Three Questions for Dennis Short

[Editor’s Note: From time to time we will feature a short Q&A with an IWLCA member coach. The format will be one question about lacrosse, one question about life, and one fun question.]

Q&A with Dennis Short, Head Coach, Rollins College @RollinsWLax

Photo Courtesy of Rollins College Athletic Communications.
Photo Courtesy of Rollins College Athletic Communications.

1 – Explain your philosophy regarding defensive pressure:

Our defensive pressure begins the second we lose possession of the ball. We try to work as hard as possible in our offensive half of the field to cause a turnover and get the ball back. Not only does this save our team effort in the long run, but it also creates easier offensive opportunities. However if the other team is able to get the ball into our defensive half of the field, that’s when the real fun begins!  Outside of a carding situation, the only time you are ever man up is when the ball is in your defensive third of the field – if you are willing to consider using your GK outside of the crease. I believe in taking advantage of this situation. My philosophy is to bring as much pressure as possible. We are coming after you. I don’t want my defense reacting to what the offense does – I want the opposing team’s offense to react to what we do. It’s a high risk, high reward philosophy. But it sure is a lot of fun and my kids love it. You’ll never come to a Rollins game and be bored, I can promise you that!

2 – What do you think are the three most important skills young student-athletes should work to develop in order to maximize their chances of success at the collegiate level?

Be a risk taker! Constantly push your limits. Athletes who have taken a lot of risks by the time they get to my program tend to have more confidence and outperform those who do not. It’s easy to pretend to be “mentally tough” when you are winning and doing well. Confidence comes easy then. The real champions learn how to take adversity and setbacks and turn them into powerful lessons to build off of. If you are not willing to look stupid or make a mistake, nothing great will ever happen to you.

Be gritty! Be resilient! In sports, the winner is one who can take the most pain, physical and emotional. If you are going to compete in sports, you are making a decision to ACCEPT that PAIN is part of the deal. It’s that very PAIN you endure that makes winning so sweet and amazing! Pushing yourself beyond your comfort level is an investment in the payoff of feeling that win for a long time. Ask anyone who has won and they will tell you that all the pain was more than worth it.

Attitude is the difference between an adventure and an ordeal! Our team has faced an abnormal amount of adversity. But as a result we grew stronger as individuals and as a team. This is why we are so successful. We’ve learned who we are as a team by overcoming adversity and making something out of negative situations. In the face of adversity, how you react to it is exactly what makes you stronger. The most successful athletes take a stand and back it up. They might just decide quietly to themselves or do it loudly and publicly. Either way, this sets a chain of events in motion for CONSISTENT action that follows. Use the power of DECISION to keep you moving toward your goals.

3 – If you had to coach another sport instead of lacrosse, what would it be and why?

Duh – surfing! Did you see my picture? The flowing blond highlights; the 3-day scruff; the tan face. Clearly I am a better fit to be a surfing instructor than a lacrosse coach. ; ) 

In all seriousness though I am actually a certified paddleboard instructor. It’s a great gig. Seeing the reaction on someone’s face when they feel the energy of the ocean the first time they catch a wave is really priceless because you know that’s it – they’re hooked. And the hours I spend on the water have led me to see some of the most amazing things. Yesterday morning I went for a session at sunrise. It was foggy just as the sun was coming up so you could see this huge orange circle on the horizon. The water was super glassy and the sets were just stacked up and rolling in beautiful lines. It was an incredibly calming scene – and I was the only person out there to see it. It’s these types of things that surfing has revealed to me, many times over, which remind me to remain present – don’t worry about the past, don’t think about the future, just live in the moment. There is an energy, spirituality, and a connection to the Earth I experience when surfing that transcends being “just a sport.”  And that is a pretty amazing thing to be able to share with someone else.


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