By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 9/8/11
Brian Kelly, a 1999 Downingtown High graduate, is entering his fourth year as head coach at Whittier College, just southeast of Los Angeles, CA.
Kelly – who has a 19-19 career record – brought his Poets to Philly this year and suffered heartbreaking losses to Ursinus (6-5) and Swarthmore (7-6) before taking a 13-1 defeat at Cabrini. In 2012 Whittier will travel to Philly for Spring Break to play Swarthmore, Messiah, Elizabethtown and Cabrini during the last week of March.
He gave this question-and-answer interview with Phillylacrosse.com on his task of building a growing Division III program in the young hotbed of California lacrosse.
Brian Kelly log:
All State player at Downingtown HS in 1999
2x All-American at Whittier College (’02 & ’03)
Drafted by the Philadelphia Barrage (’03)
Member of the Anaheim Storm (NLL ’04, ’05)
Team USA tryout participant (’05)
Member of LA Riptide (MLL ’06, ’08)
Member of San Francisco Dragons (MLL ’07)
Current player on the LXM Pro Tour
Question: How do you describe the boom of lacrosse out West?
Kelly: “The growth of the sport has been tremendous nationwide, but it’s really taken off on the West Coast. The sheer amount of kids playing out here today compared to 10 years ago is truly remarkable.
“Many people don’t realize that outside of New York, California currently has the most high school teams participating in lacrosse of any other state in the US. Our program has really been a pioneer and catalyst for the expansion of lacrosse and it’s great to see how much the sport is taking root outside of traditional hotbeds.”
Question: What does Whittier have to offer a Philly kid as far as academics, lacrosse and exposure to a different part of the country?
Kelly: “First and foremost, Whittier offers any kid a unique opportunity to compete in Southern California at a high level within NCAA Division III lacrosse. I think the biggest thing a Philadelphia kid can get from attending our school is a college experience that will give them a perspective on life that they otherwise might not be able get at other schools.
“In my opinion, college is about getting out of your comfort zone and growing not only academically, but as an individual as well. We are a strong liberal arts school that prides itself on diversity and self-discovery. Academically we offer 30 majors in a small class setting, but also have a unique program that allows students to design their own major. Los Angeles is truly a melting pot and hub for an endless amount of entertainment and recreational opportunities. Perfect weather is a bonus as well!
Question: Why do you enjoy coaching at Whittier?
Kelly: “I enjoy coaching here for quite a few reasons. Most importantly it’s an opportunity to do something I absolutely love in a program that I feel extremely connected to. Secondly, I really enjoy what Whittier Lacrosse is all about.
“Being a lacrosse player at Whittier is a truly unique experience. On one hand you are in an incredibly populated metropolitan area, but at the same time we are in isolation from the NCAA lacrosse world. I think that isolation can really be a breeding ground for camaraderie. We have one of the most diverse rosters in college lacrosse – we represent three countries and over 10 different states. Again, college is all about growing and learning, and I think Whittier can offer a broader perspective than most NCAA lacrosse experiences.
Question: What are the goals of your program?
Kelly: “Whittier Lacrosse has always been about a group of guys from all over the country (and in some cases the world) that come together in ‘NCAA lacrosse isolation’ to grow the sport and achieve goals that are unprecedented in the lacrosse world.
“Our goal is to find guys who take pride in that idea, and want to see how good they can become. While we are still recovering from a coaching carousel a few years back, our long term goal is to get back to the NCAA playoffs and compete for a DIII National Championship like we grew accustomed to doing in the not so distant past.
“Although the program has existed for nearly 30 years, we played a full time DIII schedule for the first time in 2000 and were in the Final Four by 2003 – pretty remarkable! I see no reason why we can’t get back to that point, but we obviously need to find the right kids that want to buy in and be a part of what we represent out here on the West Coast.”
Whittier lacrosse website – http://www.wcpoets.com/sports/mlax/index
Whittier recruiting questionnaire – https://team.fieldlevel.com/contact/whittier/lacrossemen