Oct. 4, 2013
University of Michigan women's lacrosse head coach Jennifer Ulehla recaps the team's first fall tournament and talks about emerging leaders, as well as the technology they use to watch film.
On the team's first fall tournament experience ... "Our mindset was to learn from all areas, from traveling -- these kids have never flown on an airplane as a team -- to staying at a hotel, going through team meetings and obviously the next morning preparing for our first game. We wanted them to get a feel for the entire process so that they have the experience when we get to the spring. As far as on field experience and competing against two nationally ranked programs, we needed to realize what it takes to compete at the Division I level. You have to understand that we have 28 freshmen and no one to teach them in practice the level they need to compete at every single day, so that when we get into a game situation, the game actually seems easier. These kids are used to high school play, which tends to be that they go through the motions in practice and then play hard in the game and that just doesn't work at this level. I think playing Loyola and Johns Hopkins, who quite frankly really took it to us, was an eye-opening experience for them. They now realize what it takes to compete at this level -- beyond the skill level, let's just talk about fitness and strength and at what level we need to compete in practice."
On her expectations moving forward ... "Now having that experience against Loyola and Johns Hopkins, we can draw from that and push them further in practice. We can go back to 'remember when?' and remind them that we need more. The effort has always been there, it's just that with 28 freshmen we have to continue to remind them that there's another gear, another level, and that's our job as coaches. Their job is to recognize it and to respond, and they've been doing that. It's been great to see so far this week. Do I want more from them? Absolutely. We need it to be more consistent and it needs to come more from them instead of from the coaching staff. But again, this is a process. We're four weeks into it and are making strides every day. Our goal is to get better and make a difference in these kid's lives each and every day. At this point, we're happy where we are. We're certainly making adjustments as to how we're going to be running practices. One of the main focuses is our fitness and our strength. Once we get that down, we'll be able to compete in practice and run the drills that we want, at the level that we want to run them. Overall, last weekend was a great experience. It's part of the process and we're looking forward to our next adventure, which is Oct. 12 at Louisville."
On helping leaders emerge on a young team ... "I was excited to watch them compete on the field as a team. I think it became very clear who some of the on-field leaders are. What we need to do is get that to translate off the field as well. Right now we're working with Jeff Jansen from the Michigan Leadership Academy. He's helping the coaching staff with how to develop leadership and also working with the team. We met with him last week and that was very helpful for both the players and the coaching staff. We've now established a program where the coaching staff selects two leaders of the week, or the given time period. Our goal is that when we select these two individuals that they're the ones responsible for the team off the field and on the field -- they're the so called captains for that period. We speak with them in advance and tell them what their role is, how to play that role, work off of their strengths and build on their weakness. Once the week or two weeks is over and we nominate two new individuals, we then get feedback from them about the process and we give them feedback on what we feel they did well and where they need to improve. Ultimately, we're hoping that as we do this every two weeks, real leaders will start to emerge throughout the fall and winter. Equally as important, hopefully the ones that aren't vocal leaders or on-field leaders, will figure out that they can be off-field leaders. We need leadership in all areas. If every individual knows that they're important to the success of this program and can lead in some way, we're going to be that much more successful. We're excited with a lot of the different personalities that we have on this team and the different ways they lead. We see a lot of promise and we're looking forward to the future."
On the technology the team uses to watch film ... "Being able to see yourself on film is such an incredibly important part of your lacrosse development at this level because the game moves so fast. To be able to break things down slowly and show individuals what they're doing well and what they need to improve on is critical. In our locker room, we have a very large TV set up with all the equipment we need to be able to break down film and show it to individuals or groups. Coming back from Loyola and Hopkins, we have a lot of great footage. It was perfect timing because we had new iPads that we handed out to each individual. We now have the ability to push all of this film to each player's iPad so they can watch it on their own time. Our video coordinator, Dennis Blount, has been working relentlessly after each practice or after our games this past weekend to break down film. He takes our requests as far as what we want each individual to see. He's also able to send clips of things just to the attackers or the defense or goaltenders. With the software we have, the idea is that they see exactly what they need to see quickly and on their own time. We also have the ability to do voiceovers or type in different notes so that when they're watching it on their own, it's like we're still there with them."