As a player, Rich Barnes was a three time All-American goalie- 1987 Herkimer and 1988/89 Cortland State. He served as an assistant coach at Ithaca 1991/92 and 1998-2004, his alma mater 1990, 1996, and 2005; and in 2006 as head coach he led Cortland State to a Division III National Championship. Rich currently works at Homer Central schools teaching physical education and coaching lacrosse. Rich can often be found now with his camera in hand roaming the sidelines of some of the biggest college lacrosse & football games out there. Rich took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for Capital District Lax.
You started your collegiate career ( class of 1987 ) at Herkimer playing under legendary coach Paul Wehrum. What was that experience like for you?
RB: My two years at Herkimer to this day remain the two most influential years of my life. The lessons learned both on and off the field from Coach Wehrum have played a major role in the person I am today. I was fortunate to play on two excellent teams and the work ethic of my teammates along with Coach Wehrum’s high standard of excellence for us as a team and as individuals both on and off the field have stayed with me for over 30 years.
You’ve lived in Cortland for a long time and you went on to play at Cortland (class of 1989) and then held several assistant coaching jobs in 1990, 1996, and 2005. What was that like for you growing up there, playing there and also getting your masters degree there?
RB: To say the city of Cortland has been good to me is an understatement! From High School to college as a student-athlete as well as assistant and in a head coaching position in our great city have been a blessing. Cortland was and still is a great city to be a student-athlete, raise a family, be employed and in the not too far distant future, be retired in! 🙂
In 2006 you were named interim head coach for Cortland when Lelan Rogers left to take a new position as director of lacrosse operations at Syracuse University. In your very first year as a head coach you led your team to an 18-3 record, won a National Championship defeating Salisbury State 13-12 in OT ( who by the way had just won the last three Championships in a row) and was named Division III Coach of the year. For a first year head coach could you possibly dream it up any better than that? What about that 2006 team made that run so special for you?
RB: My goal when I was named interim head coach was very simple, I didn’t want the program to take step backwards on my watch. As simple as that sounds, that was my mentality going into the Spring of 2006. Having been an assistant coach on the 2005 team I feel like I had an advantage in recognizing the strengths and weakness of the players. As a staff, we tried to put players in the best possible position to be successful.
The 2006 team really was the ultimate experience for me as they had all qualities I believe that make for a great team. Leadership, “star power”, roll players that buy into the team first, a strong work ethic, toughness both physical and mental and last but certainly not least…..an expectation that every game you are going to win!!
We finished 18-3 and lost the 3 games by a total of four goals. We had a great win at Geneseo in the SUNYAC championship game that that started a nice post season run for us.
My championship game goal was to simply to not get blown out! 🙂 The game was back and forth and we were fortunate to have our “star power” guys along with some of our roll players have huge games. Looking back on the game I don’t think it was our best game of the season but we did what we had to do to keep the game close to give us a chance to win.
That day will always be about the players, families, alums and friends of Cortland Lacrosse. For me, I will always be grateful to have had the chance to coach those kids and play a small part of an experience that will bond us forever.
The following year you chose not to return to Cortland and to remain in your teaching position at Homer Central schools, instead taking an assistant position at Division II LeMoyne. How hard was that decision after just climbing to the mountain top with those boys?
RB: Dan Sheehan played for me at Ithaca in the early 90’s and offered me a spot on his staff in the summer of 06. The LeMoyne staff that season consisted of myself and three former Ithaca College players.
Again, I was lucky to coach such a wonderful group of student-athletes that had all the qualities of being a great team and the hunger looking to repeat as champs.
The 2007 title game was very similar to the year before. Back and forth and a goal in the final moments of the game gave us the win.
You do amazing work patrolling the sidelines of lacrosse games and other big events like college football capturing great photographs of athletes in action. Was your passion for free lance photography always there or was it something you got more into after your playing/coaching days?
RB: Photography was always a hobby but when I stepped away from coaching at the college level it gave me more time to sink my teeth into it. I have been very fortunate to have been given a chance to show my abilities over the years that has allowed me to have the client list I have developed. It grew from a hobby to a side business rather quickly.
You’ve had some amazing photos over the past few years used in National publications like Sports Illustrated, USA Today, ESPN the magazine to name a few. What’s your personal favorite? I know for me the Lamar Jackson leap is pretty high up there!
The Lamar Jackson pic certainly is the photo I have received the most attention for. The subject of the photo and being the only photographer to capture the image from the angle I did was a huge factor.
Photographing this year’s Men’s National Championship game had to be very special for you watching your friend Maryland Head Coach John Tillman win his first National Championship and breaking Maryland’s 42 year title drought. What was that experience like for you ?
I actually was going to skip this years Final Four but after thinking about, I really felt this was going to Maryland’s year and I would hate myself if John won and I wasn’t at the game. It all worked for him and Terps and I am very happy I was able to capture some nice images from the game as well as the post game celebration while on assignment for Lacrosse Magazine.
You were just inducted into the National Junior College Hall of fame this past month. Congrats on that and it is very well deserved. Tell me your thoughts on what JUCO lacrosse means to the overall NCAA lacrosse picture then & now.
RB: Certainly one of the greatest honors in lacrosse I have received. As I mentioned above the impact on my life the JUCO experience has had is immeasurable.
From a recruiting standpoint I feel the impact JUCO players can make on a four year program really can be a difference maker for many schools. With that said, I think the opportunity for JUCO kids to go to a top ten DI school to play can be somewhat limited because of the way recruiting has been over the past several years. With the new legislation on early recruiting that could certainly could change.
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