July 31, 2012

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Q&A: New Hofstra Coach Smith 'Very Confident'

Recent Northwestern grad is youngest coach at Division I women's level

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com

Shannon Smith, the 2011 Tewaaraton Award winner and 2012 Northwestern graduate, was named the new head coach at Hofstra on Tuesday. At 22, she's the youngest Division I women's head coach. "I've been around this coaching world," she said. "I love coaching. Coaching has always been a dream of mine."
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

News broke Tuesday afternoon that former Northwestern star and 2011 Tewaaraton Award winner Shannon Smith had been named the new head coach at Hofstra, located on her native Long Island, and LaxMagazine.com caught up with Smith over the phone shortly thereafter. The 2012 Northwestern grad, and three-time NCAA champion, is 22 years old and the youngest head coach in Division I women's lacrosse. Smith talked lacrosse, Long Island, and long-term goals for the Pride.

LM: What drew you to Hofstra?
SS: I think Hofstra's facilities are state of the art, and the academics are phenomenal. Being here on Long Island, and being a Long Island native [West Babylon], it's an easy draw to get kids on campus. Once you get kids here, the campus is gorgeous. It's hard to find an academic institution that has a business school, liberal arts, medical school, everything. It's a home run for a kid with the academics and the campus.

Coaching has definitely always been a dream of mine. My family owns a club team here on Long Island, Top Guns. We did very well at the [US Lacrosse] U15 National Tournament, placed third this year.

You're a brand-new college grad, and at 22, the youngest head coach in Division I. When your age came up in the interview, how did you respond to that question?
To be honest, that question never really came up. I was very confident going into the interviews. I was confident in my ability to lead a team, and I've been surrounded by it my whole life. Starting that business with my parents and being able to manage that many kids and teams. It's something that not a lot of kids can do at that age. My ability and the plan that I have stepping into this position really impressed people.

Top Guns just finished our third year, going into our fourth year. We do a phenomenal job. All of our teams are very, very competitive. Next year we're going to go to the U15 championships with the goal to get first place there. The families have a blast and the kids have a blast. We're not only teaching them the game of lacrosse, but also giving them the opportunity to get to the next level in college, and also life lessons, teaching them wrong from right.

How is the team shaping up for the next season? Hofstra lost two starters. [Note: One of the starters was goalie Jaclyn Pandolf, a coach of one of Top Gun's 2015 teams.]
We've got five kids coming in. There's a great willpower. The kids want to win and want to learn, and they want to get better. They have a great foundation in now. Coming in, I want to bring in that championship culture and bring it to the next level. The Hofstra tradition is already tremendous here on Long Island.

I'm excited to work with all the players on the team. It's definitely going to be a tremendous experience. I wish I could get on the field with them tomorrow. That's the hardest part of the job right now, waiting for the team to get to campus, especially when my office overlooks the field. I'm just so excited to get on the field with them and show them everything I know, teach them the finer points of the game, really fine-tuning them.

How do you see Hofstra lacrosse developing? What's the kind of lacrosse that you like to see?
We're going to be tough on D, and Hofstra already has that. They're definitely a tremendous team on the defensive end. We're going to be fighting on that field, on ground balls and draw controls. We'll focus on the little things. We want a fast-paced tempo on offense. We're going to get everybody involved.

Is it going to be hard to resist the urge to run out on the field yourself in the middle of game?
I'm so used to that. I've been around this coaching world. I love coaching. Coaching has always been a dream of mine. To land this job, it's tremendous, especially here on Long Island. Not too many people get to come back home. And not a lot of people get to finish their career where they started it – I grew up on Long Island and won the 2012 championship here – and now I get to start a new career here. I'm excited.


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