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Alexandra Champ - Coach, Parent, Player

coach parent player

Alex Champ and her team in Jen Adams 'power buns'
Alexandra Champ (second from left) with some of her players.  Alex played college lacrosse at University of Pennsylvania and currently coaches NV Demarest HS varsity and JV girls teams. This picture captures her athletes modeling their 'Jen Adams inspired power buns' - a tradition that continues to be lax-awesome.
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Where are you from? I grew up in Edgewater, NJ. and now I live in Demarest, NJ.
Do you have a favorite lacrosse team(s)? Yes, I like Maryland for their pure skill, but I also like Stoneybrook. They are an up and coming team that’s growing really nicely on Long Island.

Did you play growing up? Yes, I played starting in 7th grade all the way through college and after college for a club team in NYC until I was 29.

If yes what position did you play? In high school, I played middle, but in college I played low defense.

How are you involved with lacrosse now? I coached middle school lax for the last six years, and this season I just started coaching at NV Demarest High School, both Varsity and Junior Varsity.

Do you still practice on a wall? I started again this year because NVD has a great wall to use. I tried using my garage before that, and the dents were not a great idea. But I do it now to keep with my HS kids, because I play with them in their drills a lot.

Do you prefer the beach or the mountains? Both. If i had to pick, I’d say beach—it’s my happy place. I grew up skiing and my husband is from Colorado, so the mountains are a big part of our lives.

Are you a Batman or a Superman fan? OMG Batman. My brother and I played Batman and Robin non-stop when we were kids. We watched that horrible 1960s Adam West show and thought it was the best thing in the world.

Are you a little bit country or a little bit rock and roll? LOL. Def NOT country.  I like U2, so I guess that makes me Rock and Roll.

If you could be the best in the world at something what would it be? Great question. I think I’d like to be a professional athlete. I love lax and they do have a pro league that just started, but I would have loved to have been a Mia Hamm type person.

Do you have a 'go to' inspirational quote for our readers? “It’s never too late or early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit…you can change or stay the same, there are no rules. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life
you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” F. Scott FitzgeraldInterview title box

 YML2: Alex, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us.  We're thrilled you are helping us kick off the YML2 'Profile of Lax': From the sidelines to the GLE series. 

I'd love to focus today's dialog on the difference between the men's and women's lacrosse games.

Selfishly, this will directly help me with a personal goal. With my first child playing the boy's sport, and my husband playing in high school and college, their passion for the men's game captured my initial focus.  Now that my daughter is old enough to start clinics, I've got to really step up my game. it's time to balance out my knowledge base! 

As a prior player, a coach of a high school women's team and the mother of three boys who play, you are in the unique position to compare the games through a very unique 'blended' lens.

AC: Yes, my two older boys both play. The little one is only 2, but he can already shoot the ball. The boys game is obviously a lot more physical than the girls game. My fifth grader is starting to feel that now as the hits are getting harder and harder. You really have to keep your feet moving and not become a statue, or you are going to get run over.
The same holds true for the girls game, in that you have to move your feet, but even more so. Without helmets, refs are getting more and more strict with the calls on checks into the sphere. On defense, you don’t have much hope of getting the ball these days, because most refs are calling any check they see. So the ONLY way you can be safe when you defending is to get your body in the way. I tell my team to “interrupt their cuts and the path they want to take” -  in other words don’t let them go where they want to go.
There is talk of bringing helmets to the women's game, but I really hope they don’t.  It makes people less worried about footwork and defense, and more about the check, which detracts from the speed and agility of the women’s game.
When I played we didn’t even have goggles. I broke my nose playing because the ball hit me on a shot. So I am in favor of the goggles to protect the eyes and nose, but not helmets so that girls can be rougher.

YML2: Let's take a step back and focus on your experiences as a player.  As a female athlete, what would you say was/is your favorite part of playing lacrosse?

AC: I always loved the speed of the game. My strength was my speed, so being able to outrun people was a thrill. Later on, when I switched to defense, being fast enough to catch up with my attackers who thought they had everyone beat, was also a great feeling. I also liked that we didn’t have pads like the boys did. Most female players will tell you that the girls game is the way lax is supposed to be played - it’s a finesse game.

YML2: Now that you are a 'grown up' do you see any elements of the game that are different from when you played?

AC: Yes, obviously the goggles. But the game has gotten more physical at the college level. The defenders hold their sticks horizontally and the attackers literally bounce off of their defenders. The girls are more powerful - they used to be lithe and skinny. That doesn’t cut it anymore. The sticks are more powerful too. They can propel that ball at a much faster velocity. Power is the name of the game.

YML2: As a coach, are there any messages that you are regularly delivering to your players? 

AC: I constantly say “move your feet” and “pass the ball, it can move faster than your feet can.” I’m also big on the re-defend (called riding in the boys game). That re-defend saves your defense. No one is “attack” or “defense”. When we have the ball, we are all on attack. When we don’t have the ball, we are all on defense. So my attackers better know how to defend.

YML2: Are there any 'commonly seen bad habits' that you wish you could roll back time and help your athletes learn differently?

AC: Yes, basic catching and throwing! No one focuses on that anymore. It’s all about the fancy stuff. Plus, with pay-to-play model, those businesses have to keep the kids coming back, and no one likes passing/catching drills bc they are boring. But we need to do them more!

YML2: As a coach, do you see the growth of the game having an impact on your girls? Does all the focus on expansion of college programs and scholarships impact them or change the way they see the sport?

AC: Yes, I am not a fan of the early recruiting. I think it’s affecting the play of the girls that are 11th and 12th graders. They think they are out of the equation. And the younger kids are being forced to make decisions on colleges when they are not ready to make that decision. What 15 year old really knows what they want in a college? Plus, it puts so much pressure on them to get the “stats” they need. It’s always about checking the stats after the game. I don’t like that at all. It’s a team sport.

YML2: Does the increased awareness of the game, more specifically the launch of the women's professional league change the way athletes think about the sport?

AC: Yeah, I think it makes us look badass. :)

YML2: Now for the good stuff! From your insider's perspective, can you help us understand the five most significant differences between the women's game and the men's game?

AC: Ok, here we go:
1. The pads/body checks. Girls can not extend arms from in to out on the defend. They have to keep straight arms and if attack runs into the stick, so be it. 
2. Shot clock. I personally hate this part of the girl's game. I'm hoping they add the shot clock so the stall doesn’t go on for ages.
3. Players on the field. Girls have four defenders back (behind the 30 yard line, not the 50), three middies and four attack plus goalie.
4. Covering or kicking the ball. Covering the ball with your crosse is illegal, as is kicking it. In the boys game, they do this intentionally. Boggles my mind.
5. Lots of subbing. The boys sub entire lines constantly. I usually play all of my girls for most of the game. I sub a few girls here and there, but that whole “line” in and out doesn’t really happen  - because girls are better-conditioned athletes with higher pain tolerance :)
YML2: As a parent, do you encourage your kids to play lacrosse? What kinds of 'at home drills' do you recommend they do?
AC: Yes, we have a goal cage in our back yard. My fifth grader plays D, so I work on positioning with him a lot - the defensive triangle. I also yell at him constantly to move his feet and not stand and swing! Shots on goal aren’t his strength, so we shoot a lot at home. Now he has played middie a few times in his games, and he’s more confident. With my eight year old - it’s more about the mental game, because he plays up a year. He gets intimidated by the size of the other kids, but he’s fast, so I push him to use that strength and forget about their size. In general, I encourage them to try things they aren’t good at. I don’t want to put them in a specific role yet because I think they are too young to have a “position.” As for specific drills, good luck getting my kids to listen to me at home for that long....
YML2: As a parent that knows the sport, do you have any advice for other parents on the sidelines? Do you have any specific resources you would recommend they look to for keeping up with the game? 
AC: I suggest watching the high school games on TV. It gives parents a good idea of what the game is supposed to look like - not college, it’s too different from the youth level.
For parents who have never played, I'd say don’t yell at your kids and don’t challenge the ref. It does the opposite of what you are hoping. If you really feel that a ref is doing a poor job, read through the entire rule book yourself before you start yelling. I’m not kidding. It’s a lot to know.
All parents should let the coaches do their job. The coaches aren’t coming to your trading desk telling you what stocks to trade, so don’t tell them how to coach lacrosse. 99% of coaches I know are truly there to help further the game and the love for the game. And trust me, we want everyone to be playing too - every minute of every game. But it just doesn’t work like that, and no conversation with the coach is going help that.
Also, remember its a team sport. Stats are not the number one priority, the team is.
My biggest pet peeve are the parents who are standing right behind their kid’s bench, coaching, scolding, yelling at the refs and not just watching. Your only job as a parent on the sidelines is to watch and enjoy and support.
And there you have it. That probably opened a can of worms.
YML2: Anything else you want to cover?
AC: Nothing I can think of. Other than I'd like to say that athletes become coachable and hirable adults. Stick with the sports - whichever one suits you. It is proven to make you a better adult.


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