It took Johnny Rodriguez just two years to turn the Trabuco Hills Mustangs into a contender. The Mustangs finished 2013, the year prior to Rodriguez’s arrival, with a 5-13 record. This past season the Mustangs went 15-4 and finished atop the South Coast League. Differences with the school administration led to a departure that neither Rodriguez or his players wanted. Not surprisingly Rodriguez did not sit idle for long. He was named head coach of the 5-11 Mater Dei Monarchs this summer. Will the former First Team All American, USILA Goalkeeper of the Year, and National Champion (2011 with Salisbury) do it again?
Rodriguez took some time out from his new responsibilities to chat with MaxLaxOC.com. Read on to get to know Johnny Rodriguez.
MaxLaxOC.com: You obviously had a great relationship with the Trabuco Hills team and were part of something special there. Was it hard to leave?
JR: I wouldn’t have left if I didn’t have to. Unfortunately, the administration forced me out. I’ve met some incredible people, both players and parents, during my two years at Trabuco and that program will always hold a big place in my heart.
MaxLaxOC.com: What attracted you to the Mater Dei job?
JR: The moment I walked on their campus it instantly reminded me of my high school, Mount St. Joseph back in Baltimore. The tradition of excellence and their incredible reputation nationwide is something I am honored to be part of.
MaxLaxOC.com: What’s it going to take to get similar results at Mater Dei?
JR: The boys need to learn to enjoy every step of the journey together. They are going to be playing a lot of lacrosse but once they all realize they are part of something much bigger than themselves things will turn up quickly.
MaxLaxOC.com: Mater Dei has a great sports tradition. Does that give you a little extra incentive or pressure?
JR: Absolutely! More incentive than pressure though. Everyday the students cant help but looking at all the plaques and banners in the gym from all the other sports at the school.
MaxLaxOC.com: What are your three top priorities for next season?
#1 play a lot of lacrosse.
#2 establish a higher work ethic and commitment level throughout the program
#3 ENJOY THE JOURNEY!
MaxLaxOC.com: What style of play do you like to use?
JR: I’m still discovering our team’s identity. Style’s of play will vary depending on the competition. Its very valuable to be able to speed up and slow down the game when needed, however that comes with a lot of discipline from the players.
MaxLaxOC.com: Where did you grow up?
JR: I moved around a lot as a kid. New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Florida, and Maryland. I spent 8 years in Annapolis before I left for college
MaxLaxOC.com: Where did you play lacrosse as a kid?
JR: I started in 7th grade and played rec lacrosse for the Severna Park Green Hornets. Little did we know at the time, that team would end up having 14 collegiate players on it, mostly D1, and a handful of pro players.
MaxLaxOC.com: Best lacrosse memory as a player?
JR: Sharing the national championship trophy with my teammates in my last college lacrosse game.
MaxLaxOC.com: Best lacrosse memory as a coach?
JR: Seeing my Trabuco Hills boys come together as brothers and realize their hard work and dedication to each other was turning into success.
MaxLaxOC.com: Do you like to give inspirational speeches to your players before the game?
JR: Motivating is a huge part of coaching – especially in HS. After being in class for 8 consecutive hours, it important to always have them preforming on all cylinders: mentally, physically, and spiritually. Inspirational speeches are just a way for me to have them ask themselves if they’re ready to perform on all cylinders for the guys wearing the same color jersey sitting next to them.
MaxLaxOC.com: What is your favorite movie?
JR: Lion King.
MaxLaxOC.com: Would you say you are quiet on the sidelines or do you like the guys to hear you?
JR: I like to think I’m more of a quiet coach on the sidelines. I usually wait until the player comes off to talk to him. As a coach Im always trying to improve and one of my goals this year is to not get flagged for talking to the refs. I have a lot of respect for those guys and at times we wont always see the play the same way.
MaxLaxOC.com: What is one thing about you that most people do not know?
JR: I’m a huge T-Swift fan.
MaxLaxOC.com: What advice do you have for the high school player who wants to play in college?
JR: Less than 1% of high school players in the country will get to start in a college lacrosse game. To a player who wants to play in college, you have to love the game and work harder than 99% of your peers. What are you doing different than everyone else?
MaxLaxOC.com: East Coast vs West Coast. Has West Coast lacrosse caught up yet? What differences do you notice?
JR: Every year the love of the game out west gets stronger. 3 years ago I rarely would see guys at sports parks shooting on their own or with friends. Today I see it all the time. The love of the game is growing and with that, so is the competitiveness. In 2006, my high school brought us out to California to play 3 teams, Foothill, Rancho Bernardo, and St. Margaret’s and blew out everyone by 10-20 goals a game. 10 years later both Foothill and St. Margaret’s will probably be the favorites when my alma mater comes back to Orange County this spring.
MaxLaxOC.com: What’s next for Buku Lacrosse?
JR: After another rewarding summer, we will play in the OC Fall Box League, and will have fall HS teams playing in Palm Desert and Vegas in November and December. Keep an eye out for small group positional training sessions coming in October.