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Started from the Bottom, Now We’re Here
Utah isn’t exactly known as a hotbed for the sport of lacrosse, but that’s all starting to change. Thanks in part to the efforts of Team STX athletes Marcus Holman and Will Manny, both assistant coaches for the Utah Utes program, the sport is on the rise and gaining momentum in the state.
Just this year, the team kicked off its official journey in the sport with its first DI season. After its first victory in program history with a 13-9 win versus Mercer, eyes are on the Utes as one to watch in the coming years.
With the season in full swing, we checked in with Marcus and Will to learn what it’s like to build a program from the ground up, see how they’re balancing the college season with preparation for the inaugural PLL season, and get the scoop on what it’s actually like to coach with your best friend.
You both played for top, established programs in college — what’s it been like to come in and be a part of building a program from the ground up?
Marcus: It’s been awesome since day one! I feel fortunate to be surrounded by hardworking and passionate peers like Will and Adam Ghitelman. And having my dad as head coach is a dream come true. It’s been a lot of fun to have such an influence on the future of a brand new DI program.
Will: Having been with the program for the last two and a half years, it’s been great to learn the ins and outs of what has to happen for a program to make it to the top. I have the opportunity to work with two of my best friends and one of the best to ever do it as our boss, so I wake up every day just really grateful for where I am.
So what’s it really like coaching with your best friends and family?
Marcus: We have positive conflicts on a regular basis, which is actually how we get to a lot of new ideas. While we generally have a similar idea of what we want our style of play to be, there are eventually going to be differences in approach. Luckily, it’s never personal and everyone on our staff feels like they have a voice, thanks to great leadership from coach Brian Holman.
Will: Every day is a new adventure full of new ideas, excitement and energy. Marcus and I have very similar mentalities when it comes to offense, motion, and what we want our team to look like. If we’re thinking something different, we talk about it out loud, draw it on the board, and hear each other out to come up with a great solution.
How would you describe each other as coaches?
Marcus: Will shows up every day engaged and wants to be the best at whatever he’s doing. Having less coaching experience than him, I’ve learned a lot from him about the ins and outs of coaching on the collegiate level.
Will: Marcus does a great job of keeping the guys motivated to do the right thing. He brings energy and enthusiasm that we challenge our team to match every day. It helps because having two of us, we can play good cop/bad cop which actually works out really well.
What about as players?
Marcus: Will is a team first guy and about as passionate as they come. I can’t wait to suit up with him this summer for the PLL Archers!
Will: Marcus is a creative, high IQ lacrosse player. He knows when he wants his matchup to dodge, he’s great off ball, and can shoot the ball all over the field. His leadership, energy and enthusiasm as a coach is even stronger as a player!
In these first few seasons of your coaching careers, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
Marcus: The best lesson I’ve learned is to be authentic and get to know your players on a personal level. It’s still something I’m working on, but at the end of the day, those relationships are really what coaching is all about.
Will: For me, learning from coach Brian Holman, it’s been to continue developing and strengthening my relationship with the players. You have to be honest with them in both the good times and bad, building their confidence with the truth, and serving up a nice piece of humble pie once in a while too.
How are you juggling coaching and preparing for the inaugural season of the PLL?
Marcus: I’m trying to take the same approach as I have in previous years, but my summer travel schedule is going to be a bit hectic. I’m grateful to have amazing facilities on campus and players that I can suit up with whenever I need to work on my game!
Will: I’m lucky to get to have my stick in my hand every day at work. I work out with two of the most competitive people I know every day which helps a lot. It’s hitting that time of year as a coach where I’m really itching to play on the weekends. It really is the best of both worlds. I get to coach the game I love from September through May and then play the game I love every weekend from May through August! It’s going to be great when we all get to suit up that first weekend in Massachusetts and do what we do best…BALL OUT and GET BUCKETS!
How has your free time been looking this season? Hit the slopes lately?
Marcus: The spring has been busy but I’m trying to get 10-12 days of skiing in. Yoga is usually a great off-day activity for me. Namasté.
Will: This year, I've probably gotten close to 20 slope days so far, usually on Sundays. It’s a blessing to have these mountain ranges right in our backyard!