit of wrecking plans that are made more than a few days or hours ahead of time. We utilize a few different local indoor facilities when we need to. The folks at Afrim’s Sports and Sportsplex of Halfmoon have been great to work with over the years.
You are opening at Syracuse for the third consecutive year. How did that scheduling occur, and how important to Siena Lacrosse is it to open against one of the traditional national lacrosse powers?
JS: We’re excited to be opening up against Syracuse for the third year in a row. It started with a phone call and a conversation with Coach Desko’s staff about us getting on their schedule. After Siena played them tough in the playoffs in 2011 I think there was a level of respect gained there. We want to play the best competition we can in preparation for our conference schedule and in order to be ready to play in May. Playing in the Carrier Dome is a great way for our players to gain the experience of playing on a big stage. We talk about it all the time- that if we do what we are capable of during the year we will find ourselves in a place like that against a very good opponent in May.
Siena Mens’ Basketball is known for having a very loyal and vocal alumni following and fan base. How much of that enthusiasm carries over from basketball to lacrosse?
JS: Siena has great alumni and fan support across all our sports, and especially for lacrosse and basketball. Siena Athletics is a big part of the Capital Region and you can see that at our sporting events. Our alumni and fans are loyal there’s no doubt. Just come out to one of our early spring games and see for yourself. You have to be loyal to sit outside in February or March and cheer our guys on. We appreciate all their enthusiasm and understand that we have a lot to live up to.
Your wife Lindsey is an Assistant Coach for the Siena Womens’ lacrosse team. Tell us what it’s like to be married to another lacrosse coach at the same college.
JS: Lindsey and I also worked together at UAlbany when she was the head womens’ coach. She came on board at Siena after Coach Bryana Borrelli was hired in August of 2014. The fact that Lindsey had been a head coach at UAlbany for a number of years and a five time member of the Canadian National Women’s team probably made it easy for Coach Borrelli. I’m lucky to have married a woman who has an understanding of what it means to love what you do. We talk all the time about the challenges and the successes we have on and especially off the field. Lindsey is probably a more competitive person than I am which makes it really fun when both teams win. Being at Siena is a great fit for us as a family.
The IMLCA has proposed restricting contact with prospective players until the fall of the player’s Junior year of High School. What are your thoughts on this proposed change? If adopted, will it affect mid-major programs such as Siena any differently than the ACC and Big 10 teams?
JS: There’s probably no perfect answer for the stress and anxiety that recruiting to Division I lacrosse programs create, on either side (coaches or recruits and their families). However, this proposal put forward by the women’s coaches association and overwhelmingly supported by the IMLCA would have the benefit of letting young student-athletes put off that process and focus on being kids. I think that is the biggest positive. Our culture as a whole rushes children into adulthood in far too many aspects of their lives. With regards to recruiting it has become sort of a chicken and egg scenario where coaches feel the need to collect the most talented prospects, and recruits and their families either want or feel pressed to make a decision about college. Neither constituency wants to be left without a chair when the music stops. I don’t speak for the IMLCA but I think that as a coaching body the IMLCA feels this legislation would go a long way in slowing that process down and alleviating some of the stress on both sides. As far as how this kind of change would affect a program like Siena…I’m not sure. We have had verbal commitments from prospects that haven’t started their Junior year and I am very excited about those young men and their families becoming part of our Siena lacrosse family. I’d like to think that those young men and their families would still find that Siena is the best fit for them academically as well as athletically even if we had not had the opportunity to meet with them up until the time they were Juniors.
I would say something about the idea of “mid-majors” in lacrosse. Unlike basketball and football there are only 70 Division I programs. When you look at the success that schools like Johns Hopkins, Loyola, UMass, Princeton, UAlbany, Bryant, as well as others have had you begin to see that the term “mid-major” doesn’t really apply. The landscape of college lacrosse is such that a young man who wants to make an impact on a program can go to a school that isn’t in a Power-5 conference and play at the highest level. He can compete for a national championship. That’s what we’re trying to achieve here at Siena. That’s why I came here and that’s why our recruits decide to come to Loudonville.
The IMLCA is also discussing a possible recommendation to move of the NCAA Lacrosse Championships from Memorial Day Weekend. What are your thoughts on that possible schedule change?
JS: Memorial Day Weekend and the NCAA Lacrosse Championships have been a great pairing. I’ve got really great memories of both participating and attending the championships. I think that if the NCAA moved back the playoffs as a whole we would be able to begin the season later. I think that playing more regular season games later in April and May would be really good for the growth of the sport. I think we would see an increase in overall attendance as well as popularity as a whole.
What is your outlook for the upcoming season?
JS: Our goal as always is to be playing our best lacrosse in April and May and put ourselves in position to compete for another MAAC championship and NCAA playoff berth. We have a great group of young men who are working hard to prepare for a very challenging schedule. While we have some holes to fill in key positions we have a lot of returners to carry the load. I am glad that Tom Cordts is back in goal. His experience will certainly help to anchor our defense. We return two starters at attack in Jordan Barlow and Chris Robertson. In our midfield, senior Captain Kevin Cousin and junior Jon Michael Tokar will be our leaders. It will be an exciting year for our program.
Thank you Coach Svec for taking the time to answer our questions, and best of luck to the Saints in their upcoming season.
For information on the Siena lacrosse prospect day scheduled for Feb 6, 2016 click: SIENA PROSPECT DAY.