Q&A With McCallie (TN) Boys' Coach Troy Kemp

For nearly two decades, Troy Kemp has been the driving force behind McCallie's (TN) rise into a national lacrosse power. In 2010, Kemp's McCallie program captured its tenth overall state championship with an 8-1 victory in the TSLA title game. The Blue Tornado even took down perennial power McDonogh (MD) last season. In this week's High School Q&A feature, the longtime McCallie head coach provides a glimpse into his program, talks about the state of Tennessee lacrosse, and even previews the 2011 campaign.

Your squad has some big early season tests with St. Mark's (TX) and McDonogh on the schedule. What are your goals for the upcoming King of the Southeast Tournament (March 11-16)?

"We love to have the opportunity to travel and play top-level teams. Our goal is to win every time. From a coaching standpoint, it really helps us to prepare for the best."

Talk about some of those early years and developing the program in a non-traditional lacrosse region. What did it take to build McCallie into a contender?

"When I got here, the only kids playing lacrosse were the ones getting cut from other sports. It all started with 30 guys, and we had some pretty good athletes, but I wanted them to learn how to play the game and move the ball fast. So we started to travel and play some teams that had been around a bit and were much faster.

Some of our best athletes from the football program eventually came out for lacrosse. It transformed the mindset of lacrosse being the last stop to one of the most popular sports at the school. Eventually, we had developed a community of lacrosse, not just a team. When layered, all of these things started to develop the momentum that was necessary to keep us successful for not just one year, but every year. It's about consistency.

Montgomery Bell used to dominate everyone, but we changed some things at our program and eventually beat them in the 1996 state title game. Once you win and become a champion, other kids want to be a part of your program and you start to attract new kids. We still wanted to take things up another notch. We could compete with the Carolinas and beat the best teams, but it was time to go after the big dogs and test our mettle there. Now, we try to play a few Top 25-caliber teams every year."

Talk about the 2011 team for me a little bit. How is it different from last year's championship squad?

"The biggest difference is the number of go-to guys. On offense, we used to have two or three go-to kids. We'd give them the ball when we were down by a goal, and they would draw a double or triple team. They could change the game by themselves. This year, with guys like Hayden Cronan, Alex Scheumann and Bass Barfield, we have more balance. We have better chemistry and can't rely on the top-end guys to score four goals a game. The guys have really good off-ball awareness this season."

Talk about the state of high school lacrosse in Tennessee right now. How has it evolved?

"It has really evolved tremendously over the past 20-plus years. Many of the teams are at the club level, but we have some very talented players in the state. McCallie, Memphis University School, and Montgomery Bell Academy have been the most consistently dominant teams. We are all reaching out to play top teams from Texas, North Carolina, Kentucky, Maryland, and Georgia to help raise the level of play in the state.

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