Defenseman Joe Cinosky and Assistant Coach Aime Caines have been down this road before.
Prior to the Swarm’s 11-9 playoff clinching victory against the Philadelphia Wings last April, Cinosky and Caines spent the weekend prepping with two teams. That’s because the duo coaches the University of Minnesota’s Men’s Lacrosse team in addition to their duties with the Swarm.
With their game against the Wings taking place on a Saturday last April, Cinosky and Caines spent both Friday and Sunday in Duluth coaching the Golden Gophers. That forced the two to make several lengthy drives to-and-from Xcel Energy Center and arrive in Duluth as late as 1 a.m.
This weekend, the two will encounter a similar scenario, just with less driving.
Before the Swarm’s big showdown against the undefeated the Colorado Mammoth at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday evening, Cinosky and Caines will first coach the Golden Gophers in their season opener against the Wisconsin Badgers at 12 p.m.
And while the game could probably be played outside with the nice weather Minnesota is having this winter, Saturday’s season opener will be played for the first time inside the school’s new Sports Dome. The combination of a talented team and a new facility has Cinosky and Caines looking forward to this season.
“I’m excited to see how the guys come out,” Cinosky said. “We’ve got a very young, skilled offense and a pretty veteran defense as well."
Caines added, “The guys are pretty pumped about the first game at the dome. We want to mark our territory and get the first win there.”
Cinosky, who is entering his second season as head coach, has helped transform a program that was once overlooked, to one that now has its eyes set on going DI in the coming years.
“We’re trying to change the culture and the mentality of these guys,” Cinosky said. “We’ve got a great senior group and a great leadership group that’s bought into holding guys accountable, practicing hard, and working outside of the two days a week we get to practice.”
On Mondays and Wednesdays, the team can be found at the dome practicing until midnight. It's not an ideal practice time, but that hasn't stopped the team from working hard. Cinosky also starts both of those days with Swarm activities at 10 a.m.
“It’s one of those things where I really enjoy coaching,” Cinosky explained. “I’m very passionate about the sport.”
The new dome has done wonders for the program Cinosky went on to explain. The team is now able to conduct six-on-six drills on a full field and has more room to work on spacing. Both of those areas were hard to simulate in their previous practice locations.
For Caines, this is his fourth year with the Golden Gophers. The former NLL forward said juggling the duties of coaching on the professional, collegiate and youth level has become routine at this point in his career.
“I’ve been doing this for the past four years, so I know how to prepare for it,” Caines said.
Saturday’s Swarm game will certainly have an impact on how the West Division pans out in 2012. That hasn’t stopped the Swarm’s front office though from holding Cinosky and Caines back from their U of M coaching duties this weekend.
“They have made this commitment not because of the money but because of their love of the game,” Swarm Owner and President John Arlotta said. “This is typical of lacrosse people throughout the country who are dedicated to the growth of the sport but Joe and Aime go beyond even the most ardent lacrosse supporters.
“Minnesota is fortunate to have both of them living here and we are fortunate as a franchise to have them contributing to our sport at a professional level as well.”
Cinosky and Caines have also worked together on the high school level and in camps and clinics around the state. Over the past few years, a close friendship has formed.
“We come from different backgrounds, but we work well together,” Caines said. “We wouldn’t be doing it if we weren’t having fun.”
After scoring his first career NLL goal last Friday against Edmonton, Cinosky is now looking to help the Swarm improve to 4-0 at home this weekend. He said the team is eager to get a second chance against the Mammoth; the Swarm lost their season opener to Colorado 20-14 in Denver on Jan. 14. Cinosky will also have his collegiate squad in attendance cheering him on at the game.
“We’re a completely different team now and we’ve got some new faces on the floor,” Cinosky said on the Swarm. “We’re starting to come together on the back end, defensively. Offensively, we’ve got a couple of the best scorers in the league.”
After the Swarm's game on Saturday, the two will be right back at on Sunday with the U of M for a contest against Purdue in Vadnais Heights at 1 p.m. Beforehand, the two will be helping out with a coaching clinic for the Swarm’s Youth Box League, a program Caines directs.
“We’re going to be talking to a few coaches about some drills and stuff they can do to help out the youth and get them more acclimated to playing indoors in an arena or a rink as opposed to playing on a field,” Cinosky explained.
When it’s all said and done, Cinosky and Caines will have logged another weekend, jam packed with lacrosse, but that’s just the way they like it.
“I’m just living in the moment and enjoying this while I can and also setting myself up for a career later down the road with coaching,” Cinosky said.