St. Paul’s lax coach and newly appointed A.D. answers the questions of St. Paul’s student Timmy Wilcox
Special to VSN
Taking a page from the pros at Varsity Sports Network, St. Paul’s student-athlete and all-around sports enthusiast Timothy Wilcox recently posed a series of questions to Trey Whitty, the lacrosse coach at St. Paul’s School who was also recently named the school’s new Athletic Director.
Wilcox is member of the class of 2022 who enjoys playing baseball and basketball as well as running cross country. In addition he is a devoted fans of the Baltimore Ravens, Baltimore Orioles and the University of Maryland basketball.
Here are Tim’s questions and Trey’s answers.
Timmy Wilcox: Congratulations on becoming the athletic director at St. Paul’s. What ideas do you have that you believe will enhance athletics at St. Paul’s?
Trey Whitty: My first mission in taking on this role is to unify the programs and really be one department. Some of the things we’re doing for that is we put in place our sports performance program. [The Sports Performance Program] is not necessarily too sports specific, [but] it encompasses all programs and every upper school student has an opportunity to be a part of that. I think that’s a good first step that gets everybody kind of in the same boat, so that’s been something we’re doing. But really, the key thing is that unity amongst all of our programs. I think that’s going to go a long way in coaches supporting other coaches, sharing athletes, and supporting multiple sport guys. I think that’s the key for a school like St. Paul’s, given our size, to really be successful and it’s better for the student athletes to be doing different things. If we can unify our programs, I think that’s a great first step.
Wilcox: With this new fitness program set in place called Teambuildr, what advantages do you see this providing for the student-athletes at St. Paul’s?
Whitty: Teambuildr itself is an online platform for strength and conditioning. Given the environment we’re in now where we’re all distance learning or distance training, it’s been critical to pass on things to the student-athletes. We were going to do it regardless though; it’s going to be our online platform even when we’re back at school to help log and monitor the training that kids are doing. What advantages does this have for student athletes? The list is endless from just gaining strength, gaining confidence, flexibility, injury prevention, instilling a work ethic. All those things are absolutely critical and for us to kind of streamline it for athletes so that guys don’t have to go to this personal trainer and that personal trainer. I hope this is really an attractive thing about St. Paul’s athletics.
Wilcox: Across sports at St. Paul’s, there are some Varsity and JV teams that interact and practice with each other, but this is not the case with all the programs. Do you think being together benefits the programs and should this be an area of concern in the future?
Whitty: I think it’s every varsity coach’s job to make everyone in their program feel like they’re a part of that program. If that means practicing together at times, that might be good for one program, might not work for another program. I don’t know, we’d have to kind of run through sport by sport. I think it’s important for the varsity coach to expose those under squad teams. One to his style of coaching, the cultural expectations that that coach has for their program and two, expose them to a higher talent level so that as a young guy you can look and be like, man I’m ready to compete or I got a lot of work to do to see what that level of play is. I think that’s the thing. How that looks? That’s probably going to be different for basketball then it is for [a sport like] soccer. You’d have to look at it sport by sport. You want our varsity coaches to expose the younger guys to what it is to be a varsity basketball guy.
Wilcox: This past school year the school implemented Thursday Morning Leadership Breakfasts as an opportunity for coaches from all varsity teams to speak to St. Paul’s athletes about leadership. How important do you think leadership is, especially instilling this in the underclassmen athletes at St. Paul’s?
Whitty: [Leadership] is everything. Across the board our coaches want to compete, we want to play at a high level, we want to have success. None of us got into this just because we are competitive. We got into this because we care about educating young people and seeing them develop. Leadership’s a huge piece of that. We want guys that are going to leave St. Paul’s and be leaders in whatever they’re doing. Whether that’s their academic future, their athletic future, or whatever their interest might be. That’s our primary goal to instill leadership, so that when you guys leave here, you are prepared for whenever you enter into the world. Obviously, for us to have success here, we got to have great leadership across the board. Hopefully those talks that Coach Bernstorf instituted last year continue and I like that they were all kind of different. They all probably touched each person a little differently. I think your success as a head coach comes when you yourself are not the one driving the culture of the program. When that gets turned over to the kids, and you guys are the ones doing that, that’s when a program’s really going to thrive.
Wilcox: Many sports programs across the country are using technology to their advantages. Is there any technology that you are able to use to benefit the lacrosse program and other sports at St. Paul’s?
Whitty: We’re doing some of it now. The Teambuildr aspect of it is a new addition. That’s going to be really good even when we are back in person training is having the ability to monitor athletes’ progressions, their gains in the weight room, their development as an athlete. That’s something we’re doing. [About] half our programs we’re recording games, doing game break downs through Hudl. Most of our larger team sports have embraced that. Some things to think about in the future that I’d research, I don’t know if we’re quite ready to get into but then you start talking about heart rate monitors and that kind of thing. [Those] are definitely something in my mind that could be coming in the future. You [need] to embrace technology. If you’re not, if you’re kind of that old school guy that says “back in the day this is how we did it,” I think you’re going to get left behind. Not all [technology] is appropriate for what we’re trying to do. We just [need] to evaluate everything and see what fits St. Paul’s. What fits St. Paul’s might not fit a different kind of school. We’re always keeping our eye out for how we can use technology.
Wilcox: Over the past few years across varsity sports at St. Paul’s, playing in playoff games and winning championships have not been very common. Considering your success with McDonogh and at the University of Virginia, what do you think is necessary for reaching the playoffs and winning a championship?
Whitty: Success in high school sports can be cyclical and so maybe there’s just been a down period here and that’s okay, but there’s no magic pill that we can give our coaches or give our athletes. It’s a combination of a ton of different things. It is staying healthy, it is having the work ethic, the offseason commitment, the dedication to your teammates above all else, it is getting wonderful coaching. There are so many aspects that go into building a great team and a great program. So, we want to try and be successful in every one of those things, and maybe you are, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re always going to win. There’s an element of luck and chance and all that stuff that goes into winning. But the harder you work typically the more luck you get. There’s a lot to it, all these things we’re trying to institute I think will feed into building this culture of hard work and commitment which will breed success. So, there’s so may different things to hit on. That success builds upon itself. You start to have a little bit of it and people start to turn their eye and say, “what’s going on at St. Paul’s” and you attract more kids. It can really grow exponentially really quickly. We’ll take care of the little day-to-day things right now to help build this thing.
Wilcox: During the winter and spring, it is common to see the weight room filled with the gold shirts of your lacrosse players. How do you think the weight room has benefited the lacrosse program?
Whitty: I think the first thing the weight room does is it builds confidence. When you’re a teenage boy and you start to feel yourself gaining strength and your muscles start to feel good that raises your level of confidence a little more. I think on an individual level, it’s building the mental confidence you have. Individually, if you’re getting stronger and faster, you’re going to be a better athlete no matter what sports your in. So, it’s building the athleticism. The huge piece is being around your teammates without maybe your head coaches voice all the time. So, being around your teammates and seeing your teammates working and sweating and you’re doing it together and your supporting one another. The weight room is a great equalizer. You can be the best player in your sport and struggle in the weight room and then conversely there might be a player who is not as strong but is a stud in the weight room. So, the roles have been switched a little bit. It gives different guys leadership opportunities. That’s why I’m such a big believer in it and I think jumping all in on that across the departments can be really critical.
Wilcox: St. Paul’s is historically known for their talented lacrosse program. How are you able to continue this tradition and propel so many of your players to the next level?
Whitty: We take great pride in the history of our program, but if we just sit back and say, “Hey we’re St. Paul’s, we’ve always been pretty good” and we rest on our laurels, we’re going to get not good pretty darn quick. We take pride in where we’ve been, but with that comes a large responsibility to try and continue that success or a least be working at a rate that warrants that success. I love St. Paul’s. I went here. I played here. I am a part of that tradition, but to me it doesn’t affect the day-to-day of how hard we’re working. We just want to continue to work hard. We don’t necessarily think about the seventy years of the success of St. Paul’s on a daily basis.
Wilcox: With a significant number of seniors graduating from the varsity lacrosse team, what players do you see stepping up into larger roles for the 2021 season?
Whitty: We got some guys coming back that I think are kind of our knowns that are going to be strong players for us, Noah Chizmar, Keagan Treacy, Jake Bair. There are some guys that have been impact guys the last couple years. So, we kind of know what we’re getting from them. With the rest, there’s so much to be determined and high school athletes change and grow so much from one year to the next that I don’t know, we’ll see. It’s exciting. At first every year you lose a group of guys and you’re scratching your head going “how am I going to replace them” and every year guys surprise you and guys improve. It’s an exciting time to be a part of St. Paul’s lacrosse because there’s so much opportunity for these young guys. They should be licking their chops, ready to work and improve themselves. We’ve got a good freshmen class coming in and had a couple freshmen on varsity last year. I don’t necessarily want to pick out a couple names that are going to surprise everybody. Not quite yet. We’ve got a way until the season.
Wilcox: During this quarantine I imagine that it has been tougher than usual to work with your players. Have you been able to reach out to any of your returning lacrosse players to help them progress their skills?
Whitty: For a while we were doing team Zoom calls every week a least just to see each other’s faces from this past year’s team. We brought on some guest alumni speakers which were wonderful. We’re doing a lot of that stuff to keep guys engaged, providing them with workouts. From a lacrosse standpoint, we’re big on fitness, so the workouts have been going up from lacrosse specific. So many of our guys are engrained in our way of training from the lacrosse skill development side, that they know how to do that on their own. They can take care of that. Between me, Coach Settembrino, Coach Benzing, and Coach Whitely we’re just always in constant communication with these guys. It’s the nature of our school. Just being a small school and having strong relationships. That communication has not died off at all. Now guys are getting back into playing with their club teams which is wonderful. Hopefully later in the summer we’ll be able to get some guys on campus to train a little bit with Sy. Paul’s. Like anything here, the relationships remain strong, our guys know we’re here for them. It’s been challenging, but everyone’s in the same boat.