Matt Hogan has made quite the impact on college lacrosse programs across the nation by doing the little things
By Anna Boyle
Consider the state of your bedroom right now. Is it chaos or is it in precise order? What kind of posters are hanging on the wall? How you represent yourself starts there. A room can show order, discipline, and decency. This is the basis of a well-rounded student athlete.
Matt Hogan is an expert when it comes to understanding what it takes to develop college athletes. Hogan has had plenty of experience doing that as a Division I college coach and most importantly a father. Now, he is the founder of Hogan’s Lacrosse, a premier boys lacrosse organization offering tournaments, clinics and club teams.
It is a story we have all heard before. Rising high school star commits to the college of his or her dreams. Being recruited to play at any college is the dream. Hogan played collegiate lacrosse himself at Springfield College.
“My father did not want me to play sports in college,” Hogan said. “I had a great experience, but I don’t know if that was a dream for me.”
What Hogan did know was that he wanted to coach after graduation.
“What I didn’t want to do was spend my life in a gymnasium trying to convince kids to participate,” Hogan said. “It was a dream of mine to coach at a high level and that was something I worked hard for and I really enjoyed.”
Early on, Hogan spent a few years coaching at the University of Maryland, University of Delaware, then Clarkson University. He eventually accepted an assistant coach position at the United States Naval Academy, where he would spend 13 years. He has an immense amount of gratitude for his time there.
“Working at the Naval Academy is a different experience,” Hogan said. “It’s an experience that is unique. They challenge you. They’re such Type A personalities and gung-ho guys that you need to be on your A game.”
Recruiting is one aspect of college coaching that brings back fond memories for Hogan. With recruiting comes competition and the drive to do better. It is a challenge every year to find the most talented, disciplined and hard-working lacrosse players and convince them that your college is the right choice.
“Good players make coaches better coaches,” Hogan said. “You have to have good players.”
Focusing on the recruiting process is crucial for not only coaches, but also aspiring college athletes. It is what separates the go-getters from the rest.
“There’s a challenge and competitiveness of having someone you need to beat every day,” Hogan said. “You can’t be good on the field if you aren’t good at recruiting.”
Hogan spent recruiting trips analyzing potential players out on the field and on the sidelines. Perhaps even more important than skill on the field was focusing on how potential recruits behaved after a game, win or lose.
“We watched their interactions with their coaches and we watched their interactions with their parents and we watched their interactions with teammates,” Hogan said.
On one trip, Hogan assisted the head coach in a home visit. “I had a coach once ask a player if he could see what his room is like,” Hogan said. “Was it a pig sty?”
The coach felt he could tell a lot about a player based on the state of his room. Hogan admitted that he never had the nerve to ask a recruit himself.
On another recruiting trip, Hogan remembers a boy playing his music too loud. The mother yelled up to her son to turn the music down. He did not listen. The mother asked again. He still did not comply.
“I want you to know your son just lost his scholarship,” Hogan recalled the coach saying.
Hogan took on a new challenge when he became head coach at the University of Pennsylvania. He said that there was a difference in the level of discipline and hard work that he saw at Penn after spending many years at the Naval Academy.
“I needed to change the culture,” Hogan said. “Navy… they knew putting in hard work led to success.”
Hogan recalls his first team meeting at Penn. His first order of business was to get his players to push each other to be better.
“This team’s strength is that you all love each other,” Hogan said. “This team’s greatest weakness is that you all love each other.”
Hogan made practices tougher than games. He taught his players to be strategic and problem solvers. His goal was to be the most disciplined team in the country. In 2002, Hogan’s 1st season, he led Penn to their first winning season in 13 years with a 9-4 record.
Hogan is a parent to two college lacrosse alumni. His son John played at Cornell University and his daughter Maggie played at Connecticut College. Hogan understands the fine balance between what a child wants and what a parent wants.
“A player is going to choose a place based on what he or she wants,” Hogan said. “A parent is going to choose based on their child’s needs, and those two things, wants and needs, don’t always match.”
Hogan took two different approaches to his children’s college decisions. His son was very cut and dried. He wanted to play in the Ivy league. Hogan had a hard time telling his son Cornell was financially harder for the family to accept.
‘‘’Well, why’d I take all those honors classes?’’’ Hogan’s son asked him. “My response was ‘because you’re intelligent enough to take honors classes and there’s no bad to doing hard work.’”
Hogan’s daughter was a bit different. His approach with his daughter was a much more passive and gentle conversation. She ultimately made the decision to play at Connecticut College.
Hogan prepared his players from a young age to be courteous, to be responsible, and to be on time. Post college coaching, Hogan transitioned to the high school level. He recalled chronic tardiness from his players.
“I had a parent come in and his son was constantly tardy and he said he had never had a job where being on time was important,” Hogan said. “My response was I’ve never had a job where being chronically late was good.”
Hogan emphasized the importance of the domino effect. You want to get into an Ivy league school? You need to get good grades. You want to get good grades? You need to perform well on tests.
“Someone asked me, ‘What was the best advice you ever got?’” Hogan said. “It was my father and he said, ‘Do your homework.’”
Do your homework beyond school. Be prepared to always see solutions, not problems. Parents of eighth and ninth graders come to Hogan with questions asking what they should be doing.
“My advice is control what you can control,” he said. “That’s your academic work. The next thing is to have complete control over developing yourself as a lacrosse player. Doing something in the weight room and doing something with your stick work everyday.”
Hogan taught his players to keep in mind what is instilled in them at a young age and carry it through the recruitment process. Something he learned quickly was how small the college coaching world is. Be honest with your college coaches and be honest with yourself. Keep the communication open.
“Don’t be afraid to tell college coaches no,” Hogan said. “You’re not helping him by making him think you’re truly interested in his school when you’re not.”
Hogan recalled many times when coaches invested in potential recruits only to find out that they had no intentions on committing to their school. That response is almost as devastating as Hogan having to tell a student he doesn’t have a spot for him on the team.
Stick to the basic principles of courtesy and respect. That is what breeds a standout candidate for college lacrosse coaches.
“Return all emails,” Hogan said. “Return all phone calls. Return all texts. Be courteous.”