Coach's Corner: Chris Paradis, Women's Lacrosse
Issue   |   Wed, 04/16/2014 - 00:07

Q: Tell us about your early life and athletic background. How did you get into lacrosse?

A: I was always fairly active, but when I was playing youth sports, we didn’t have structured travel teams, and I actually didn’t start playing lacrosse until the ninth grade. I primarily got into lacrosse because I played high school field hockey in the fall, and the two teams had a lot of overlap with coaches and teammates. I naturally got recruited to play both sports by my friends and, Pam Jez, who was a great mentor, coach, and friend in the absence of my mother who died of cancer when I was 10.

Q: When did lacrosse start to gain popularity?

A: It was just around when it was starting to take off in Massachusetts. I grew up in Framingham outside of Boston, and public school lacrosse was strong and gaining in popularity. At my high school, there were freshmen, JV, and varsity teams, so the competition was good. A lot of high school athletes from Massachusetts were getting recruited to Div. I programs. I was actually one of the first female athletes at William & Mary to receive an athletic scholarship. Playing at the Div. I level allowed me to get exposure and play on a professional level. It was pretty exciting to be able to pursue my dream of playing U.S. lacrosse.

Q: What was your playing career like at William & Mary?

A: As I mentioned earlier, I played both field hockey and lacrosse at William & Mary. At the time I attended college, the out-of-season demands were not what they are now, so it was much more manageable to be a two sport Div. I athlete. Nonetheless, we had a very rigorous schedule and traveled all around the country. My junior year, we went to what was the first NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament for. The NCAA, which was originally a men’s collegiate athletic association, absorbed the AIAW, a separate organization that governed women’s collegiate athletics. It was pretty special that we were one of the first teams to participate in the tournament.

Q: After William & Mary, what ultimately made you decide to coach women’s lacrosse?

A: That’s a good question. I was actually a business major in college, and my dream was to go into sports marketing because it allowed me to pursue my interests in both athletics and business. I was on the interview track with some different firms but decided instead to go west to Colorado for the summer after college and be a bum for a few months to decide what I wanted to do with my life. At the time, I was playing U.S. Lacrosse and didn’t have a job, so someone threw out the idea of coaching and teaching at a prep school in Connecticut.

I came back east to pursue my dream of making the World Cup team and simultaneously earn a little money. I played in the 1993 World Cup and earned a gold medal in Scotland for the U.S. During my playing days, I coached at prep schools for eight years and received my masters in education. A job opened up at Yale, and I was hired as an assistant. I really enjoyed my experience at the college level, so I took the job as the head field hockey and lacrosse coach at Amherst, and this will be my 21st year here.

Q: What drew you to Amherst in particular?

A: I think Amherst is a place where our athletes are really smart. When you combine skills, leadership, talent and intelligence, you end up with players who have a unique ability to process information and play smart. That was especially true for the teams during era of winning the national championship, and I think it’s true right now with this group. Things are coming together in a special and exciting way.

Q: What do you consider the toughest aspect of coaching?

A: Lately, the weather. Coaching a spring sport in New England is really like coaching a winter sport. Additionally, recruiting has really taken over the college coaching world. We look at hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of kids in order to weed the recruiting pool down to our top players. It takes a lot of communication and constant attention through emails, phone calls, visits and, now, recruiting tournaments year round. The offseason is really spent doing a lot of recruiting and administrative tasks.

It is difficult because the actual time spent dedicated to your team and your coaching has dwindled down to such a small part of the administrative heavy job. And that takes its toll I think — trying to maintain a balance and teach your team what’s true to you and the values that you’re trying to instill. I really think I am teaching them so much more than the actual X’s and O’s and the skill of the sport.

A combination of things makes it a challenging profession, but, right now, I’m loving it. My team is fantastic, and I’m really enjoying their enthusiasm and energy and willingness to try new things. We’re meditating. We’re doing visualization sessions. They are really buying into the whole idea that they need to be relaxed while they are playing and find an optimal level of arousal for peak performance.

Q: Shifting the focus to this season, you’ve obviously experience a lot of success thus far. How do you think the season has gone? What are your expectations for the future?

A: This season has been a dream. It’s one that has had its ups and downs with regards to weather, but as far as the team itself, our leadership is fantastic. The senior leaders have been phenomenal and that has trickled down to each class. Everybody has bought into the greater good and is putting the team first, which has really made this team click. Everyday they go out ready to work hard and improve and make each other better. It’s great when you have a team with talent, skill, cohesiveness and an ability to be present. They really work hard to be in the moment and take each day and each game for what’s its worth. As long as we don’t get distracted by the rankings, we are on the right track to post-season opportunities.

Q: Do you have a favorite Amherst lacrosse memory?

A: A lot of them involve championships and that sort of stuff. As a whole, I love just watching the players progress through the program and leave here ready to face the challenges of the world. I’m in touch with a lot of alums. I go to weddings and hear about their families. That’s really rewarding for me. As far as specifics, the year we won the ECAC Championship was a great memory and, of course, the year we won the national championship was huge. In 2003, we had lost to Middlebury twice during the regular season, and we achieved a dream at the championship game that year by finally coming away with the win. When you win a national championship, it just validates all the hard work that you’ve put in.

Q: Do you have any post lacrosse plans?

A: I am very much into yoga and mindfulness. I’m a certified yoga instructor, and I just completed a meditation course. Ultimately, I’d love to have the influence and ability to work with more students at Amherst with regards to stress management, mindfulness and yoga. I hope to contribute positively to the wellness initiatives that are already happening on our campus. Wellness, yoga, and mindfulness have helped to ground me and I’m ready to share those passions and the knowledge that I’ve attained through my own body and my own experiences with others here at Amherst.