By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 7/10/17
It was the ideal way to combine travel team tryouts with teaching and development all in one day, and for multiple regions.
Michele DeJuliis and her Ultimate Lacrosse Club staff has players in three strong regions, in South Jersey, Montgomery County and Chester County. In an effort to combine forces, Ultimate held its 2017-18 tryouts today at Westtown School with all regions working together.
The event drew about 500 girls – many of whom will make the club teams from 2018 to 2026-plus. With about 30 coaches working, the players spent 2 hours on drills and skill development with players from each region. Meanwhile, coaches had ample time to evaluate and teach.
“It was a great opportunity to see other competition from across the boards and all regions,” said DeJuliis. “We’re one team, ultimately, and we want them to have that opportunity to play together at tournaments and other places. They are buddies and we want them to see that we stand together.”
DeJuliis – known by all as “DJ” – was a four-time All American at Penn State, captain of the USA National Team that won a gold medal, an assistant coach at Princeton, a 2013 National Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee, a 2017 Eastern PA Chapter Hall of fame inductee and the first commissioner of the United Women’s Lacrosse League. She recently founded the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League.
DeJuliis, who founded Ultimate in 2001, is most interested in developing the sport. She said about 370 Ultimate players attended a 2-day skills camp earlier this summer at Westtown to help bind the region. Many of these players competed the past weekend at The Grind, a tournament run by DeJuliis’ Ultimate Events and held at five Chester County sites.
“This freshens it up and makes it really competitive,” she said. “These kids rise to the occasion even after a long weekend (of tournament lacrosse). They come out and even though it is hot, they pick each other up and back each other up.
“This gives our coaches the chance to get eyes on every kid. If a kid wants feedback, we provide them with good information on things they can do to improve on or what did great. It’s another opportunity to better their skills.”
DeJuliis said some players wil not make the teams, but if the players are strong enough some can be placed on a second age-group squad and players can change positions. Training options are provided for all players.
DeJuliis said her focus on development is strengthened by the new recruiting rules. Now that D1 coaches cannot communicate with players until Sept. 1 of their junior years, the crazy pressures to commit as freshmen and sophomores has ended.
“It’s a good thing because it allows kids to have their high school life back,” said DeJuliis. “They can play multiple sports if they want to. They deserve that. This does increase the workload of us as a staff, but that’s our job – to get information to them and to them help them in the process between now and Sept. 1 of their junior years so they can really figure out what kind of school they want to go to.
“What kids want at 13 or 14 is often very different than what they will want at 18. So for them to have the opportunity to explore all their options and not feel pressure to go somewhere or lose an offer for a school here or there it great. Now, the can relax. They are still staying on top of it and educating themselves on schools they are interested in.”
What is the mission of Ultimate lacrosse?
“We are all about development; that’s a key part of their success as student-athletes. We always preach to them to work hard in the classroom and off the field. With great development comes recruiting. We don’t focus on (getting D1 commits). We want them to get the training they need to be the best they can. Obviously, we want to educate them and their parents through the (recruiting) process and to update them with the latest changes so they are well prepared.
“It is important that we give them the tools they need to be successful. A hop topic is character development. We want our kids not only to be great players but great people.
“So doing the right thing, and making good decisions is important. That goes into social media and helping them understand life skills better than they would otherwise understand. We always talk about that you’re representing yourself, your school, your club, and your coaches. They need to respect themselves, their teammates and coaches, officials and fans. We reiterate that all the time. When we see something that’s out of character of what we want the club to represent we address it. We have a role as leaders in our sport and athletics in general and we have enough coaches that have awesome experience that believe in the same things.”