By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 2/18/22
AJ Porreca remembers well the disappointment of losing his senior year of lacrosse at Interboro to the start of the pandemic in 2020.
Now, only 2 years later, he is returning to Interboro as perhaps the youngest head coach in Philadelphia region history.
Porreca was named head boys’ coach at Interboro Thursday at the ripe age of 19. Still a sophomore at Neumann University, Porreca said he understands the challenges he faces.
At Interboro, Porreca was 3-year varsity letterwinner and a Second Team Pioneer Athletic Conference pick as a junior when he played longstick midfield and handled the faceoffs. Last year at Neumann, Porreca played in 10 games and scooped 11 groundballs as a backup LSM.
“I always had a background in coaching with Interboro youth and coaching was something I wanted to do,” he said. “When it came time for lacrosse (season), I felt I wanted to go into coaching now.
“I figured I would go for an assistant coaching position because I am pretty young. I just wanted to get in there, but then I heard through the grapevine that (Interboro) didn’t have anyone (for head coach) and I felt I had the knowledge and that I should throw in my application.”
Porreca realized he would need to convince Interboro’s administration that his youth would not be a hindrance. Instead, he felt it helped him – along with his enthusiasm for the program – in the interview process.
“My interviews went well. I came very prepared and it all lined up from there,” he said, noting that he is anxious to help build the Interboro youth program and connect all levels of lacrosse in the district.
Porreca’s biggest task may be working with the program’s low numbers. The Bucs went 10-6 and qualified for the District 1 AA playoffs while being competitive in the Pioneer Athletic Conference in 2019, but last year numbers were low and the Bucs struggled (1-7). What’s more, the middle school program was canceled the past two years due to the pandemic.
“I knew the situation going in,” Porreca said. But I also know what Interboro gave me. It made me a better person, and a better lacrosse player. I want to give back what it gave to me. I have some great (assistant) coaches coming in with me. They also are young, but they have the same values and we’re excited to work with the group that’s back.”
How will Porreca deal with coaching players that may be just a year or two younger than him?
“That’s a big question everyone is asking,” he said. “I think it’s an advantage. I can relate to them; we’ve all been affected by the pandemic. I know what type of problems they face since I am not too far out. I know the stresses they face and what they’re going through. I’ve gotten to play college lacrosse and that’s an advantage.”
Porreca said getting numbers up and building a work ethic and positive attitude is integral.
“I think the goal now is just getting guys (out), but no matter what the numbers are, teamwork can accomplish anything,” he said. “One thing we can control is our effort. So if we have the guys give me 100 percent effort and I give them 100 percent effort I think we’ll be fine.”
Porreca, as an LSM, enjoyed the up-tempo game. He admits it will be hard to play that style at times with low numbers, but his goal is to preach a fast-paced attack.
“I definitely like the up tempo game, and since we might be shorthanded with numbers the guys have to be conditioned well,” he said. “We need to be running hard to every groundball, doing the little things. The little things become the big things in crunch time.”
How does he expect Interboro to fare in the PAC? “Most definitely we want to be competitive,” he said. “I know this year we may take some lumps, and maybe next year too. Along the way, we’ll be rebuilding from the ground up.
“But I am confident. We’ll preach a culture of hard work and up tempo lacrosse with those gritty Interboro kids we have always seen.”