The Reawakening of John Haus
|After 18 months doing everything but coaching lacrosse
players, John Haus is finally back on the field, coaching Lebanon
© Tim Flynn
You would have been hard pressed to find a happier man last
Monday than John Haus.
When Haus walked out on a field as the head coach of a varsity lacrosse program for the first time in nearly 18 months, the trials he went through since he stepped down at North Carolina just disappeared, if only for a couple of hours.
During the intervening months between his appearances on the turf, Haus regrouped from the end of his UNC career, searched for a new position, signed on as the Director of Lacrosse Operations at Lebanon Valley College, and built both the fledgling men's and women's programs for the Central Pennsylvania institution.
There was no teaching, no Xs and Os, and no games. For a guy who has been coaching for nearly three decades, you might say he was going a little stir crazy.
"It's been a year and half now and I've been doing it for 25 years, so that's probably an understatement," said Haus. "I love doing what I do. I love going out on the field. I love teaching the sport of lacrosse and I love building teams and trying the best I can to make every single one of my kids a better player and a better person. So I've missed it in a big way."
One might assume that he's missed the on-field exertions but not the pressure that comes with coaching seminal lacrosse programs like Washington College (1995-'98), Johns Hopkins (1999-2000) and North Carolina ('01-'08). Lebanon Valley, located in Annville, Pa., does not have the pressures inherent with top shelf programs, but the Dutchmen have their own version.
Instead of having to deal with the expectations of opinionated alums and expectant administrators - a through-the-looking-glass world where coaches can somehow transform from genius to moron from season to season or, in some cases, game to game - Haus must deal with the urgency of simply fielding a team.
"When you start something from scratch, there's no tradition and nothing to look back on," said Haus, who noted that LVC briefly had a program in the 1980s. "There are so many things that go into it. We're trying to get it out there that Lebanon Valley College is a wonderful little place to get an education and play some good lacrosse. We're trying to get the best kids we can to represent the college and the program."
LVC's location - approximately an hour and a half from Philly, New Jersey and Baltimore and two hours from New York - will allow Haus to grow the Dutchmen quickly, but with just a year to create the team from scratch with no legacy, the recruiting outcome was predictable.
Haus didn't have a host of late-blooming studs or blue-chip talent knocking down the door to go to LVC, although he does have 13 freshmen filling out the roster. To produce the other half of the 26-man squad Haus resorted to an age-old start-up program trick: comb the student body.
"We've found some dual athletes," said Haus. "Some of our football players played high school lacrosse and they are going to help. Some of our hockey players have played lacrosse and some of them haven't. We reached out to a handful of kids who had high school experience but hadn't played since then.
"We have sort of a mish-mash of kids. Some have experience and some have no experience. Some haven't played in four years, so that in itself is a pretty big challenge, trying to mold all of those different types of kids together and create a team. And that's our biggest challenge right now: to become a team."
Finding an identity will be the primary goal for the season and how it will be judged. The Dutchmen will have a fighting chance in their season opener on the road against Mt. St. Mary (Newburgh, N.Y.), another team in its debut season, but they will be prohibitive underdogs in the remaining contests. The MAC isn't necessarily a power conference, but the 11 other program are far more mature than LVC.
Not surprisingly, no one will be putting much stock in the win-loss column.
"Right now numbers are irrelevant," said Haus. "What we want to do is start at the ground level and establish the right frame of mind, the right attitude, and bring in the right kids. We realize we're not going to wave a magic wand and win all of our games in one year. It's just not a reality."
What is a reality is the sun on Haus' face as he watches his kids run drills and get in shape. He doesn't have to worry about ordering equipment, formulating the schedule, recruiting seniors who have already decided where they're going, or constructing the women's team - all part of his job description over the past year.
It's just John Haus on the field, which is exactly where he should be.
"It's been great to put the whistle around the neck and get back on the field," he said. "I'm looking forward to each and every day, and each and every practice."