Q&A: Saint Ignatius (CA) Coach Chris Packard

After serving seven years as assistant coach for the nationally renowned Saint Ignatius Prep (CA) boys' lacrosse team, Chris Packard had some big shoes to fill when he accepted the head coaching position in late 2008. Between 2005-2008, the Wildcats accumulated a record of 69-9 under coach Greg Angilly which included a perfect season in '07 and continued to build on their tradition as one of the preeminent high school lacrosse programs in the west.

Three years after his promotion, the former Cornell lacrosse standout has proven to be quite an effective leader for the Wildcats by picking up right where his predecessors left off. Since 09, Packard has led the Wildcats to a 45-5 overall record and most recently the inaugural WCAL title in 10. Packard recently spoke with LaxPower's Adam Warner:

Talk about your background and how you eventually came to be the head coach at St. Ignatius Prep.
"I grew up on Long Island playing lacrosse and then went to Ithaca (NY) and played at Cornell under Richie Moran and Dave Pietramala. They were really influential on me in terms of giving back to the game. I eventually moved to California, ended up in San Francisco and got recruited by members of the Saint Ignatius alumni, and the position of assistant coach sounded like a fun idea to me. But when [former head coach] Greg Angilly left, things changed a bit. Everything pointed to me and I leapt into it."

Can you share some of your coaching philosophies and how you implement them with your team?
"I've really borrowed from the coaches I've had in the past. I feel that it's not just about winning lacrosse games, but being a better person in the community and that's especially important with the younger guys who look up to the older guys. There's a certain cloak of responsibility that carries a lot of weight, and I think we empower the boys to do things properly as if it's a 365-day-a-year responsibility to hold it with high regard and respect the game. And hopefully that gives the younger guys something to strive to do. We stress a lot of preparation and work ethic and being a complete person, not just a complete lacrosse player."

Do you have any coaching superstitions or habits?
"There are certainly some game-day things. For instance, I have this ritual on the gum we choose based on the opponent we play. It started back in my first year as an assistant coach. I pass out gum to the coaching staff before the games, and sometimes if we play San Ramon Valley, it will be green gum because their colors are green and yellow. Sometimes if we play a flashy team, I'll get something like peppermint to remind us how we want to play the game. It's my call on which gum to chew. The latest was a cherry cola gum, which is a bit quirky, but it's how the team is operating right now. We will graduate to something else. If we lose, we'll throw it away. There's no rhyme or reason to it, but the coaches look forward to what I've chosen."

The program has a great tradition of success and only has posted eight total losses since 06. What's the key in your mind to sustaining success over time and not just one season?
"It's a lot of things. While we've been fortunate to have so many talented players over the years, we also haven't changed our offensive or defensive philosophy since I arrived. It's the same set defense and offense since I got here in '02. I learned it at Cornell and adapted it as the game changed. So the freshmen learn it and play it for four years. We harp on being a fundamentally sound team and it's been successful. The kids know that whether we are up 10 or down 10, we play the exact same way."

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