Trends in Sports

TRENDS IN SPORTS: Talking Lacrosse with Matt Madalon, Princeton Head Coach Men’s Program

I was delighted I could arrange an interview with Matt Madalon on my show today. We all know that lacrosse has become one of the most popular sports with kids today, but having a chance to chat with Matt was personally rewarding for me.

That’s because I hadn’t seen Matt since he and my son John played for two years as teammates in the Darien (CT) ice hockey program when they were middle-school age. Matt and John both played as forwards, and along the way, as a sports parent, I got to know Matt’s dad, Joe, who is one of the world’s nicest people.

And there’s more. Scott Madalon – Matt’s uncle – played for me when I coached college baseball at Mercy College. Scott was a fierce competitor, and as a closer, he was an absolute flamethrower for me. It was great fun to have coached him. I also knew and played against another Madalon uncle, Howie, who was a top ballplayer at Pace University and in the summer semi-pro leagues.

Meanwhile, back to Matt. After graduating from Darien HS, he went on to become an  All-American lax goalie at Div III Roanoke College. Matt was talented enough to eventually sign a contract and play professionally in Major League Soccer.

As a result, as we fielded excellent calls today, Matt made it clear that he’s a big fan of Div. III lax, as he points out (and I of course agree) it’s more important to play and get quality playing time at a D-III program than to just ride the bench at a D-I school. Matt is Exhibit A: If he hadn’t gone to Roanoke where he played and starred, Matt might have “died on the vine” riding the pines at a D-I school.

In any event, the Princeton Tigers were 9-6 overall, and finished 4-2 in the Ivy League, and preseason predictions are looking good for Princeton. Matt is in his third year as the head coach

We covered a lot of ground this AM, but here are the headlines:

RECRUITING: For a long time, college lax coaches have been tried to tap into the youth market to recruit kids as young as 8th and 9th grade. As Coach Madalon pointed out, that madness has been curtailed by the NCAA. These days, lax coaches are not allowed to contact to prospective students until the youngster reaches September of their junior year. Amen — that rule makes a lot of sense, and also takes a lot of pressure off developing lax players.

Matt also made it clear that he and his staff definitely review high-light reels and videos from kids who are interested in applying, plus he attends a number of major showcases and tournaments each spring and summer.

SHOT CLOCK: Matt does feel that it’s only a matter of time before a shot clock is implemented into the college game. From his perspective, it just adds more excitement and impetus to the game. He’s thinking a shot clock could be adopted as early as 2019.

ANALYTICS: As with the other major sports in this country, Matt says that analytics are also beginning to become more commonplace in lax. They aren’t as in depth as say, baseball or basketball, but they are definitely working their way into lax.

YOUTH AND TRAVEL PROGRAMS: Because the growth of lax has been so explosive all over the country, as one caller from Wisconsin said, it’s still hard to find enough talented youth coaches. Plus there are still concerns about travel teams being more about paydays for coaches than actually providing solid instruction. Matt was aware of this, but did point out that US Lacrosse, the governing body of the sport, is continuing to step up its efforts to make youth instruction much more uniform, easily accessible online, and cautions parents to check on the prices of joining a travel program.

CONCUSSIONS AND COMMODIO CORTIS: Another caller talked about health issues, including the number of cases over the years of lax players being struck by the ball hard in their chest and suffering a rare condition called commodio cordis. This rare injury is usually fatal as it causes a sudden heart attack. Madalon (as a former goalie) is well aware of this most serious problem, and made it clear that all of his players now wear protective shields over their sternum in order to cut down on potential heart attacks due to being struck by the ball.

Same goes for concussions. Coach Madalon is very much aware that lax should be viewed as a skill sport, not a contact one. He even went so far as to predict that he feels that traditional contact in men’s lax will probably be ruled illegal in the years to come.

Overall, a most fascinating conversation with one of the real up-and-comer’s in the sport of lax. If you’d like to hear the full interview, go to WFAN.com and find the link to podcasts.