Hagersville, Ontario - On Friday, the Minnesota Swarm opened its main camp at the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena. A total of 40 players took part in the fast-tempo, high-intensity kick off to camp. As practice concluded, I caught up with players and coaches to get their thoughts on the day.
Forward, 7th year
Q: Let’s start with your thoughts on the first day of camp; everybody competed hard out there…
Crawford: Yeah, I really like the coaches’ approach to this. We have to work hard this whole season. We have to prove ourselves to the league and everything, but we have to prove ourselves to one another in this dressing room and that’s how we will be successful. The coaches really brought that out of us tonight. They pushed everybody really hard and we got a good sweat. They let everyone know that it’s going to take hard work to be successful this year and everybody has to be up for it.
Q: Talk about the leadership roles the returning guys will be taking on this season…
Crawford: We’ve got guys that have been around for a while and that have played on a lot of different teams and have won different types of championships. We’re young and fiery. We have a lot to prove mostly to ourselves instead of to anybody else.
Q: What were your impressions of the new guys at camp?
Crawford: With ends, brings new beginnings and that kind of stuff. We have a new feel and a new look. It’s a new way for the Swarm. It will be good.
Q: You’ve had two outstanding scoring seasons the last two years, what are you looking to accomplish this year?
Crawford: Nothing personal, it’s just that we need to win more games. We’re only going to win games by putting the ball in net. Whether that’s me, Shewchuk, Benesch, or someone else, that’s all I care about. I’ve been in this league for seven years now and I really want a championship. Whatever it takes for us to win a championship, I’m willing to do. If that means me putting the ball in the net, great. If that’s somebody else doing it, wonderful. Just as long as we do it, that’s the main goal.
Transition, 9th year
Q: The team really focused on transition play this evening. It seems like that’s the direction the league is headed towards as well…
Morgan: With the way the rules are set up this year in the league, it looks like it’s going to be more of a run and gun style of lacrosse. We have a lot of guys on this team that are young, fast, and have a lot of talent. We can see the change (more transition) by the way the coaches are running it. We’re full-effort at all times. It’s going to get us ready for the season.
Q: The offseason is finally over, what kind of emotions are running through your head on Day 1?
Morgan: It feels good. For me, the offseason pretty much sucks. I’m just waiting to play lacrosse. It’s also good to see where you’re at physically and see what you need to work on. It’s a good test.
Q: There seems to be a feel-good aura on the locker room and out on the field today. How would you describe it?
Morgan: From the get-go, it’s pretty much what they (coaches) say goes. We have a lot of good character guys on this team that are willing to work hard and put the team first. That’s what we need to be successful in this league, a team effort. If you have individuals, you’re not going to win. We have a good foundation and we just need to build on it and take it to the next level.
Q: How are you feeling after finishing your first day of main camp this evening?
Smith: A little sore, but that’s to be expected. Overall I feel pretty good. There’s nothing I didn’t expect coming into camp. The good thing was that I knew a lot of guys before I came in here so they gave me a heads up on a few things.
Q: You had some indoor experience coming into this camp. How important was playing indoor lacrosse with the Nanaimo Timbermen this past summer?
Smith: It was huge. If it wasn’t for that experience, I don’t think I would have made it in this league. It’s definitely made the transition easier. I know when I first got to Nanaimo, I was kind of shell-shocked when I walked out at the first practice and then we had a game the next day. Having that summer under my belt really prepared me for what I’m ready to do right now.
Q: Did anything surprise you out on the floor this evening?
Smith: What surprised me the most was just how all the guys were really supportive and pushing each other. No one knows who is going to be around tomorrow or next week. It’s just a good feeling to know that every guy on this team has your back regardless if he is going to be on the team. It’s great to see this whole team camaraderie thing this early in the season. If you didn’t know someone, they were introducing themselves to you and you were introducing yourself to them.
Q: Talk about the rookie class that you are a part of this year…
Smith: They’re all great guys. I made friends with Jordan MacIntosh right away. I knew Corbyn coming into it…played against Jay Card in college…Todd, we’re from America so we already have that bond. Evan Kirk is a great guy and a great goalie. Everyone here has been real supportive. It’s a good thing that we got here early enough to introduce ourselves and help each other out. We already have that good bond with all the rookies. It’s a good feeling to have.
Assistant Coach, 1st year
Q: Today was your first day coaching at the Swarm’s main camp. How did it go for you?
Keast: I’m not going to lie to you, I was actually a little nervous, as I think you should be. You’re coming to a good franchise that wants to win and I just want to be a part of that. I was nervous, but as practice rolled on, I felt good.
Q: You brought a lot of energy out on the field today. What are you looking to bring to the Swarm?
Keast: My experience. I’ve coached box lacrosse for over 20 years. I’ve won as a player and as a coach. I speak with truth and candidness. If you play well you’re going to get a pat on the back. If you don’t play well, you’re are going to be told about it…told in the right manner to make the necessary adjustments to make yourself better and the team win.
Q: You as coaches have really stressed to the players that the Swarm needs to be the hardest working team in the NLL. How refreshing was it to see the guys playing with that kind of effort today?
Keast: That’s exactly what we expected. The guys delivered on that. If we’re not the hardest working team, it’s going to be tough for us to win. I think the guys know that and are committed to that. It showed with that two-hour practice.
Q: Can you give a summary of the transition drills that you were instilling today in practice?
Keast: Our team is really focusing on transition. We are going to stop the ball, then move the ball up the floor extremely quick and then let our offense do what they do when they get the ball. We’re going to catch teams not wanting to work as hard as us. If we do all three things, quick, efficiently, and to the best of our ability, others teams are going to struggle to keep up with us.
Defenseman, main camp walk-on
Q: As a player who was invited to main camp, how did it feel out there today?
Brascia: It feels great. First camp was pretty tough…we had four sessions so the legs are pretty sore. It feels good to be here and play with all the returning players. It really makes you step up.
Q: Talk about the competition out on the floor tonight…
Brascia: The competition is good. It brings out the best in all of us. Everyone is working for a spot…the guys returning, rookies, free agents, and walk-ons. You just have to go out there and work your hardest.
Q: I’m guessing to make the team would be a dream come true for you…
Brascia: Pretty much. Ever since I discovered the NLL that was a dream of mine. I actually came over here from B.C. so I’m willing to do whatever it takes.
Q: The coaches really seem to keep you guys motivated out on the floor as well…
Brascia: It was great. It kind of gave us a team atmosphere, you know working hard for everyone else, not just yourself. The coaches were giving it to us hard. We showed a good effort.
Q: Describe your mindset for the remainder of camp…
Brascia: The mindset is just like today. I’m going to give it my all like the coaches have asked us to do. For me personally, work hard and get every loose balI that I can. Try transition as much I can and play the best defense I can.