By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/13/14
Greg Gurenlian has a message for the nation’s high school face-off specialists: Become more athletic and don’t think you can cheat at the X.
Gurenlian, Team USA FOGO and a perennial All-MLL player who runs the Faceoff Academy, came to Philly Sunday to provide training at the Philly Faceoff League at Cabrini College where the region’s top face-off players meet weekly for training and head-to-head practice.
Gurenlian worked the group of 30 high school and middle school players hard on drills using the new college face-off rules that will be employed by some high schools in 2015 and all in 2016.
Gurenlian said the main changes are: (1) there will be two referees watching the face-off; (2) players will have to set down their sticks before the ball is placed; (3) players can’t carry the ball in the back of the stick.
“High school guys have a year unless they are following the NCAA rules,” said Gurenlian. “But we are telling them that if they want to be a more attractive recruit it will help you a lot if you can show colleges that you can pop the ball out and not just run around with it in the back of your stick.
“Guys will have to be more athletic and have better footwork.”
Gurenlian, who played high school at nearby Springfield-Delco, analyzed the rule changes.
“There are going to be two referees there – two pairs of eyes on the face-off, which is great,” he said. “The referee will go down. He’s going to come in from the top so if you are leaning and used to rolling to the face-off, you’re going to have a lot of trouble.
“The third thing I like a lot is that you’re going to have to be able to pop the ball out straight away; you can’t run with it in the back of your stick.”
“The guys who have been cheating are the ones screaming,” he said. “The guys who are more athletic and training the right way, and were great, will be greater now. The guys who will perish are the ones getting away with cheating.
“We talk to the guys and tell them: ‘Adapt and dominate.’ They change the rules every two years to keep up with cheating. Now, we have social media so people freak out about it. Our guys will do well; athletic guys will dominate.”
Sunday’s Faceoff League King of the X champion, Haverford School 2015 Colin Bosak (Navy commit), said it was beneficial to work with Gurenlian on all aspects of the face-off using the new rules. Haverford is a member of the The Inter-Ac League, which will employ the new rules in league games.
“We have been working with our school coaches on these rules and we took what we learned from there and we learned more in-depth stuff today,” he said. “Not only are you not allowed to pull it forward without picking it up, it has to be in one motion; right away from the ground in one quick sweep.
“The way you line up is actually more beneficial for quicker guys. Now we go down first and he (the referee) puts his foot down on the line and you put your stick down and you get checked. He puts the ball down and stays set and quickly backpedals and then blows the whistle. Now there are two sets of eyes on you, not one ref backing up and going off to the side.”
Has Bosak made changes in preparation?
“Before, I was overhand and rotated from my knee and went straight up and used a harder clamp,” he said. “Now I use an underclamp and a real quick lunge instead of pinch and pop.”
How did Gurenlian help his techniques?
“He brings a lot to the table with his teaching,” Bosak said. “He teaches little stuff like footwork and head-to-head. He follows good footwork and hand placement. We actually threw our sticks down and worked on footwork. It really helped.”
Gurenlian said it was great to come home to see top Philly face-off players working to improve.
“What I love about Philly uys is the blue collar feel,” he said. “That’s not to say there are not blue collar guys in other areas. But especially from the northeast, too many kids feel playing college is a birthright, (like they say) ‘I’m good in high school, I am set. I just want to take live facoffs and I don’t want to worry about get better.’
“You had a group of kids today with one of the highest concentrations of elite faceoff guys that you’re ever going to see; some of the best kids from southeastern Pennsylvania. That’s a superior hotbed amongst the Marylands and Long Islands of the world.
“The difference is they want to come an continue to get better. I am 30 and an MLL guy and I still practice like a guy who didn’t think he was going to make varsity as a freshman. What I saw today was the blue collar guys from Philly coming in again and no matter how good they are, whether they are committed to Navy or trying to make varsity, competed at the same exact intensity level. That’s what I love coming home to see.”