In our ongoing Coaches on Coaching series, Swax Lax interviewed Coach John Bodnar. Coach Bodnar created 1st Start Lacrosse to be a "super-fun starter program,” and it’s proven to have a positive impact on young players in the Philadelphia area. Coach Bodnar, a former stand-out high school and college player, also runs a face-off program for more advanced players in the area.
Here's what John told us:
Creating a Positive Impact on Young Lacrosse Players
How did your love affair with lacrosse begin?
My love affair with lacrosse started when I was a young kid throwing a ball around with my sister in my backyard. My dad played lacrosse in college so we always had sticks lying around as far back as I can remember.
Why did you start 1st Start Lacrosse in Philadelphia with a specific focus on young players? Why that market?
As a new father myself, I know there aren’t many introductory programs for sports such as lacrosse being offered. A lot of places try to rush young kids into putting on equipment when they aren’t comfortable or even know anything about the actual sport itself.
1st Start Lacrosse is all about making our players' first experience with lacrosse a fun and positive one. The main goal I have for our players is at the end of every season they want to keep playing. Whether it’s with us or somewhere else, I just want all players to realize how fun a sport lacrosse can be.
You also teach faceoffs, a critical, specialty skill. How did you get involved?
My partner Mike Dolente and I started the Philly Faceoff League back in 2013 for players in the Philly area who wanted more practice facing off. At the time there was nothing out there where players could go on a weekly basis and get better at facing off. At the time, Mike and I worked with a number of different players through private lessons, but we decided to hold joint sessions where guys could all practice against each other. It was a hit and we’ve been doing it ever since. We’ve helped more than 100 faceoff guys in the Philly area go on to play at the next level at D1, D2 ,and D3 colleges.
How has the use of Swax Lax balls helped your program?
We started using Swax Lax balls this year at 1st Start, and they have helped tremendously with our younger players. We were using tennis balls, but what’s great about the Swax Lax ball is that it has the real feel of a lacrosse ball but it’s not as hard or as dangerous to use as a traditional ball. Our players have a much easier time learning and picking up the motion of scooping with our Swax Lax balls.
What is some advice you can give to a coach that wants to follow your lead and start a program in a new lacrosse area?
My advice to a coach who wants to start a program is to believe in yourself and always make sure you’re having fun. Kids at these young ages really feed off your energy so the more enthusiastic you are, the more you will get out of them.