The Scoop Winter 2016 - Page 16

Through-the-Box

A Coaching Spotlight on Newton's

Jim Connolly

by Quinn Waddell

16 The Scoop / Winter '16

The Scoop

Coach Jim Connolly truly personifies the MBYLL motto: “to teach, to grow, to honor the game.” When he is not playing professional lacrosse, he honors the game by giving back to MBYLL—the youth program he grew up playing in.

Jim Connolly is a former MBYLL player who went on to live the dream of many youth lacrosse players—playing professional Major League Lacrosse. Recently selected as one of New England’s “Top 20 Lacrosse Players of All Time” by The New England Lacrosse Journal, Jim was an MLL All Star in 2012 while playing for the Ohio Machine. This past season he played attack with the Boston Cannons before getting injured in a game against the New York Lizards.

Connolly has a passion for lacrosse and cares as much about teaching the game as he does about playing it. This past season he coached the U13 Newton Select team to a great season and was chosen to coach the MBYLL All Star Game by nomination from the opposing MBYLL Select coaches throughout the state.

Connolly says as a youth coach, he has two goals: First, “make sure the kids get better and show tangible improvement,” and second, “help kids develop a passion for the game.” Passion for coaching seems to run Jim's family. His Brother is head coach of North Andover High (the town they both played MBYLL for as kids). His father Steve Connolly is recognized as one of New England’s greatest coaches of all time was recently inducted into the New England Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Jim learned to coach alongside his father and has experience coaching at the youth, high school, and club levels.

“The game of lacrosse has been very good to me over the years so I always try to do my part to pay it forward.” He has donated countless hours not only training players but also at clinics that aim to teach the coaches the correct way to train the players. Connolly’s favorite coaching quote is: “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect,” by Vince Lombardi.

Connolly believes the secret to success is high quality instruction, quality reps, and low player-to-coach ratio with individual attention to correct specific mistakes. It can be hard to correct bad habits that kids can pick up from YouTube or anywhere on the internet; this can be true for coaches, too. “Lacrosse is a game where once you teach yourself how to do something, it takes a lot of hard work to do it differently,” says Connolly, “and even with that hard work, it’s still hard to lose a bad habit.”

Connolly enjoys coaching a high tempo game and pushes transition whenever possible. “I coach this way because I believe it’s more fun for the kids,” says Connolly. The "up-tempo" leads to more touches during practices and more opportunities in the games which ultimately leads to more stick skill development.

He played up-tempo as well: Jim set the world record in scoring as a high school player. While he takes great pride in setting the world record for goals, he is even more proud of the fact that the record he set was eventually broken by one of the players he has trained and mentored: Grant Whiteway, another former MBYLL player.

Coach Connolly and Whiteway as his assistant together teach others how to score goals as part of a new non profit lacrosse training program called Gorillalax.com.

Connolly says “It's a completely different type of experience: the focus is on precision practice; we train players in a unique way that produces tangible improvement and we track each player’s results relentlessly. It’s a statistically driven approach that produces rapid improvement. Think 'Moneyball' for youth lacrosse."

Connolly teaches kids simple, easy-to-follow rules for scoring goals: “If they stick to the rules,” he says, “they will quickly see that they can score more goals.”

“I love to teach kids to score goals. There’s no better feeling than teaching a player a new dodge or a new stick fake, then watching them use that new move to score a goal in a game” Connolly says. “You get to see how happy the kid is as they celebrate with their teammates and see that huge smile on their face while they run off the field after they score the goal.”

It doesn’t matter where a player starts off skill wise, with the right coaching every player can show tangible improvement!!

Coach Connolly clearly honors the game of lacrosse in his teaching.

QW