You can, after all, teach an old dog new tricks.
Witness Haddonfield, N.J., youth coach Dave Robbins. A weekend at the 2017 US Lacrosse Convention
(LaxCon), to include becoming a trainer in the US Lacrosse Coach Development Program, forever changes
the 17-year coach’s approach to this all-important craft. And the results showed quickly.
"It was frightening to learn what I didn’t know, “Robbins said. “I had gone to conventions before, but
had never given the sessions my full grasp.”
Robbins previously credited Haddonfield High School’s Damon Legato, St. Augustine Prep’s JC Valore
and Penn Charter’s (PA) Pat McDonough as sources of coaching tutelage during his tenure. He has
completed Level 1 of the US Lacrosse Coach Development Program and decided to take the CDP trainer
classes at LaxCon at the urging of a coaching colleague.
"They were great,” Robbins said. “And then the high school coach from Connecticut (Darien’s Jeff
Bramier) – that session was an epiphany.”
Bramier spoke on multi-dimensional offense at LaxCon. Robbins played lacrosse at Fairfield Ludlowe
(Conn.) High in the early 1980’s, That’s when Bramier was coaching football at Darien before beginning
the lacrosse program in 1984. Roughly 16 miles separate the schools.
"That’s how he introduced himself to me after my session,” Bramier, who’s built the Blue Wave into a
nationally prominent high school program, said. “We laughed about it.”
Networking remains one of the major benefits of attending LaxCon, and Bramier shared other resources
with Robbins in the weeks that followed.
Armed with US Lacrosse Athlete Development Model concepts, Robbins set about his 2017 season with
Haddonfield’s 24-player 14U team focused on continuing to win while increasing the number of players
he sent to the local high school.
Again saddled with too few players to form two teams, Robbins worked with neighboring coaches to
institute eight-on-eight games at a small turf field. Wednesday night small-ball, consisting of one less
attackman and one less defenseman, put to work players that saw little or no action on the league’s
standard gamedays of Friday and Saturday.
"It made each kid better,” Robbins said. “As the season went along, they were able to contribute to the
Friday and Saturday games.”
Dean Hargrove had a tough time grasping lacrosse.
“ Last year (2016), my stick skills were abysmal and my IQ for the game was very low,” Hargrove wrote in
a letter. “It’ the opposite now. I played in every 8v8 game, and I felt more confident in my ability to
“ Now on the Friday-Saturday games, I was watching my team set him up on the crease to try to get a
goal,” Robbins said.
For Robbins, it “threw out the theory” that better players won’t share the ball with those whose skills
are still developing. Robbins’ team went undefeated until the league final, and losing by a goal did not
dampen his players’ spirits.
“ (Bramier) said to get everyone to know how to throw, catch and scoop ground balls. The high school
will be much happier getting 20 ‘middle-class’ kids vs. getting two superstars,” Robbins said. “We’re
giving them 22 players. It’s great to win in youth ball, but it’s fantastic to win in high school.
"If I can learn after coaching for 17 years, imagine what you can learn if you’ve only coached for a few so far,” Robbins said.