Maryland lacrosse coach John Tillman finds creative ways to keep team together during quarantine

Different teams have different ways of dealing with a suspended season.

Maryland men’s lacrosse head coach John Tillman has been in contact with his players over the last two months, but he said it’s not the same without person- to-person contact.

“You can read body language so much better in person,” Tillman said. “You just get a better sense of where they are instead of just talking on the phone or texting. You really miss that part for sure.”

How do you keep your team together when they have to be separated? For one, there are regular meetings.

“It also allows the guys to get together and see each other,” Tillman said. “I think getting our academic adviser on there and our athletic trainers and all the coaches, so we kind of have everybody back together, which for me always makes me smile every week, when I get a chance to see everybody’s faces.”

Tillman decided to expand on the Zoom chats by adding a wrinkle: guest speakers.

“We really scratched our brains on ‘What do we want to do?’ and we kind of felt that lacrosse was going to take a back seat right now,” Tillman said. “The guys were disappointed about the season. We tried to give them maybe some things to look forward to.”

With professional lacrosse not being the windfall that other sports like football, basketball and baseball are, Tillman hopes the guests will impart some wisdom as well as fun.

“Just trying to maybe give them something to look forward to and have a few laughs, but also as leaders as athletes, you know as guys who maybe want to go into business, maybe some things some team dynamics, working with others, they could utilize going forward,” Tillman said.

So far, the Terps have had notable guests, including Washington Redskins defensive lineman Jonathan Allen. As one can imagine, the words of a 25-year old former college athlete ring true with many of the players who aren’t that much younger than Allen.

“Just hearing some of the challenges that he went through and how he had to deal with those things,” Tillman said. “Maybe realizing that the path to becoming great is never easy. I think sometimes that perspective is helpful.”

Other guests have ranged from former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Bart Scott to current Cleveland Cavaliers assistant coach Dan Geriot.

“I felt like if we could maybe surprise them with some different guests, so we wracked our brains and tried to utilize our network; man, I feel like we’ve had a pretty special guest list.”

The players aren’t the only ones benefiting, either.

“We’ve had some great speakers — I’ve learned a lot and have taken a lot of notes,” Tillman said. “There’s so many people I’d love to get on, get an hour with and pick their brain.”

It’s turned into a great way to wrap up what has been a less than ideal spring because of the pandemic.

“I think the big question now is — we’re going to finish up school soon — are we able to do this during the summer? What are the limitations with the NCAA — will they allow us to do some of these things?” Tillman said. “We’re not necessarily gaining a lacrosse advantage, but I do think we’re continuing to educate young people, which I do think is more important than anything we do on the field.”

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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