Sage Men’s Lacrosse to Begin Empire 8 Play in Spring 2019!!!
Ryan Lanigan, the first head coach of the Sage College Men’s Lacrosse program, is busy building a team that will debut in the spring of 2019 when the team debuts as a member of the Empire 8. Lanigan spent the last two seasons at Misericordia University (Dallas, PA) where he helped to guide the Cougars to the NCAA Division III Tournament in 2017 after an impressive 7-0 showing in the Freedom Conference. Prior to joining the coaching staff at Misericordia, Lanigan was an assistant coach and defensive coordinator at Assumption College. During his only season, the team set a program record with nine wins and qualified for the North East-10 Conference Playoffs for the second time in program history.
As a player at Lebanon Valley College, Lanigan became the first USILA All-American in the program’s history after garnering a spot on the third team as a senior long stick midfielder as a senior in 2014. Lanigan holds the Lebanon Valley College career marks for most ground balls (356) and caused turnovers (208).
Coach Lanigan recently took the time to answer some questions for Capital District Lax regarding the Spring 2019 launch of Sage Men’s Lacrosse and more.
Gary Govel: What attracted you to apply for the head coaching position at the Sage Colleges, which will be fielding a men’s lacrosse team for the first time in 2019?
Ryan Lanigan: First and foremost, what really attracted me to the position at The Sage Colleges is the historic academic reputation of the institution. Sage is a community committed to empowering students and has been doing so for over 100 years in higher education.
The school offers numerous majors and programs that match what today’s student athletes want to study. Many of which are in high demand in the current job market including Nursing, Physical Education, Business Administration, Doctorate of Physical Therapy and many more.
The location is also part of the draw. Being in the state capital of New York, there are so many internship and job opportunities available to the students. On top of that, the locality is important for our recruiting strategy. The capital district is home to extremely competitive lacrosse and Albany is located within a couple hundred miles of so many of the sports hotbeds such as Long Island, Syracuse, New England, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and even Canada.
Lastly, I have always wanted to create a program from scratch. There is just something enticing to me about the added challenge of having no foundation. Some schools have rich histories on the lacrosse field. Year after year, you see the same teams competing in the later rounds of the NCAA tournament. In Division III, a total of four schools make up the last 15 national championships in lacrosse. Rightfully so, many student-athletes want to play for these established programs to follow the footsteps of all the great players before them.
On the other hand, Sage has never competed in a collegiate men’s lacrosse game, which is the exciting part for me. Our team gets to write the first page of our history book this upcoming fall when we step on the field for our inaugural practice. From there, we will define our legacy.
GG: For those who aren’t familiar with the Sage Colleges, where will the team practice and play?
RL: Fortunately, one of the many perks of Sage is that every facility we need is located right on our Albany campus, which isn’t the norm for schools in cities. A few years ago, Sage purchased an armory from the National Guard. This historic structure that was utilized in WW2 sits right next to our Art + Media Design building. Inside the armory, where they used to store the tanks, is where we laid down our indoor turf field. It is extremely advantageous to have an indoor turf that can be used by our students throughout the year. We also have a certified strength and conditioning coach on staff who can run workouts on the turf or in the weight room on campus.
Additionally, we have an outdoor turf field at our disposal. Our team will practice and play all of our home games on the surface which sits right behind University Heights College Suites, where our students live from sophomore through senior year. The Suites are special, it’s like living in a hotel on campus. The outdoor turf has lights, so we’ll host some night games in our inaugural season.
GG: Obviously there’s a lot to be done with a start-up program. What items are at the top of your “to do” list, and what’s already been checked off?
RL: Early on, one of the most important things was getting to know the school—to figure out what kind of student-athlete it attracts, to meet the staff in the athletic department, and to get familiar with what life is like at Sage. That’s been checked off. We also need to schedule our non-conference games for next year, which is just about done, and this summer, we’ll hire our assistant coaches.
But the number one priority is to recruit, and recruiting never gets checked off the to-do list as a college coach! We have some quality student-athletes committed to Sage who are eager to help build the legacy of this program. The cool thing is we have players visiting the school from all over the country. We’ve had young men come from areas near the campus like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and so on—our areas of influence—but we’ve also had recruits visit from places like Georgia, Ohio, Minnesota, and Colorado. We even had a Skype call with a young man from New Zealand! I guess that shows the word is getting out about Sage Men’s Lacrosse.
GG: What are your early goals and expectations for the program’s inaugural season in the Empire 8?
RL: The Empire 8 announces its President’s List every semester for student-athletes who are recognized for their contributions on the field and their excellence in the classroom.
Student-athletes must earn at least a 3.75 grade point average and display positive conduct on and off campus. Our priority is that every member of the team earns this honor. If that’s achieved, then we will be named an Empire 8 All-Academic Team, which requires a 3.2 or higher cumulative GPA.
On the field, the early vision is to finish in the top four of the hyper-competitive Empire 8 conference standings. Doing so, would qualify us for the Empire 8 conference championship playoffs. From there, whichever post-season team manages to win two games, becomes our conference champion and receives an automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA tournament.
But if we start counting how many wins we need and look past our first day of classes, then our program is in trouble. We need to be more concerned with our character than our conference record. Let our character traits define our success. I want the players in my program to be remembered for promoting unity and selflessness off the field, not for the records they break on the field.
GG: How do you recruit players to a new program?
RL: I actually had the opportunity to play for a new program as a collegiate student-athlete at Lebanon Valley College. Having that unique experience at a school similar to Sage, as well as coaching at schools with established lacrosse programs, has given me a perspective other coaches might not have.
I’ve learned no matter the level, the most important aspect in building a successful program is team culture. Culture begins with the type of student-athlete I recruit.
I won’t recruit a young man if I see him complain to the ref, disrespect a teammate or refuse to work hard. I always recruit the tenacious athletes who constantly hustle and put their team first. If we have a team of grinders, who always give perfect effort, and prioritize team success before individual success, we will all enjoy going to practice every single day.
To find that, I spent all summer and fall travelling to recruiting events looking for men with positive character traits.
I also reached out to numerous club and high school coaches to ask which student-athletes they recommend. I always say, looking for young men who are strong students with good attitudes.
The majority of the recruits I’ve been reaching out to are high school seniors. Most of our team and foundation will be first year college students. But I’ve also talked to a handful of men at JUCO schools to see if Sage is the right fit. JUCO transfers provide physical, mental and emotional maturity that could greatly benefit our new program.
Every recruit that has fit what I’m looking for, I have reached out to via email or text. I have invited them to campus in order to get a feel for Sage. If they like it here and aren’t afraid to compete with some of the best of the best in the Empire 8, we have a spot for them. Fortunately, we’ve had plenty of men visit that immediately knew Sage is where they wanted to be. I’m excited to get these athletes together on the field.
GG: Any particular experiences as a player that influence the way you coach, and plan to develop the Sage Lacrosse program?
RL: Growing up, I actually wasn’t a lacrosse player. All four years in high school, I competed in football, basketball, and lacrosse. But I have actually played more years of baseball and soccer than I have lacrosse. I also participated in organized volleyball and boxing. It wasn’t until eighth grade when someone said, “Why don’t you play lacrosse? You can hit people with a metal shaft.” And instantly, like so many other athletes, I fell in love with the sport once I had the stick in my hands.
I was very fortunate to grow up with some special athletes. At Connetquot High School, where I went, our football team won the Long Island championship my junior year. Our lacrosse team was ranked as high as second in the country when we were the last remaining undefeated team left on Long Island. Our goalie, Zach Oliveri, captained the U.S. U-19 team that won gold in the 2012 world championships. Mike Pellegrino was a two-time captain and second team All-American at Johns Hopkins who played in Major League Lacrosse before accepting a job with the New England Patriots. And Kieran McArdle, who made me think I wasn’t good at lacrosse in high school because I couldn’t cover him (Note: I was pretty naive to how great Long Island lacrosse was, especially in 2010), he ended up being a second team All-American at St. John’s, MLL Rookie of the Year, and still plays for the Florida Launch in the MLL, as well as the Toronto Rock in the National Lacrosse League.
I was able to grow up with a wide variety of special teammates and coaches throughout all the sports I participated in. With those experiences and lessons, I aimed to instill what I previously learned into the new lacrosse program at LVC. By my sophomore year, we qualified for the conference playoffs.
All the successful teams I’ve been on were tied to unmatched work-rate, discipline, and selflessness. Some core values we will use to develop the program here.
GG: Who do you consider your mentors in lacrosse coaching, and what lessons have you learned from them in developing the Sage program?
RL: I think I first have to say the best mentors in the world are my immediate family members which include my mother, father, and older brother. I don’t know where I would be without their constant support and love.
Then I’d have to say the three men that influenced me the most were all at the college level. My college coach, John Haus, Assumption Head Coach Keith Loftis, and Misericordia Head Coach James Ricardo. Each were extremely helpful in their own way. Coach Haus showed me how to build a culture predicated on hard work and toughness. Coach Loftis taught me about the Xs and Os, practice, and game preparation. Lastly, Coach Ricardo demonstrated how to put forth perfect effort, not just on the field but in life.
GG: Since coming to the Albany area, have you had any involvement with any of the region’s High School or youth club lacrosse programs?
RL: I help coach for the Beverwyck Renegades, an anti-gang/anti-crime 501c3 sports-based mentoring program. We are part of US Lacrosse’s Urban Alliance. The program boasts a six-year sustained drop in juvenile delinquency, truancy, and crime as a result of mentoring youth; a 100 percent graduation rate and a 94 percent college placement rate into Division II, Division III, and JUCO programs.
With the help of the Renegades, I have also done some free clinics with local charter schools in the Albany area in hopes to grow the game in the Capital District.
Lastly, I got together with the Albany Lacrosse Club who now holds pickup box lacrosse inside our armory on Sunday evenings.
GG: Are you still playing lacrosse?
RL: I play pickup from time to time and in my LVC alumni games but other than that, not much at all. My body was hurting pretty bad after college and doctor’s orders were no lacrosse for a year. Within a few months, I started coaching and haven’t looked back since.
For more information visit SAGE LACROSSE
Contact Sage Head Coach Ryan Lanigan by phone at (518) 292-1950 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ryan Lanigan with the GB and Assist at LVC!!