Joe Cinosky draws up a play Tuesday evening at Mounds View H.S. Photo by Kris Irussi
Joe Cinosky has worn many different hats throughout his young career as a lacrosse player.
On the field, Cinosky has won a gold medal with the U.S. Men’s team, two MLL championships, and earned All-American honors while playing at the University of Maryland and Mountain Lakes H.S. during his prep days.
And of course, Cinosky also helps anchor the Swarm’s defense every winter on Treasure Island Field.
But to the lacrosse community in the Twin Cities, Cinosky’s impact on the turf is only part of the story.
In his three years as a defenseman with the Swarm, Cinosky’s passion for lacrosse has also spilled over to the sidelines as a coach.
The 25-year-old East Coast native is currently the head coach for both the University of Minnesota Men’s team and the Mounds View H.S. Boy’s team.
Under his leadership, Cinosky helped both teams finish in first place in their respective conferences during the regular season this spring.
“I think the most rewarding part is seeing the kids I’ve been able to coach grow as players and then seeing them turn into young adults,” Cinosky says.
The Balancing Act
Cinosky will be the first one to tell you that the balancing act of being a professional athlete and a coach is no easy task. Serving in multiple roles within the lacrosse community involves a significant time commitment and many long, travel filled weekends.
But those reasons haven’t stopped Cinosky from doing what he loves. One weekend this past April serves as a prime example.
As the Swarm prepared to face the Philadelphia Wings at home on Saturday, April 16, Cinosky was also busy prepping his Golden Gophers all weekend long.
On Friday, Cinosky traveled to Duluth and coached his team to an 8-7 overtime victory against the UMD Bulldogs. Cinosky then returned to the Twin Cities at 1 a.m. that night to get ready for Saturday’s Swarm game.
The next morning, Cinosky was up bright and early for the team’s shootaround. A few hours later, Cinosky dished out a season-high two assists in the Swarm’s playoff clinching win against the Wings, but before there was any time to celebrate, he was already back on the road heading up to Duluth to coach again on Sunday.
The juggling job of playing and coaching is a year round effort for Cinosky. As one season wraps up, another one begins. Now as his Mounds View Mustangs enter the playoffs, Cinosky has once again begun play with the defending champion Chesapeake Bayhawks of the MLL, whose season started a few weeks ago.
That requires Cinosky to occasionally fly out to the East Coast on the weekends, and then return home to Minneapolis to coach during the workweek.
“It’s very similar to the Swarm season,” he says. “We’re flying out a day or two before the game and then returning early in the morning after gamedays.”
Two years ago, I spoke to Cinosky shortly after he had landed the head coaching position at Mounds View.
“I’m going to do everything I can to make the Mounds View kids better,” Cinosky said in the interview.
Cinosky has lived up to his word and this spring, Mounds View captured the Suburban East conference title after a (10-2, 6-1 Suburban East) finish.
Cinosky and his #8 ranked Mustangs have spent this week in Arden Hills preparing for the second part of their season, the postseason.
“It’s funny because as a player I never really get nervous during games,” Cinosky says. “I’m usually pretty even keel, and can remained focused. But as a coach I get extremely nervous going into the playoffs. The biggest difference is not having complete control over what goes on the field.”
Sporting a backwards cap, and the latest lacrosse apparel, Cinosky fits right in with his players.
There’s only one slight difference. The Maryland Terrapin product towers over his team at 6-foot-3, and 220-pounds.
At practice, Cinosky keeps the tempo fast, while yelling out instructions.
“Terps!” he yelled out to the team during a drill. “Here we go. Play it.”
By the end of practice, a handful of different plays were called out.
Like “Terps”, all of them are named after well-known lacrosse schools. Duke, Denver, and Syracuse are just a few of the other schools Cinosky has used to title his plays.
“I like to mimic what works,” he says. “We’re basically mimicking the plays on the DI level, but simplifying them and running them at the high school level. The kids also like hearing big DI school names that they can relate to and it’s very easy for them to understand because they look up to those guys.”
After hearing “Terps” called out several times in practice, one might assume the play named after his alma mater is his team’s go-to play.
“The Terps play is actually a secret weapon,” Cinosky said with a chuckle. “I can’t disclose anymore information about that one.”
Bringing East Coast Lacrosse to Minnesota
During my interview with Cinosky a while back, I also asked him why he got into coaching.
Cinosky responded, “I think coaching is my best attribute in the lacrosse community. Not only do I want to help these kids become better lacrosse players, but I want to teach them some life lessons as well to help them to become better people.”
He soon went on to explain another one of his goals at the time, his desire to coach on the collegiate level. This past summer, Cinosky was named the head coach of the Gophers, which brought forth yet another chapter in his lacrosse career.
In his first year, Cinosky led the Gophers to a (6-6, 4-1 UMLL) record and a first place finish in the UMLL during the regular season.
“I was very pleased this season,” Cinosky says. “To be able to go up to Duluth and beat them on their home field was a big step for our program.
“We have a lot of steps we still have to take in order to reach the next level. We’ve made some great progress this season and guys have dedicated their lives to the program and have become better lacrosse players.”
Like many other programs in the Midwest, Cinosky is determined to increase the competitiveness in the area. In order for the Gophers and other schools ‘to reach the next level’, Cinsoky believes it starts from the ground up through youth coaching.
“The skills are there in the players,” he says. “It’s just teaching kids the fundamental skill set that you’re almost born with on the East Coast and bringing that to Minnesota.”
To help lacrosse players across the Twin Cities develop proper fundamentals, Cinosky also helps operate a youth program called Lakeshore Lax. Other instructors include former East Coast collegiate stars; forward Zack Greer (Duke/Bryant), goalie Scott Rodgers (Notre Dame), and forward Ryan Hurley (Cornell). Together, the foursome offers hands-on training through camps and clinics around the metro area.
Minnesota is on the Rise
A few weeks ago, Maverick Lacrosse, who sponsors Cinosky, filmed a short documentary titled, “Laker Pride”, which relives Cinosky’s All-American playing days at Mountain Lakes H.S. in New Jersey.
“This is where it all started,” Cinosky said in the video.
Now having returned to the high school level as a coach in Minnesota, Cinosky is instilling the same dream he once had into his players.
When asked if he’s seen any resemblance between the high school lacrosse landscape in New Jersey and in Minnesota, Cinosky quickly responded, “Absolutely, the athletes are here.”
“Growing up in New Jersey we always had some big football players who played lacrosse and wanted to hit somebody and it was also at a very high level,” he went on to explain.
“Now we are sort of seeing the same thing here in Minnesota. There are some big, athletic kids out there that are a little raw as far as their fundamental skills, but the passion and the athleticism are definitely there.”
Joe and his Mustangs will take on Spring Lake Park on Thursday, May 26 at 7:00 p.m. at Mounds View High School in the Section 4 Quarterfinals.
Photo Credit: Kris Irussi