Q&A with Loyola Academy Coach John Dwyer

John Dwyer made a name for himself as an All-American football player at Georgetown University from 1967-1970. The former running back went on to score 25 touchdowns and set school rushing records en route to a school Hall of Fame career.

But after being taught the game of lacrosse by friends during his Georgetown days, little did he know at the time that arguably his greatest impact would eventually come from that very sport. After helping the Loyola Academy (IL) girls' lacrosse program get established in 1994, Dwyer became the head coach in '01 and has never looked back since. Over the past decade, Dwyer has been an instrumental figure in growing lacrosse in the Midwest and most recently led his Ramblers to their sixth overall state title and second in a row over rival New Trier.

In this week's high school Q&A, Dwyer talks with LaxPower's Adam Warner and reveals secrets of his team's overall success, discusses the most rewarding aspects of being a high school coach, and even provides insights into his team's remarkable rivalry with New Trier.

Despite a background in football, you have quite the lacrosse resume. Talk about how you got into the game after playing football for so many years and eventually came to be head coach at Loyola.
"I played football in college, but my friends were on the lacrosse team and they played in the dorm. After spring practices, I'd go up to my friends and they would teach me the game.

When Loyola went co-ed, they wanted to mirror all of the boys' sports. At the time, they had a successful boys' lacrosse program and were looking to make it successful on the girls' side. Not too many parents, administration members, or even the athletic director knew about the sport at the time. Eventually, I became the coach in 2001 and I've been lucky that my work schedule has enabled me to fully take on the duties as head coach."

Loyola has been a consistent team for more than 10 years now, winning five of the last nine state titles. What's been the key to maintaining a winning program?
"Loyola has a lot of successful spring sports and we feel that we do a great job of attracting some of the best athletes in school to play lacrosse. Plus, we also have a very supportive administration. Roughly 90 percent of our kids had never played lacrosse when I first started. But lately, we're seeing that almost 90 percent of our athletes have played the game before they try out as freshmen.

The youth programs are also key. Now there are five competing youth programs and they go way down into the primary grades. We feel that we're getting the athletes and getting kids who have played for quite a while now."

How would you define your coaching philosophy?
"We want the kids to have fun and to do things the right way. We really put a heavy emphasis on the fundamentals. Also, we have some really athletic kids, so we try to take advantage of each individual players' skills and see how they fit into the overall team framework."

What's the most rewarding aspect of being a head lacrosse coach?
"It's most rewarding to see where we are as a state. From Loyola to New Trier to Lake Forest, we've got some terrific programs producing top-notch players. It's rewarding for myself and other coaches to see how successful they have been at the college ranks, too. It's an area that we really take great satisfaction in.

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