The Johns Hopkins Gazette: April 21, 2003
April 21, 2003
VOL. 32, NO. 31


Time Out With... Janine Tucker, lacrosse coach: She wrote the book

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Janine Tucker has the coach's rasp, that cool, throaty voice perpetually on the verge of cracking. No doubt hers is the by-product of barking out play calls and instructions--for the better part of her adult life--to players 10, 20 or maybe 50 yards away.

Last summer, Tucker gave her vocal chords a slight rest. She let her written words do the talking instead.

Tucker, now in her ninth season as head women's lacrosse coach at Johns Hopkins, this year added "author" to her resume. Her new book, The Baffled Parent's Guide To Coaching Girls' Lacrosse (McGraw-Hill, $14.95), is geared to teaching the sport's fundamentals to parents and coaches of female preteens. Filling a hole in the sports publishing landscape, the work has already been dubbed by some "the bible" of girls' lacrosse.

Janine Tucker, Johns Hopkins' most winning women's lax coach, is the author of a new book called 'A Baffled Parent's Guide to Coaching Girl' Lacrosse.'

Tucker is JHU's third women's lacrosse coach and, as of this season, has racked up the most wins. In 1999, she was at the helm when the Blue Jays moved from the NCAA Division III ranks to Division I. One year later, she led the team to a post-season appearance and reached the Eastern College Athletic Conference final.

A former All-American lacrosse player at Loyola, Tucker also directs the Johns Hopkins All-Star Girls Lacrosse Camp each summer and is co-director of the Elite 300 Women's Lacrosse Camp, whose purpose is to bring together and instruct the nation's top high school girls in the sport.

The Gazette sat down with this coach and mom of two recently to discuss her new book and the region's beloved stick-and-ball game.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?
A: I didn't feel like there were a whole lot of high-quality materials out there at the time for newer coaches, those on the youth, recreation council and high school levels. The game has changed so much, just over the past five years, that I thought it was really important to try to put some of the more progressive tactics down on paper. I wish somebody would have had something like this for me when I started coaching.

Q: There is a book out there for boys' lacrosse with a similar name, right?
A: Yes, same publisher. It's part of a series.

Q. Was the publisher planning a girls' version?
A: I don't think so. They seemed pretty happy with just the boy book. But the photographer for the boys' version, who took pictures for it of my two sons playing lacrosse, pushed for me to have a girls' version made. That is how it all materialized.

Q: Respectfully, why didn't the publisher simply adapt the boys' book, change a few pronouns A: Boys' lacrosse and girls' lacrosse are completely different games--completely different skills, tactics and strategies. There are different sticks that are used; the boys have a larger pocket than the girls do. The field setup is different. Boys use equipment; girls do not. Boys have protective padding and can hit each other, and girls cannot. It is definitely not the same game.

Q: The title of the book is not a PC slip, right? It's actually geared for girls. A: This book was designed with coaches of 6-to-12-year-olds in mind. However, because we focused on the more progressive styles of the game, I think that high school coaches, rec league coaches, youth coaches and even some college coaches could pick up a few tidbits from the book.

Q: How were you coached during your preteen and teen years?
A: Well, I didn't start playing lacrosse until I was a sophomore in high school. But I would say I was coached very traditionally.

Q: The book touts the sport's growth. How popular has it become?
A: It is growing all over the country. It's international now. It is really exploding. Q: I wonder if "lacrosse moms" will enter the vernacular?
A: I hope so. That is the plan.

Q: What do you think is drawing kids to this sport?
A: It's a very fun sport to play, a very easy one to pick up. It's very free-flowing. Sometimes the rules get a little bit complicated, with boundaries and things like that, but the game itself is fast-paced, and kids seem to enjoy that. Q: Did you consult with many people for this book?
A: I talked to a couple of youth coaches in the area who I was friends with. I tried to get their feedback on a number of different issues for that level of play. I also talked with Pat Dillon, head of all the officials of U.S. women's lacrosse.

Q: What are some of the major changes in the game?
A: The athletes are bigger, stronger and faster. There is an increased ability to handle the sticks. I think the development of the new sticks has really allowed for extremely creative stick skills and stick handling ability. It's also a much flashier game nowadays. The other big thing is the addition of a restraining line four years ago. Now, you are only allowed to have seven players on the offensive end and seven defenders plus the goalie on the other end. Before, you could bring everyone down and there would be like this 11 on 11 in front of the cage. It was a big mess.

Q: Tell me about the book's contributor [Maryalice Yakutchik]. A: She is a freelance writer who lives in Monkton, Md. She was a former player herself and has a daughter who is now 10 years old. She has been coaching her daughter's youth team for about five years now. The first time we got on the phone and started talking [about the book] we just instantly hit it off, with our similar philosophies and our love of the game.

Q: How did the collaboration work?
A: For the most part I would just sit there and talk and talk and talk, and she would type and type and type. (Laughs.) And then we would go back through it and tweak it, going back and forth on what we liked and didn't like.

Q: Was writing a book always in the back of your mind?
A: I actually thought more along the lines of making a videotape at some point. I wanted to be able to document a lot of what we were doing here at Johns Hopkins and be able to share that. So I thought a videotape and a CD, and maybe a manual, would go with that. But never did I think I would write an actual book in a series of sports books.

Q: What are common mistakes in teaching girls' lacrosse?
A: It is a big unknown. When you have a mom or dad who has never played the sport before or, even if they did, had played it many years ago, we felt they needed to be told, or be guided, in some of the newer type of things being taught and how they were being taught. In addition, there were a lot of dads out there who were bringing their knowledge of boys' lacrosse to the girls' game, but they still weren't sure about the little idiosyncracies that really do separate the two sports. You need to talk to little girls a little bit differently than you talk to little boys. There is a piece in the book about the type of atmosphere that you create for these young girls.

Q: I guess some bad habits can develop during these formative years. Do players bring some of these habits to the college level?
A: Oh yeah, there are lots of bad habits that need to be broken. Freshmen come in on all different levels. Some come here as superstars, who've been taught correctly and have a good conceptual understanding of the game. And then some show up who are completely raw talent. They are just little pieces of clay waiting to be molded.

Q: The book jacket talks about "tips on surviving the first practice." What is so tough about the first practice?
A: I think that anybody who takes responsibility for 18 to 20 screaming 6-to-12-year-old kids is going to be a little nervous that first time out. I think if you just throw anybody out there and say, design a lacrosse practice and run it for an hour and a half, well, that is a little bit daunting if you are not used to doing it.

Q: What is the current state of collegiate and Johns Hopkins women's lacrosse?
A: Collegiate lacrosse is booming. There are schools--Division I, II and III schools--that are being added every year. That has been tremendously exciting. As for Hopkins, this is our fifth year in Division I, and ever since our second year we've been ranked in the top 20. Right now our goal is to be in the top 10. We are trying to building a tradition on this level like our men have.

Q: You do a lot of speaking engagements. When did you become such an outspoken booster for women's lacrosse?
A: I just kept getting asked, I guess. I devoted a lot of time and energy to growing the sport, and I think when people hear me speak, well, I guess they like what they hear. I really enjoy it, too. I enjoy trying to get people excited about a sport that I really do love.