A Tree Grew In College Park
Navy women's coach Cindy Timchal planted coaching seedlings at College Park that have grown across the lacrosse landscape
By Danielle Chazen
Many classify her as innovative, others refer to her as unique and some call her quite quirky, but all come to unanimous agreement that Cindy Timchal is one of the most inspiring and accomplished figures in the history of collegiate lacrosse.
Timchal, who currently serves as the women's coach at the United States Naval Academy, has had a fruitful coaching career, one spanning 30 years at top lacrosse universities. With eight national titles and 394 career wins entering the 2012 season, the two-time National Coach of the Year has secured more victories than any other coach in both men's and women's NCAA lacrosse.
Yet titles and numbers are only two aspects of Timchal's influence on the game. Her true success is evidenced by her ability to inspire players she has coached and mentored to dedicate their own lives and careers to collegiate lacrosse. Timchal serves as the deep, firm root of what she refers to as "the giving tree, one that will keep giving back to the game."
While her tree's branches have extended themselves to top-tier programs across the country, some have chosen to lend their support to programs right at home.
Three of Timchal's former University of Maryland players are now Division I coaches within the state. Timchal remains the common denominator for coaches Cathy Reese (Maryland), Jen Adams (Loyola) and Sonia LaMonica (Towson). Former Terp Courtney Martinez Connor, daughter of former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Tippy Martinez, also served as coach at UMBC from 2005-09.
"The experience of playing for Cindy was so rewarding that a number of players chose coaching as their life's work," said N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow, who served as AD at Maryland during Timchal's reign in College Park. "There is no greater tribute for a coach than that."
Adams, the first recipient of the Tewaaraton Award for the nation's best lacrosse player, said the tendency of so many of Timchal's players to go on to become coaches spoke to the incredible experience she and her peers had as student-athletes at Maryland.
|Jen Adams, The Player
(Maryland Athletic Media Relations)
"When you are a part of a program like that," Adams said, "where there is such tradition and pride in what you are doing, to not have that as part of life on a daily basis and have that team, there is a void that's left. It felt natural to want to continue to be part of the family."
The list of Timchal's former players-turned-coaches includes the likes of Maryland assistant Quinn Carney, Duke head coach Kerstin Kimel, Vermont assistant coach Alex Kahoe, Boston College associate coach Acacia Walker, Northwestern head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, Penn State head coach Missy Doherty and Ohio State head coach Alexis Venechanos.
When asked whether she thought she played an active role in so many of her former players' decisions to become collegiate coaches, Timchal responded modestly.
"I can't take all the credit," she said. "It's a great gift that they are giving. Sonia, Jen and Cathy are their own people and own head coaches. Certainly, I would like to think a lot of what they probably experienced as players they might instill in their players as a coach now, but the players who have excelled and are in the coaching ranks are ones who had a great passion for the game. It's because of the game and their high levels of success."
These high levels of success are evident in the tangible contributions these coaches have made to their programs. Reese, who replaced Timchal at Maryland in 2006 when she left to jump-start Navy's program, has continued the university's tradition of winning with a 2010 national championship, earning her National Coach of the Year honors from the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association.
|Jen Adams, The Coach
Adams, the 2011 Big East Co-Coach of the Year, has brought back a high level of play at Loyola and topped it off with a Big East championship win last year. LaMonica, a second-year head coach at Towson, has already led her team its first regular-season Colonial Athletic Association title, and was named CAA Coach of the Year.
In an effort to describe her method of coaching, Timchal quoted former UCLA Bruins basketball coach John Wooden's saying, " 'There was a lot of love in my coaching.' "
Timchal said her players didn't simply want to know how much she knew about the game, but how much she cared. As a coach, Timchal said, she aims to create the type of environment in which she outwardly displays her devotion and respect for her team.
Timchal's dedication and care for her players remain well after they leave her reign, especially for those who are now coaches.
"Obviously, the player-coach relationship is there for a lifetime," Timchal said. "Professionally, we respect each other and what we do. It's often about the sharing of ideas."
LaMonica, one of Timchal's senior team captains at Maryland, said she felt comfortable calling her former coach for advice on her current team. Despite being a competitor, Timchal never withholds and is open both to helping and mentoring her past players, LaMonica said.
|Sonia LaMonica, The Player
(Maryland Athletic Media Relations)
LaMonica said she also felt privileged to have Maryland alumnae Adams and Reese right around the corner.
"It's a really special thing to be surrounded by people you have gone through experiences in college with," LaMonica said. "I feel really privileged and have a great sense of pride in being a Terrapin in that we are really representing the institution we came from and what we learned in our experiences. It speaks highly of Cindy. The other coaches were great teammates, and I have a great deal of respect for them. It's really such a neat thing to be coaching in same region."
Adams, who many consider to be the greatest women's college lacrosse player in the sport's history, said she greatly valued the collaboration that existed among her peers in the state.
"We are competitive when we come up against each other," Adams said, "but after a game, we hug it out and chat or go out for dinner. That's what this sport is so great about. There is a competitive spirit, but such a friendly community. We have each other's backs and it's nice to have that and be part of that."
Adams admits that strong similarities also exist among the coaches' styles.
"A theme for us has been the freedom to have our players play and to not over-coach," Adams said. " 'Over analysis is paralysis,' Cindy used to say. She taught us to teach our players and then leave it up to our players to play. We give them the freedom and trust in them to take care of business."
Reese also said the freedom to play that Timchal gave them was valuable to her growth. She said she tried to incorporate this principle into her coaching style at Maryland.
"I want them to enjoy doing what they are doing and have fun with it all," Reese said. "Having the ability to be creative was really special."
Timchal refers to coaching as an opportunity to act as a facilitator, allowing players to excel and placing them in a safe environment to succeed.
"You want your athletes to feel that they really did it themselves," she said. "It was never really about me, but about the players. They are the ones who put themselves on the line and on the field. For us as coaches, it's about giving them the courage and confidence to get out there and perform."
>> Article continues on Page 2
Issue 170: February 2012