Q&A with U.S. Under-19 women's lacrosse coach Krystin Porcella
Coach Krystin Porcella leads her U.S. under-19 women's lacrosse team through a recent practice at Cedar Lane Park. (Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd Fox)
Krystin Porcella enjoyed being an assistant coach for the United States Under-19 women’s lacrosse team at the 2007 world championships so much that she jumped at the chance to take over the program.
Starting Thursday, Porcella will guide the U.S. in search of its fourth straight gold medal at the Federation of International Lacrosse Women’s Under-19 World Championship in Hanover, Germany. The John Carroll girls coach follows Bryn Mawr coach Wendy Kridel, who stepped down as head coach after three straight gold medals.
Porcella, 35, played defense for John Carroll and Loyola and spent two years on the U.S. Developmental Team from 1996-98. Earlier this year, she was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Greater Baltimore Chapter of US Lacrosse. She led John Carroll to back-to-back IAAM A Conference titles in 2007 and 2008 and was the All-Metro Coach of the Year in 2008.
Before heading to Germany, Porcella shared some thoughts about the Under-19 coaching experience.
Why did you want to coach this team?
The experience I had in 2007, you can hardly put it into words. It was neat. It was awesome. The relationships that you build with the other coaches, the players. It was an experience like no other I’ve had in lacrosse. The part that made me want to have that feeling again was during the opening ceremonies. Every team was in their colors, waving their flag, singing their song. Everybody just had so much pride in their country, it gives you chills thinking about how proud everybody was. I wanted to experience that again and hopefully win and be able to hold up our flag the highest of them all.
What makes a good U-19 team?
Unselfishness. Willing to work with people that you’ve never worked with before. Coming together in a short amount of time. Having a common goal and acting out that common goal.
How do you keep the pressure off these girls when a gold medal is kind of expected of them?
What’s neat is that it was four years ago, so the girls now don’t really have too much connection to that besides seeing it on the internet or a couple articles here or there. It isn’t that true direct connection like we won it last time, we have to win it again in terms of the team. In terms of the country, yes. We talk very frankly and candidly about things like, “Hey, we’ve won the past three. That doesn’t mean we’re going to win this time, so we have to work hard each day, stay focused.” We just try to keep everybody grounded and focused on our goal which is winning, not on somebody else’s goal which is having us win four straight.
What do you enjoy the most about coaching this team?
I love strategy. I could talk shop all day, lacrosse. That’s the neat part of this that we get to try things, we get to work things out whereas with your high school team, you’re limited on what you can do, because you don’t have athletes up and down the field like you do on a select team like this. It’s just like, “All right, let’s go out and we’re going to try this zone today in the midfield, so you shift here, you shift there.” I just love the strategy and the concepts behind it all. For me personally, that’s what I enjoy most and just being a part of something that’s going to make history. Everybody wants to be a part of that. The 2011 Under-19 United States women’s lacrosse gold medal – that’s our goal and it would be awesome to see that happen.
What do you hope the girls take away from this experience?
Lots of different things. I hope they grow personally and they become more confident in themselves. I hope they grow in their lacrosse ability, their lacrosse confidence, their lacrosse understanding. I hope they walk away and realize and recognize that they were a part of something huge and the fact that there are so many people watching them, following them, looking up to them. I hope they appreciate everything that’s going on this entire experience. And even as far as how other parts of the world live. We’re going to Germany. It’s very different than how we live here. We are, in a lot of ways, spoiled. We have so many conveniences and things are done for us. Other parts of the world don’t have all of that. I hope they’re more worldly, more confident and can give some of that back to younger players when they have the opportunity.
What else are you going to do when you’re over there besides play lacrosse?
We were over there in February just doing a site visit, seeing what there is to do. There are a couple of different things we can do. They have a little zoo. They have gardens. I want the girls to get the whole experience not just the lacrosse experience. I want us to bond as a team and see Germany as much as we can in the short time that we’re there.
Who do you think is going to be your toughest competition?
Our pool play is aligned with, I believe, all of the higher seeds from last time, so we have Canada, Japan, Australia, England and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois). All those teams are very competitive. We’re looking for Australia. They were the No. 2 team last time, so they’ll have it out for us.
What are you most looking forward to as head coach this time rather than being an assistant?
It’s definitely different than being the assistant. Wendy was a great head coach and I think I learned so much from her. I really think the biggest thing is the kids need to enjoy the experience and I want to enjoy the experience with them. When they’re doing great things, I want to be part of them doing great things. It’s not going to be about [the coaches] doing anything or wanting a particular experience. It’s going to be me living through [the players] in essence. When they get excited, I’ll get excited. When they’re raising the flag at the end and hopefully we’ve won the gold medal, I want to be right behind them. That’s what I want to get out of it – seeing them being successful.
What is your approach to coaching this team?
I kind of take it as any other team that I coach. I try to treat the girls with as much respect as possible and I always tell them, “If you act like an adult, I will treat you like an adult. If you want me to treat you like a kid, tell me you want to be treated like a kid by your actions.” I truly believe if you empower the kids with leadership and decision making as much as possible, they’re going to embrace it even more. Most of the stuff we do, we talk it out. “Hey, you drove to the right; you should have gone to the left. Why would you make that decision and what would you do differently next time?” as opposed to “You should have gone to the right!” and just start yelling. If they can make those decisions themselves and I don’t have to be screaming across the field, we’re all going to be better off.