Is Lacrosse in Texas Making the Grade?
Is Lacrosse in Texas Making the Grade?
Hit any local lacrosse tournament here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area any given weekend in the spring and you might be surprised at the sheer volume of players, teams, tents, merch, and well-versed lacrosse parents on the sidelines. Texas lacrosse is strong. It’s making the grade and making good progress in the level of talent we’re producing here coming up through the high school level.
This week we talk to Coach Diamonon about his perspective on where we stand in the sport on a local and state level.
Enjoy episode #87 and other episodes of Hustle and Pro in our archives.
Show Notes[00:32] Quick hits with Patrick Diamonon
[03:14] How do you grade Texas lacrosse?
[05:11] Level of talent in Texas
[06:26] Recruiting & colleges
[16:04] COVID impact
Resources within this episode:
- Patrick Diamonan: Instagram @thelaxingpanda | Twitter | facebook
- Frisco Lacrosse Website | High School Lacrosse Boys | Girls
- Kelly Walker: Instagram @kelly_walkertexas | Twitter: @kelly_walker_TX
Connect with Lifestyle Frisco:
Welcome to Hustle & Pro, Season Two, talking sports in Frisco from youth to pro. Now here’s your host, Kelly Walker.
Welcome to this episode of Hustle and Pro. As a lacrosse parent, I think a lot about where us, Texans, fit into the whole lacrosse scene. So, today we have coach Patrick Diamanon. Did I say that right, Patrick? That’s correct. All right. So, Patrick’s here to talk to us about the current kind of lacrosse landscape. So hi, and welcome to Hustle and Pro, Patrick.
Thank you. I’m very excited to be on here.
Yeah, I’m excited to hear from you. So, before we jump into the lacrosse talk, though, let’s learn a few quick sports, sports hits from you. So, who would you say is your favorite athlete?
Ooh, there’s a lot of athletes. Um, I think from a pure athletic standpoint, Bo Jackson, just because he did define the whole multi-sport athlete and did at a very high level with doing it at the NFL and Major League Baseball, as well. So, I would say he’s one of my favorites. Um, you know, even old school, Earl Campbell, just because I love the way that he ran the football, um, type-of-way. Um, lacrosse-wise, Mikey Powell, uh, just because growing up that was the guy looking up to, and just wanted to try to mimic my game as much as possible off note.
Okay. Well, following up on that, I always like to know what’s your favorite sport to play yourself? And then, what’s your favorite sport to watch?
So, playing myself, I like lacrosse. I’ve been playing it since I was seven. I mean, it’s still play to this very day. And, you know, Man’s Pickup League, which is post-college stuff. And every once in a while, there might be a tournament that I can go play in. Um, you know, back in high school, it was definitely football and lacrosse. It was hard to pick between the two. But, for sure, lacrosse.
Where’d you grow up? I’m originally from Houston, Texas. Okay. Texas football growing up. Um, but then you play- so, you started playing lacrosse at age seven here in Texas?
Yeah. So, I started playing when I was seven. Um, it was kind of just, you know, I got first introduced with a stick. Um, my dad went to Virginia and then our uncle or my uncle kind of played lacrosse a little bit to introduce it to us. It was kind of more of a secondary sport to do in the summers. And then, once I probably got into sixth grade, seventh grade, I started taking it more seriously just because the school offered it, uh, in Houston. And, you know, was able to play it all the way through college until, um, going into my senior year. I had fun. Unfortunately, had a knee injury that prevented me to play.
Yeah, that’ll, that’ll do it. Yes. Okay. One more quick one. Uh, what’s your favorite sports movie?
Oh, the sports movie. I mean the classic, Remember The Titans. Um, that one, I think Denzel Washington’s great. And just how, um, they had to go through so much adversity to come out on top. Um, you know, and it was a real good, just, “this is how a team should be,” um, in all sorts, in all circumstances with it – sticking together through the thick and thin.
Yep. That’s a good one. Okay. So, now I know that, um, you used to coach here in Frisco and you’re still coaching at the high school level, right. Um, over on the other side of the metroplex in Fort Worth. And then, when you mentioned how your, you know, your dad kind of introduced you to the sport, um, I think it’s probably common for, you know, kids in Texas are getting introduced to it. Um, several years back probably was brought down from somebody, either from the Northeast or somewhere, right? Up north. So, that’s kinda like where I want to start with our conversation. Um, Texas is sort of still, you know, a little new to this sport. Obviously people are, are, have been playing it here a little while, but not as long as other parts of the country where it’s sort of common and really mainstream sports and powerhouse parts of the country. So, from your point of view, um, playing and coaching, where do you kind of place, like, lacrosse in Texas? Like if you were to grade- give us a grade. How are, how are we doing?
Uh, I would say that we’re- it’s hard to kind of put a number or like a grade letter. I would say we’re definitely a solid like B, B plus. There are definitely some teams that, um, can hit that A area. Um, like Dallas Jesuit, uh, Highland Park, Episcopal School of Dallas, um, Woodlands, Westlake. Um, those programs have a very establish, um, coach. You know, they, and they know how to run their own systems that really puts their players in the greatest spot to be successful. I mean, and they have kids that are going D1s and very high level D3s because, you know, as coaches, we want our kids to make sure that they go to the right institution after high school. Um, we all want them to go play D1 just from an ego standpoint that we have D1 athletes. But, at the end of the day, we want our, we want to be sure that our athletes go to the right school on what fits them the best.
So, that answers my question. When I, like, I’m wondering about like, what’s, what is the level of talent that we’re, you know, we’re putting out from Texas. And I was going to ask you about different markets. Um, I assumed, you know, DFW, Houston, Austin, is that, is that right? I mean, are there any other major pockets of Texas that is producing good talent?
San Antonio has had some good or- they’ve, they’ve had some talent, I would say. Um, I think I even had a teammate of mine, um, that played at Hendrix that’s from San Antonio. Um, there, there are some kids in San Antonio that I have even started kind of making their splash, um, and lacrosse as well. But, I would say, you know, from most part of it, it’s always coming from, you know, Dallas, Fort-Worth area, Houston, and then Austin. But, the sport in Texas is starting to get, you know, more recognized in the major metroplexes here. Um, so, there. It’s nice to see that, you know- you know, and hopefully one day we all want that, one day, that there’s a kid from San Antonio that is playing at Syracuse University. That’s a historic program, you know. That’s, that’s kind of what we all want to see at some point.
So, obviously recruiters, you know, take lacrosse players seriously out of Texas ’cause you talked about D1 and D3, like, you know, that’s the goal and kids are going there. But, um, is that like- as a coach here at the high school level, so, where, where are the majority of like Dallas boys, like for boys’ lacrosse, where are they going and getting recruited from?
I would say it’s kind of evenly split between, um, division 1. D2 has started to pick up as well. Um, so, you have Lindenwood that’s been kind of a hotbed that- we’ve been a hotbed for them. Even, I want to say a couple of Florida schools, um, like Rollins, has kind of made a splash in this market and Florida Tech, um, Florida Southern. Um, and then division 3 is where a good amount of the kids might go as well, just because it is a job. Once kids get to D1, um, you know, they’re practicing 60 hours the whole entire fall semester. But, at division 2, it’s, it’s cut down to 45. And then, um, at division 3, you’re only doing 15 hours. So, it’s kind of figuring out what the student athlete wants themselves, you know. ‘Cause it is a very big commitment to go division 1. And that’s where we, as coaches are kind of, you know, there to give some insight and help guide these student athletes on figuring out what’s the real best fit for them.
Okay, hold up 60 hours, 45 hours, 15 hours. How often? Are you talking, like, how dense are those hours?
So, the 60 hours is, it’s broken up within the fall semester. It’s not like 60 hours a week. I’m, like, “that really as a full-time job.” Yeah. Right. I mean, but, I mean, you have those hours that are really, you know, for the team. But, there’s always those extra, you know, the voluntary lifts and the, uh, the captain’s practices as well. So, I mean, there’s a lot more outside of those NCAA hours as well, so.
So, you talk about as a coach, you know, trying to help your players probably through the recruiting process, getting to the right place. I mean, you know, like you said, not, not every, kid’s gonna look, look at D1 schools, even if they’re good. Like you said, there’s just different levels and commitment levels and experiences they’re going to get out of it, right? So, what is it that you talk to your players about like that? What are, do you, are you, is that part of your job? You try to help set expectations for them?
I mean, we all have expectations to shoot for the highest level as much as possible. Um, I mean, we get down to it, if, you know: does the kid want to be in the city? Does he want to be out in the suburbs area? Does he want a big campus? Small campus? Does he want a big football school? Um, does he want to have more centered around, you know, a small professor-teacher or professor-student ratio as well? Um, so, it’s kind of just going down those questions on what kind of fits the mold for them. And even, you know, a simple question too with, do you want, do you like the cold weather? ‘Cause there’s some kids that don’t like the cold weather. It’s like, well, maybe the Northeast isn’t, might not be for you. Unless, you know, you really like the sport and you can tough-out the winters, so.
Is there a lot of good lacrosse on the west coast?
Yes. So, Colorado, um, California have become real, uh, hotbeds as well. There’s a team, um, in the Torrey Pines. Their program that- they’ve come here a few times as well to play, um, Highland Park and Dallas Jesuit recently. And you know, they’re having kids go to University of North Carolina. Their head coach went to Tufts and they have a few tough kids as well. So, they’re churning some kids out. And then even to the point that the northwest is having some talent as well and come out of there.
So, you mentioned UNC and Syracuse are, I’m assuming, those are some of the top schools. So, where like what are other schools that your best players wish, you know, their dream schools to go play at?
Uh, I mean, University of Virginia is another one. There’s a Highland Park kid named Cade Saustad that was there or he’s currently there. He was actually on the most recent National Championship team there, University of Virginia. Um, there’s another kid, he’s a senior this year, that’s going to go to Towson. Um, he’s from South Lake. Um, he’s a very talented pole and well-deserved with that position as well, but his name’s Connor Spagnolli. Um, and then other kids will want- I mean, they all shoot for UNC, UVA, um, Syracuse, because those are big historical programs. Johns Hopkins is another big historical program as well. Um, that, you know, and Johns Hopkins degree, if you know, the kids can get in, uh, the goalie there, actually Ryan Darby, he’s been playing there and he’s a Plano West kid.
Wow. Okay. The goalie scene is a whole ‘nother recruitment avenue, right? I mean, they get, they get looked at probably so much earlier and in such a different light, just because of the nature of the position and fewer people to look, look for and it’s harder to find them, right?
It is, is- goalies, they either have it, um, or they don’t. But, I mean, we’ve had a lot of kids that I’ve seen they- at first they’re, it’s, there’s a struggle. But, then they really kind of, they put their mind to it and really become successful with it. Um, my cousin played at Dallas Jesuit and then he went on to go play at University of Maryland. And his best friend also played at Dallas Jesuit and played at Boston University. And he was respectably an All-American as well. Um, goalies, I’d say, are pretty, or a pretty good position from Texas along with the defensemen, just because we’re- the players here are very athletic. Um, so, their athleticism makes up for a lot of stuff on the field.
Yeah. I mean, you mentioned Syracuse earlier. So, my daughter’s high school coach now, um, went to Syra- played at Syracuse. And so, it’s really kind of big, even locally, here. Um, a lot of our girls, we always have a girl or two, I feel like, that they get to go play there, um, from our programs up here in the Frisco area. But, I didn’t know if it was that common for our boys around here or in Texas to make it up that way, yet. So, it doesn’t sound like that’s like the most common occurrence at this point, right?
Uh, it’s pretty scattered around. I would say. So, I mean, I think recently I just saw a kid from Austin that’s committed to go Colgate. Um, so, that, he’s going to go up there. I mean, there there’s a lot of kids that are starting. And even, um, there’s another pole. He goes to Ohio State that’s from, uh, ESD here in the area. Um, so there’s a lot of talent here. Where did you play? I played at Lamar High School.
Oh, okay. I was going to ask: you also mentioned Austin College. I was going to ask, so, I mean, we’re talking about colleges and then high school, Texas kids playing, but, but what about the Texas college scene? How much lacrosse are we seeing in colleges in this state?
So, there’s only two NCAA teams and they’re both division 3. It’s University of Dallas here in the metroplex. And then Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. Those are the only two in Texas that are NCAA recognized. Okay. And then the other schools, such as University of Texas, SMU, TCU, um, U of H, Rice University, they’re all, what’s called MCLA schools. So, it’s a club sport in those institutions.
So, lots of kids playing there, it’s just the club-organization level. Yeah, that’s kind of what I expected. Um, I’d, I would have been shocked if you would have said, “Oh yeah, every college has a school team,” you know, like a sanctioned school team. Um, we’ll get there. I’m sure we’re making progress.
Hopefully. So, uh, it, you know, it’s all, it all comes down to those that are driven and really want to see lacrosse at those institutions. I mean, I could imagine once, you know, SMU, University of Texas, Texas A&M – if they, if can get a program, then I can actually see a lot more Texas kids staying home because, why, why leave when you have D1 schools here that you can play lacrosse at?
Right. Yeah. I mean, obviously you still have a ways to go when you consider that mostly all of the schools you mentioned that kids coming out of Texas, um – they’re private schools. They’re not at these big public school systems that have, you know, not, it’s not every public school that has a lacrosse at their high-school level.
Right. I mean, yes. On campus. Um, you know, there’s, cause it is not, it’s not UIL sports. So, it’s all based on, you know, we- in the league is THSLL and they try their best to, you know, line themselves up with UIL so that the kids can play. Um, you know, and we do a pretty, I would say we do a decent job, um, at that. And then just to give the kids opportunities, because at the end of the day, we just want the boys to play with it all. I mean, and even the Woodlands, they have a kid, Matthew Nunes. He’s their starting goalie and he’s actually going to go to University of Virginia.
Oh, wow. That’s a big time. Okay. So, let’s talk about COVID and how that’s impacted your sport that you see. I always said, “I don’t want to talk about COVID on this podcast.” But, because I didn’t think it would make sense after awhile and you know, the archives of this show, but it’s still here. So, we keep talking about it. Um, what have you seen as far as the impact? Um, like I’m guessing summer shutdowns, if it’s anything like our, the girls’ lacrosse program here, um, pretty much stopped in the summer. We ramped back up in the fall. It was pretty short and, you know, fairly watered down and lots of strict protocols and things. But what have you seen on the boys side specifically at your high-school level?
It’s been the very- it’s been very parallel to that. I mean, we, we were on halt. Uh, we stopped, especially during the summer, um, you know. But, when there was kind of like that slow reopening, um, we would, we would go out there but have our social distance. And it, during the time when we were practicing, it was just stickler, just because they’re just drills that involve getting within six feet and you have to have contact. And that’s just, you know, we, we, we, we know we weren’t comfortable doing that as it stands and I know parents weren’t too comfortable either. So, we tried our best to maintain it. You know, coaches having masks as well. Um, you know, in each, even when the boys come and put their bags down, we made sure that all the bags were six feet apart from each other, so.
Yeah, all those little steps you can do. Okay. Um, did you see numbers change? I mean, I know you’re at a point right now where you’re at a specific high school. So, you might not have noticed just yet and, you know, as compared to larger clubs. But, do you, have you heard that, that your seeing participation change because of this?
I, I, I haven’t heard too much of participation change. I think there’s- I think everyone’s kind of ready to get back at it. They just want to do it in the safest possible way with it. So, I think it’s been- everyone wants to go, you know, they just try to, they’re figuring out how to do it. Um, or they’ve already figured out the way how they can run practice and have been doing it, um, in a safe manner as well.
Your big push though is spring ball, right?
Yes. We are, we are- so, we are a spring sport, um, because fall ball is usually kind of, the off- is off-season for us because, you know, it’s football. And we don’t, and a lot of the athletes are dual sport and most of them play football. And we, and we encourage those players to play football and be the multi-sport athlete because it does benefit, um, to just play other sports, you know? And at the end of the day, too, the kids just don’t get worn out, playing the same sport 12 months a year.
Yeah. And I mean, you can identify with that. I mean, that’s what you do growing up. You see the benefits of learning different skills and different strengthening different parts of your body and, you know, not overusing the same, do, motions all year round. So, that’s probably part of why you like to see that in your players too, right?
Yeah. So, I love it. I mean, and even, you know, with the sports, I, you know, I want the kids for playing football, you know, build some toughness, you know. They have, uh, some build team comradery in that. And then even when it’s winter time, I really like the boys to play basketball just because there’s a lot of easy translations from basketball to lacrosse. Xs and Os are with just like simple things, such as picking, you know, seems applicable. And even on defense, when someone gets beat off the bounce, you know, then there’s a rotation for the defense. So, then there’s,
There’s quick transitions, I feel like, in basketball, too. Yes. Yeah. Well, you said the toughness of football. I think lacrosse, boys’ lacrosse, is pretty tough. They probably get plenty of toughness playing lacrosse.
Yeah. They, they do, um, you know. It, and we always tell them, it’s like, “you can be the big guy that can get hit with a stick, or you can be the real quick guy that doesn’t get hit with the stick.” So, it’s just a matter of, you know, which one you like, do you like the contact or do you not like contact? So, yeah.
Yeah. Well, it’s fun to watch, um, such a, it’s such a physical, fast sport all at the same time and such a wide, spread-out field. And so, um, I’ve enjoyed learning, learning a little bit about it. I have a lot, a lot of progress that I need to make on the boys’ side because it’s such a different sport than the side that I sit and watch on the weekends with the girls. But, boys lacrosse is really fun. And especially like watching it at the pro level when they were here. Um, or if you ever get a chance to watch like the, you know, good college games that come on. Now, our household stops and watches those sometimes because we understand it a little bit more. Yeah, exactly. I’m one of those late adopters that’s finally getting into the lacrosse world here in Texas. So, well, thank you for filling me in and teaching me a little and kind of giving me an update ’cause I just wasn’t sure what was where we kind of stood, um, here as Texan lacrosse people. So, thanks for your time.
Oh, of course. It was fun.