BUZZARDS BAY, Mass -- With the Buccaneer men's lacrosse team entering a new league this spring--the Little East Conference—third-year Coach Rick Bagby decided it was time his squad took its off-season training program to another level. So on a cold, wet October day, the Buccaneers were decked out in shorts and running shoes in a campus basketball gymnasium participating in an NFL-Style Combine, running the 40-yard-dash, the 5-10-5 shuttle run, the 3-cone drill and getting measured in the vertical jump, broad jump and the power pushup.
The combine was hosted by HardKore Athletics Performance Testing, the bright red laser timing equipment was provided by Colorado-based Zybek Sports, the official timer of the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
"Obviously our guys aren't going to rank with the guys at the NFL Combine," Bagby said. "But it's pretty cool they're using the same technology. It's definitely a great tool to show the players where they are athletically. And hopefully when we re-test in the spring, it'll show that this is working and we're making them better lacrosse players and better athletes."
Mike Weinstein, Zybek Sports' Founder and CEO, said he's "thrilled" to see his company's cutting-edge technology being used by college lacrosse teams.
"We're working with college football and college baseball teams, so why not lacrosse?" Weinstein said. "We're so happy that we're able to help Maritime lacrosse maximize their talent with our technology."
The top overall athletes of the combine were senior Casey Fisher and sophomore Owen Donohue. Fisher won the 40-yard dash and 5-10-5 drills and Donohue won the broad jump and finished second in the 40 and vertical jump.
"Those guys are our defensive middies and their whole job is to wreak havoc on the other team," Bagby said. "So it didn't surprise me they were one and two."
The biggest surprise of the combine may have been sophomore attacker Spencer Jones, who finished fifth overall, finishing fourth in the 40 and the 3-cone drill.
"Spencer Jones is a very talented player who shoots the ball maybe 100 miles an hour, but it seems like he's plodding along on the field," Bagby said. "Maybe he's deceptively fast, but he showed well and that's good for us. Maybe this will inspire him to do even better."
For the players who didn't fare as well, Bagby believes the testing results can send a message.
"Some players were below average in everything," he said. "We'll say things like 'You're a good player, but you're not strong enough right now and you're going to get whopped around next spring time if you don't get stronger."
The 40-yard times weren't nearly as fast as they would have been in cleats on the Buccaneers' new turf field. But a torrential downpour forced them inside, where the padded gymnasium walls were just 15 feet from the finish line. So next week, the Buccaneers will run the 40 again on the turf.
So how does an NFL-Style Combine translate to the lacrosse field?
"The agility and the approaching and returning drills like the 5-10-5 and the 3-cone test simulate the movement on a lacrosse field," he said. "We want to see if someone is slow of foot and they can turn. If you can't turn on a dime, it's a big deal in lacrosse because it's a game of creating space to get off quality shots."
And lacrosse is no different than most sports; the best athletes are typically the best players on the field.
"I tell people all the time if I had an option between an athlete and a lacrosse player, I'd take the athlete any time," Bagby said. "I can make you into a lacrosse player; I can't make a lacrosse player an athlete. You either have it or you don't."
As Maritime integrates athletic combines and Zybek's technology into its program, Bagby believes his competitors might take note, especially if the Buccaneers start winning on a regular basis.
"It's going to be a nice piece for us to play with, to really tweak some stuff," he said. "I think you'll see some other schools who don't want to be left behind start to try it too."