The Dallas Rattlers, the Major League Lacrosse (MLL) franchise which will play at Ford Center after relocating from Rochester, New York following the end of last season, have a new head coach in Bill Warder.
A longtime Rattlers assistant, Warder was elevated to head coach following last season, meaning he’s more than qualified to make the leap to being in charge for the first time.
He spent the past nine seasons as a Rattlers’ assistant coach, the last seven under Tim Soudan and the previous two campaigns under PJ O’Hara.
And as Warder sees it, his primary goal is to maintain the high standards the Rattlers set under his two previous bosses.
Tim Soudan, he’s an incredible coach. You’re just trying to build on the past, the foundation that we’ve had,” Warder said.
Both of his coaching predecessors treated the Rattlers like a family, an approach Warder was a big part of and one he’ll stick to, even with the move to Texas.
It’s always been a family process, someone has to have a whistle (and be head coach), but this is a family process. That’s how we’ve always approached the team, as a family,” Warder said. “Everyone has different roles at different times and sometimes a player has to step up, sometimes it’s a coach, sometimes it’s a practice guy.”
A central component of that approach is that Warder expects every player on his roster to be a leader, a belief so ingrained into the Rattlers’ club culture that players will be able to handle whatever type of adversity pops up during games.
Of course, for any culture to be successful, there must be 100 percent buy-in from the players, something Warder is happy to have with this team.
Warder has spent much of his life in New York state, but when the Rattlers decided to relocate to Texas last fall, it was a change he and his family welcomed.
Yeah, this is amazing. My personality, I’m a Texas-type guy,” Warder said. “This isn’t a foreign feeling. It’s good. I do have a little family in Texas as well. My closest cousin, like a brother, lives right here right outside Fort Worth.”
When he’s not coaching, he is a husband and father to four boys, who not surprisingly, also play lacrosse.
They try,” Warder jokes. “I think the two-year-old (Beau) is the best of the bunch. Jordan Wolf and one of my sons, Colin, are real good buds and my son, Owen and Johnny Galloway are real good buds. These guys are going to be future dads and future family members. We try to incorporate as many people around, that’s again that family atmosphere. That eases the tension because these guys are working the 60 minutes of a game to compete at the highest level, win a game. You can’t be full throttle for 24 hours, seven days a week. You’ve got to have good balance.”
One thing which doesn’t change with the move from Rochester to Frisco is that Warder will continue to serve as Senior Associate Director of Admissions, Director of Large Format at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
Warder played goalkeeper for Hobart and in 1993 helped lead them to the NCAA Division III national championship. He savors this job because it gives him another unique opportunity to impact young peoples’ lives, in a similar way as his coaching does.
Yeah, (that job is) detail oriented, working with people makes it exciting that you get to shape the futures and lives of people, it’s amazing,” Warder said. “I’ve had the opportunity to give people a life of consequence. That’s something that I believe in deeply. We all want a life of consequence. How do you do that? At home, academically, socially, citizen, service, sports, how you maximize your life?”
That spills over to us. How do you get these guys to be more than lacrosse players? Be good people, citizens, help out and do service in the community, help out a local youth organization, and that’s all community, family, being a good citizen. I think that’s something that we all take pretty seriously.”
Lacrosse has been in Warder’s blood for as long as he remembers, and even though his playing days are long behind them, there are certain aspects of his chosen spot that remain universal for both players and coaches.
And those positives are big reasons he continues to coach the game.
Nothing like winning, but at the same time it’s those moments where you’re tested,” Warder said. “There’s game moments when you’re tested to win or lose because the margin of effort in this league, 90 percent of the games come down to the final two minutes. It’s that adrenaline rush and that moment of OK, can we execute in the moment?”
“You look at these guys and see how much life they get out of it and energy, friendships and life experiences. Yeah, it is on-field coaching, but it’s also the locker time, the airport time. There’s a lot of team bonding as well, lot of lifelong friendships.”
Lacrosse has clearly taken him to great places, both as a player and as a coach.
But Warder isn’t content to live in the past. Instead, he sees this move to Texas for what it really is, as a way to tap into what is an emerging market for the sport.
You see Texas and you have big, fast, strong players (who play) football, basketball, soccer, even (make a) natural progression to lacrosse,” he said. “You have perpetual green grass and sun, and big, strong, fast athletes. Then you got quality coaching down here and it’s going to explode, right? It’s fun to watch. It’s fast, it’s physical. Like you’ve seen it grow in Colorado and Florida, it’s a huge opportunity and I think the game nationally has grown everywhere. This is just natural. It has to be big here. Everything’s big in Texas, right?”