By Anthony Caruso III
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 2/27/20
Spencer Ford was recently introduced as the new head coach of the new Philadelphia Barrage of Major League Lacrosse. He transitions to the post after spending more than the last decade as a GM with the Chesapeake Bayhawks and the Atlanta Blaze of the MLL.
This will be Ford’s first head coaching job in the MLL. He is also the special assistant to the MLL Commissioner for Alumni Development.
Ford, former MLL player – who played for the several teams from 2001 through 2009 – is also an assistant coach at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, Maryland.
Ford, a Baltimore native, answered these questions in an exclusive interview with Phillylacrosse.com.
Q: How may being a personnel guy help you being the new Barrage head coach?
SF: “I think that it’s going to help me. Over the last decade, I have built championship teams. I understand the caliber of player it takes to play in the league, as well as not only the caliber-wise, but also the character, it would take to bring one into a different culture. It takes a little bit of luck to win a championship. But those pieces have to be put together, like a puzzle, the proper way so that they can carry themselves through training camp, the first stage of the season, into the playoffs, and then be ready to compete for a championship. I think that is very helpful to understand the layout of players and what they bring to the table.”
Q: Could you talk about the adjustments you may have to make as a coach in the high school game to the pro level that you may face?
SF: “I don’t think there will be an adjustment that I will have to make going from high school to pro. The adjustment that I do make is going from pro to high school. You have to remember I do this pro thing full-time and I am consistently with these guys, plus I watch high-level college lacrosse. When I go back to my high school team, it’s a little bit harder and the expectation is probably greater in my mind, because of who I have seen, who I have played with, and who I have coached. For the high school guys, I’m around them every day starting now, but the majority of the year, I’m with the pro guys. I’m expecting the high school kids to do the same thing that these pro guys can do, which is obviously impossible.”
Q: Could you talk about the Atlanta Blaze players who are expected to be a part of the Barrage team and how they will help you build the roster?
SF: “I’ve drafted every one of these players over the last four years. I’ve been around the MLL game since I stopped playing in 2009. I became a general manager in 2010 [with the Chesapeake Bayhawks], but I’ve been around this game for 20-years of my life. I know all of these kids and I’ve drafted a lot of them. I know all of them on the other teams. I also know a lot about the kids who are coming out of college. I’m very comfortable with the players, who are coming out of Atlanta that will be coming to Philadelphia. We do have to add a couple of pieces — and we’re looking to get a tremendous amount tougher on the defensive end. We’re going to try to add in a few offensive players in, as well.”
Q: Would you say there is more pressure on you and (President) Mark Burdett to bring the Philadelphia Barrage back with its storied history of three MLL Championships?
SF: “You’re (darn) right it does. It puts a (heck) of a lot of pressure on us. For their last championship in ‘07, I was a player on the other team [Los Angeles Riptide] and they beat me in that game. I am extra excited to go and compete for our own title, but it absolutely does put more pressure on us. I think Philadelphia breeds a winning culture. I think their NLL team is doing very well this year. Philadelphia has had a tremendous amount of success with all of its teams. The last time the Philadelphia Barrage was there, even in ‘08, when they considered themselves the Philadelphia Barrage, but were the road team, they still went to the semifinals and lost in overtime. That was a group that could have won four championships in five years. There’s a tremendous amount of excitement, but at the same time, there is a tremendous amount of pressure we as competitors put on ourselves. Mark wants to make this thing happen and as a coach, I certainly want to, too. The players are itching to get back out there. The players will similar style uniforms that they were back the day and really compete for the City and the people, who previously wore those uniforms.”
Q: Could you potentially bring in a member of the Philadelphia Wings?
SF: “Liam Byrnes, who already plays for the Philadelphia Wings, is our captain. We’re trying to bring back local, Philadelphia players, who want to compete for championships. We’re looking at the Wings, but more importantly, local talent, who were looking to give a shot to. As long as they have ties to the area, we’re going to look at them.”
Q: Philadelphia has a passionate fan base. How are you going to adjust to that? One minute, they could be cheering for you, but the next, they’ll boo you.
SF: “I grew up watching the Rocky movies and I grew up skating in Philadelphia. Our assistant coaches are going to be from Philadelphia. I think it’s going to be a great surprise when I announce who they are. The bottom line is, we’re going to win. We’re going to do everything we can to win and hopefully, the city will get behind it. I want the city to be proud in the way we carry ourselves, but also in the level of intensity of play that we’ll play with. I think if we can go in there and we can fight and we have great intensity, along with great passion for the sport, we could get the city to support us. I think it’ll be easy for them to get behind us. Of course, if we go in there and lay an egg, which I’m hoping that we don’t, then I would expect them to boo us. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Q: What was it like running up the Rocky steps in front of the Art Museum recently after the team was announced?
SF: “It was tiring. Back in the day, I used to sit at home with my dad — even through my younger years in high school — and watch the Rocky movies with my dad. I would watch them to get myself prepared to play in a game the next day. Seeing the Rocky statue and being able to go up the stairs, I put myself in that moment. It is such a special amazing moment and movie to me in a special time. I’m honored to be able to represent Philadelphia, as my mom was raised. I’m super excited about this opportunity. The movie itself has great meaning in my heart. Hopefully, we can carry some of that onto the field.”
Q: Bringing the Cup back to Philadelphia. What would it mean to you to accomplish this achievement?
SF: “Philadelphia deserves to win. They deserve to win at all costs. At the end of the day, that’s why we all do this. We all compete to win championships. I would say if they argued that’s not why they compete, I would call them liars. Our goal is to go in there and win every single game and compete for championships. To have family ties and have Philadelphia close to my heart, it would be a great honor to achieve it. And to do it with the guys — not only the players, but the coaches, who are doing this, it would mean a heck of a lot more. It’s hard because I can’t introduce the coaches yet, but I think each one of us has a touch of Philly in our hearts. To do it for the city along with one another, it would be a great, great honor. I am bring in Philadelphians. They are Philadelphia born and raised. It’s in their hearts and in their blood. They bleed that Eagle blood. They bleed this stuff and that’s what we’re bringing back. They’re going to bring the passion and intensity that we’re going to bring onto the field. We hope that people can get behind it.”