Shenendehowa Lacrosse Coach Jason Gifford brings a wealth of lax experience to the position. A 1992 graduate of Shaker High
School, Gifford won two sectional championships with the Blue Bison. At the college level, Gifford earned JUCO All American honors at HVCC as a midfielder in 1994, and would go on to become a two time All-Conference selection midfielder at the University of Hartford in 1995-1996.
Gifford is in his 8th season coaching at Shen, and fourth as head coach. He was recently recognized as Suburban Council Coach of the Year. Prior to assuming the role of head coach, Gifford spent three years as the Varsity assistant and one year as the JV assistant. Gifford’s coaching experience also includes ten years with the Niskayuna Lacrosse program, as well as off season work with the Albany Power.
Gifford serves as a Physical Education teacher at Okte Elementary School in the Shenendehowa School District. He resides in Clifton Park with his wife Megan and have two children, Ellie and Easton.
Coach Gifford recently took the time to talk with Capital District Lax about Shenendehowa’s Section II Class A Championship and more.
During the regular season, Shenendehowa suffered an eight goal loss to Niskayuna. How did you use that experience to prepare your team for the rematch in the Section II Class A Championship game which Shen would go on to win?
JG: The goal of the regular season is to get everyone up to speed and prepared for the sectionals. Coming out of the regular season game with Nisky I was happy with the performance of our top players. Kids like Owen Putman, Dakota Rainville, Matt Stucchi, Matt Cavanaugh, Tim McCarthy, Mike Berman and Anthony Tebbano all had solid performances.
There was a lot of talk about putting in extra work and that it would pay off. We used a lot of film work and practice time to make individual players better and raise the level of team play. To my coaches’ and players’ credit, they bought in and they all put in a ton of extra time this past season. We aren’t in a position to win the section without the extra work.
What does this Section II Class A Championship mean to Shenedehowa Lacrosse going forward?
JG: It’s big! Anytime you can win a Section II title it’s special. It’s a memory that this year’s team will have forever and it gives something for returning and younger players to aspire to for the future. It’s something that is fresh in the minds of our players and I already see players putting in the work to get back (and advance) next year. In any program you want to use past experiences to build on for the future, right now that experience is pretty positive.
You have a solid core of returning players including goalie Anthony Tebbano and midfielder Matt Stucchi who recently shared Lacrosse Magazine’s Northeast player of the week honors. What’s your early outlook for the team for 2017?
JG: I’m thrilled for those two. It was a great and well-deserved honor. Matt and Anthony are knowns and I imagine they will have a great 2017 campaign. It’s the unknowns that will determine our 2017 success. JV players moving to Varsity and returning players taking on new and expanded roles will ultimately determine our success for next year.
As high school coaches we don’t go out and hand pick kids for our program, we need to develop the kids we have and get them to reach their max potential; it’s one of the most fun and rewarding aspects about coaching.
What experiences as a player had the biggest influence on your development as a coach?
JG: I worked for everything. I wasn’t the biggest, strongest or fastest but I wanted to be good. I had to work harder and put in more time than others. It was just what I had to do to be successful. As a coach; I can’t tell my players enough that I just want them to care and I expect them to put in the time. It’s obvious who does and they are the ones that usually have the biggest roles for me.
How do the experiences of high school lacrosse and club lacrosse differ in preparing players who want to go on to play lacrosse at the college level?
JG: As a high school player you are expected to take on a role for the team. You are expected to do your job to the best of your abilities which will give your team and teammates the best opportunity to be successful. As a club player you are there to make yourself the best player you can be. You are working on things to make you better for your high school team and beyond.
They are both really important for developing the complete player to be successful at the next level. In college everyone is good and ability and your willingness to sacrifice for the good of the team may be what separates you in college and gets you on the field.
What do you view as the role of a high school coach in the college recruiting process?
JG: The number one thing I want to do is create a program that prepares student-athletes for the next level. It is great to hear from alum who say they felt prepared for their first year of college lacrosse. In addition I am an advocate for my players. I have known most of my players for over five years, I’ve watched them grow up in my program and I feel I can offer great insight in the whole kid when I am talking to college coaches.
How important is Shenendehowa’s youth lacrosse program in developing the next generation of scholastic players?
JG: The youth program is really important to the success and future success of Shen Lacrosse. Our youth programs’ main goal is to get kids excited about playing lacrosse at Shen. Once kids are excited they will enjoy putting in the work necessary to be a future Shen Lacrosse player. Lacrosse is a very challenging sport to be good at so you have to love it to be good at it.
We do a lot to foster a relationship between current varsity and youth players. The kids really look up to the varsity players and the players love giving back for the future of the program.
How often do you still play lacrosse, and when is the last time you played?
JG: I played in my high school alumni game two weekends ago. Prior to that, it was the Lake Placid Tournament for Pure Performance. It’s a master’s team made up of a bunch of local players and good friends. I think I will play at Placid until I can’t move anymore. It’s a great time and a great place to catch up with friends.
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