As the stadium lights shine on the turf on a cold, rainy spring night, the high school boys lacrosse team trains in the hopes of solidifying itself as a historic Bexley program.
Entering his third season, head coach Mike Bassani said his goals start with raising the expectations for the team as well as making the overall culture of the program his own.
“It’s a slow process,” Bassani said. “We want to build this into a competitive program.”
He added that not only does this culture change need to occur at the varsity level, but it must originate with the youth and middle school programs. The better established the programs are, the easier it is for younger players to develop into the players the high school needs, Bassani said.
“We have 19 freshmen this year, a huge number, and hopefully that increases as time goes on,” he explained.
Senior captain Colin Ryan said that the shift in the dynamics from his freshman year to now is very evident.
“Coach Bassani has brought a really positive new direction for the program,” Ryan said. “We’re just a lot more dedicated now than we were freshman year, and I think that shows on the field.”
One major adjustment to the program is the change in how success is measured, Bassani explained. While winning is important, he said, the coaching staff doesn’t solely consider the outcome of the game but instead the main goals set before the game.
“We focus on what we can control,” Bassani said. “We can control our effort, we can control our attitude and we can control our preparation.”
He explained that this season’s goal is to win the big make-or-break games against teams such as Columbus Academy and Granville.
“Last year, there was a pretty big disparity,” Bassani said. “If we can close that gap, that would be a success.”
Ryan said improving upon last year’s record would display the dedication the team has put into the season.
“Over the course of the season, I really just hope that we can fine tune and improve the nuances of the game,” he said.
One aspect of the effort to change the culture on the field was the team’s first ever trip to Charlottesville, Virginia at the beginning of spring break this year, Bassani said.
“The goals were threefold: one was team building, the other priority was to play some different competition and the third goes towards changing the culture,” he explained.
Ryan said that having one player from each grade level in the rooms allowed the captains to give better advice to benefit several types of players.
Junior Doug Denby said that overall, the trip brought the team a lot closer together, not just on the field. A lot of the trip focused on team bonding and strengthening the overall team, which he said will pay off in games.
“We just have that brotherhood,” Denby said. “When we step onto the field, we just have that chemistry.”
He added that the team uses the goals that the coaches set at the beginning of the season to guide them during practice and getting closer as a team helps greatly in reaching those objectives.
Bassani said that changing the program’s culture isn’t the only goal of his career.
“Ultimately, we want to win a state championship from the lacrosse perspective,” he said. “If all my players go on and take some type of life experience from this, bottom line that’s why I’m doing it.”