How Coaching Equips Me to be a Pro Lacrosse Player

Boston Cannons' attacker Will Manny isn't your typical hotshot. Sure, he's one of the top scorers in the MLL, but he's also one of the hardest working guys in the league, and super passionate about coaching and growing the game. He currently serves as an assistant coach at the University of Utah. His best advice for being a top player? Coach. 

Here's a look at Will's journey to becoming "Coach":

As a player, what specific coaches had a major impact on your development?

The first would have to be my dad, which is interesting because he never coached lacrosse - he always did baseball. Still, he played a huge role in my development as an athlete. He always told me, “If you want to get good at something, you’ve got to practice.”  We would go out in the yard together – he would practice baseball and I would practice lacrosse. Because of him, I always valued and prioritized practice. I knew I wouldn’t get anywhere without it. 

In high school, Coach Doug Schreiber had a big impact on me. He told me point-blank: “If you want to play at the next level, you’ve got to put in the work.” And he meant beyond after-school practice for two hours. At the gym, out on the pitch, at the dinner table eating, at home watching film…you’ve got to take it seriously and apply yourself, and always look for ways to improve. 

Greg Cannella – my coach at University of Massachusetts – was also a huge mentor for me. He was there for me through everything in college. The highs and lows, the wins and losses. As a smaller attackman, he was a really relatable coach for me. Most attackmen are a little bigger in size, so it was interesting to learn from him and see how he played his size as a strength.

Why did you decide to start coaching?

When I first graduated from UMass in 2013, I took a job working at Bank of America. It was a really great experience – the people were phenomenal and I learned so much about business, professionalism, and working with people.

That was my rookie year with the Cannons and as the season went on, I was itching to be around the game all the time. A buddy of mine on the Cannons – Matt Poske – reached out and offered me an assistant coach job at Wagner in exchange for a free ride to grad school. Who wouldn’t jump at that? Free grad school and coaching at a D1 school…pretty sweet deal. That was when I first got into coaching. I fell in love with it and never looked back!

How would you describe your coaching style?

Intense! I try to have a good relationship with each of my players and tailor my approach to how they learn. Some kids can take a lot of heat and that’s how they grow. Others don’t respond as well to that, so I try to strike a balance there. 

I work with an awesome group of coaches. Adam Ghitelman and Marcus Holman are two of my best friends. We coach and play during the week, and usually hit the slopes together or watch hockey on the weekend. We try to model a good work/fun balance for our players. Which isn’t too difficult…it’s a blast coaching with those guys! 

Thoughts on working for Marcus' dad as the head coach?

Brian Holman is a legend. He's got a whole slew of national championships under his belt. It’s unreal getting to work alongside him...it's a daily learning curve!

Do you have any specific themes or skills that you like to focus on with your team?

Fundamentals have been a huge focus for us this year – that’s really the crux of it all. The basic skills stay the same – it’s all about refining your stick work, and playing with precision and strategy.

We’ve also been working on building up a community around the team. We’re in it with the players – we work out with them every day; plus in-season, we’re on the field 3-4 days a week. 

How has coaching improved your game as a pro player?

Hours of watching film haha…but seriously, you spend so much time studying the game, and how different maneuvers and plays work. You start to really think about the game and become more intentional with your movements. Now, I go back and watch film from my rookie season and analyze it at a higher level.

It also holds you accountable. You can’t tell your players to break a habit or refine a skill that you’re not willing to implement yourself.

On the flip side, how has playing pro impacted your approach to coaching?

It helps keep me in the player mindset. A lot of our guys trust us and feel like they can relate to us because they know we’re all in the same boat. We train with them, we run drills with them, and then we go and compete just like they do. 

Why should other lax players consider coaching?

It centers you as a player. You constantly have to check yourself: “Am I practicing what I preach?” Otherwise, you lose trust with your players.

Also - it helps grows the game. The more coaches the sport has, the greater the capacity for players.

And, from my experience, it broadens your connections and friendships in the lacrosse community. Always a win! 

Click here for Will's go-to training technique, the #ChillDrill.