The Lauren Bruce coaching tree: SUNY Potsdam churning out high volume of women's lacrosse coaches
Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 8:26 am

A career in coaching for a SUNY Potsdam athlete after they have spent laborious hours honing their craft can serve as a tribute to those coaches who played a vital role in developing them as players.

Perhaps no one at Maxcy Hall can feel this way as much as Bears women's lacrosse coach Lauren Bruce as her fingerprints can be found all across the United States and into Europe.

The Bruce coaching tree has extended out west to Colorado, down south to North Carolina, inside the State University of New York's Athletic Conference and even overseas to England.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, consider the alumni and former lacrosse players of Bruce and how they've adopted her coaching techniques and philosophies in finding success.

There's Molly Lehman-Lewis, who spent two seasons coaching Division II Belmont Abbey College near Charlotte, North Carolina, and another season coaching Division I High Point University near Greensboro.

Now, Lehman-Lewis is a corporate recruiter and coach of the Charlotte Catholic High School, Star Middle School and the Queen City Star Elite team. She'll also be a coach this summer for the Southeast in the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association Under Armour Champions Cup that will be held from June 20-22 at the River City Sports Complex in Virginia.

Out west, Carly Richards is new on the coaching scene as the head of the junior varsity girls' lacrosse team at Denver East High School in Golden, Colorado. Since graduating from Potsdam, she's traveled to different parts of the country working at different therapeutic programs for at-risk adolescents.

In North Carolina, Kaci Milligan enters her second season as an assistant coach at St. Andrew's University in Laurinburg. She also coaches for the AC Sandhill Middle School travel team.

Joan McCabe is the longest distance disciple of Bruce as she coaches in the United Kingdom at Westonbirt School in Tetbury, Gloucestershire.

Another new addition to the coaching tree is Whitney Boshart, a 2013 graduate of SUNY Potsdam, who will be on the opposing team's sidelines when Oneonta State visits Maxcy Turf Field for a SUNYAC game on April 8 at 4 p.m. Boshart just accepted a position as the assistant coach with the Red Dragons.

Even as Potsdam alumni continue to surface in coaching gigs, Bruce insists the reason is more about their personalities rather than anything she did.

"The only thing that I feel flattered about is that they enjoyed their experience so much that they wanted to share their experience with more players," said Bruce, who enters her 12th season at the helm of SUNY Potsdam.

"I don't think I'm the reason that they are coaching or anything like that," she added. "I think they had the love for the game before they even got here. That's why I wanted them as players from the beginning. They would be putting in the extra time in the offseason to improve their teammates and themselves. So, it was something that was already intrinsically put in them."

For Lehman-Lewis, she knew that she wanted to coach from the beginning when she was still in high school. Others developed a more pronounced interest for coaching while in college.

"They're all very passionate about the sport," Bruce said. "They were all captains for me. They were all leaders by example so it's not surprising that they've taken these roles on. Even though, they are individually different, I think they all shared that same kind of passion. Some were more reserved and talked more individual-to-individual. Some spoke up in a group."

Taking a page from Bruce, Lehman-Lewis has implemented one of her game drills into her game preparation.

Street lax, a game where there are little rules and cards are not given out is one of those drills.

"I love using this drill on my kids," said Lehman-Lewis. "It teaches female athletes to be more aggressive than usual and play through anything. Often times, we count on the refs for calls and stop playing. In street lax, you play anything and everything. It helped us and helps my kids to stop complaining and expecting and start playing."

Professionalism, creativity, planning and budgeting a trip and accountability were other tools that the former players have picked up on from the program.

"I think of coach Bruce often when I am out there on the field in terms of how I present myself, how I run a practice, and how I empower my girls," Reynolds said.

"Bruce had an enormous impact on us throughout the four years, putting a lot of responsibility in our hands and motivating us to give 100 percent of ourselves when on the field. I have definitely taken on this philosophy of empowering my players to be leaders and take on many roles on the team."

Their Potsdam experiences are something that these players will hold onto forever.

Richards recalled a game that brought about personal growth and lessons learned.

"In 2010, I was a sophomore, and we were playing a game at Fredonia," Richards said. "It was one of the most passion-filled and competitive experiences in my life. The game was back and forth from the first minute to the last. I barely remember the last 10 minutes of the game, from being amped up on adrenaline, and the harsh aggression of play.

We ended up losing that game in the last 30 seconds and I can say that we were all affected by that game and will always remember it. You might wonder why I would tell a losing story. Even though we lost, it was a game that I remember every person bursting with energy and passion. Our team came together and played for each other. We gave everything we had, left it all on the field, and became a closer team from the fight."

Milligan and Boshart were not sure what they wanted to do after graduation, but both felt that Bruce had helped mold them into the leaders and coaches that they are today.

"To have so many players within such a short period of time become coaches is no coincidence," Milligan said.

"That was definitely aided by coach Bruce. We voted her most likely to win the Hunger Games. It wasn't just about lacrosse. It was creating a sense of family and making us better people in general. I think that's what really helped all of us stay in lacrosse. Plus, we all just loved the game and wanted to stay in it."

Players also learned about the importance of being accountable for your actions, scrimmaging outside of your usual position to gain a different perspective of the field and believing in yourself.

"One of the biggest things that I took away from coach Bruce was being accountable for your own actions," Milligan said. "If we did something wrong, we knew that there would be a consequence. I remember an away trip to Morrisville where we forgot the ball bag and we wondered how could we rectify that. As a player, I always worried about disappointing her."

In scrimmages, Milligan also is partial to a drill that Bruce uses on the last practice of the year where players play in a different position to see the game in a new light. It's used to see the field better, understand the game and develop as an all-around threat.

Boshart was appreciative of how Bruce pushed her to new limits.

"Naturally, I'm more on the shy side," Boshart said. "So, I remember that she had us read a book on leadership and talked with us about what it means to be a leader. She groomed us into that role, made us better and instilled confidence into us. I'm pretty excited to see [athletic trainer] Lisa Brown and coach Bruce [on April 8 for the Potsdam-Oneonta game) cause they were really my lifeline and were really helpful when I was there."

And, across the ocean in England, McCabe has adopted Bruce's attitudes toward practices.

"From Bruce, I used some of her drills including a clearing drill, a six versus three and three against three," McCabe said. "I would say that I have adopted her enthusiasm and positivity during the practices and matches, while also being firm and having high expectations. I've kept every practice extremely competitive."

Other former players of Bruce have begun coaching careers at the high school level.

Here is a table of those players and the place where they currently coach.

Name School

Sarah Rosintoski-Bullard Potsdam High

Hope Horton Carthage High

Sally Barber Glens Falls High

Liz Clohessy Glens Falls High

Jen Prevost General Brown High

Sallie Gilliland Homer High School