He’s spent over a decade keeping a keen eye on the game of lacrosse. This time, for a change, the eyes are on you Deron Hansen.
Sitting down with Deron to get to know him as a retired player, current coach, and referee, we exchanged valuable lacrosse insight and stories that MaxLaxOC now gets to share with you. So far you know Hansen is a triple-threat, self-proclaimed “lacrosse snob,” but you’ll be pleasured to learn there is much more to his story.
The lacrosse journey began for Hansen in Sonoma, CA, at Rancho Cotate High School. There he helped trail blaze the school’s lacrosse program, and picked up a stick for the first time his junior year. It was the long stick middie life for Hansen since then. He went on to play lacrosse at San Diego State University before transferring to California State University Fullerton. While at Fullerton, Hansen and teammates Mike Ansel and JR Grubert, not only earned a Southwest Lacrosse Conference championship in 2009, but also formed a friendship and a love for the game that continues to give back to the OC lacrosse community. All three are actively involved in local coaching and are very popular with the current generation of OC laxers. Hansen, however, is the only one that can be seen running the field in black and white stripes on regular basis.
Hansen and I talked about vision and defensive instincts over edamame. As an attacker myself, I’ve tried my hand at lclose defense only a few times. Forget about hands. It’s all about feet… and eyes. Deron enlightened me: “Defense is about anticipation. If you can anticipate what’s going to happen, you will always be a step ahead of your opponent. As a defender you want to dictate what the offense is trying to do, not the other way around.”
Hansen took a defender’s anticipation and reactive vision to his next lacrosse gig: refereeing. SDSU teammate and current SLC Treasurer Kyle Morrison suggested Hansen become an official. He took up the striped garb and in turn, found his niche. By the time he transferred to Fullerton, Deron was already qualified enough to officiate men’s college lacrosse. Forced to choose between playing in college and umpiring college, he kept to officiating youth and high school boys’ lacrosse while at Fullerton– a wise choice that resulted in a championship title.
“I think I was able to get good [at refereeing] right away because I was so heavily involved in the sport,” he said, “A lot of refs have no lacrosse experience. I think mine helped me fast track my reffing career.” Deron mentioned reading the entire men’s rule book back when he first took up the sport at Rancho Cotate. Impressed, I figured I’d have to do the same for the girls I coach, eventually.
Defensive instincts translated into whistle reflexes as Hansen refereed youth, high school, and soon college lacrosse games across the country. Though he is based in Orange County, Hansen has officiated in Denver, Utah, Hawaii, South Carolina, Las Vegas, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, San Diego, and Palm Springs. In addition to training beginning umpires, he’s been involved with five different referee organizations, and was a liaison at the Orange County Lacrosse Official Association for two years. In a season, Hansen referees up to 40-50 games.
I asked Deron what kind of ref he is. Is Hansen a stickler for strict adherence to rules? A protector and upholder of safety, like Beverly Lynch?
“I let the kids play,” he said, “Since I played defense, I guess I am a little more lenient than most officials. At the highest level I let the kids set the tone. Then, if you need to tighten the reigns, you have to.” Of problem fans and hot-headed coaches, Hansen says, “As far as parents go, I try to block them out. Sometimes I’ll give a funny comment to calm them down. Half the time, some parents don’t even know what they’re yelling about. Dealing with coaches is a whole different ballgame. Knowing the different coaches and their personalities definitely helps when approaching a contested play or situation. I always try to hear them out or answer questions when possible. Being a coach myself, I can understand how frustrating the lack of communication can be sometimes, so I do my best to keep an open line of communication.
Now as a coach, I’ve had my own fair share of hair-pulling reactions to referee calls. Deron’s hair is shorter, but he can say the same. After starting Rancho Cotate’s program, coaching youth clubs like OC Starz and the Scorpions, and leading JV at Capistrano Valley, Hansen has ultimately found himself at the head position for Esperanza Boys’ Lacrosse. How do his playing and refereeing careers bleed into coaching?
Deron told me a story. One day, an identity crisis between being a high school coach and college referee interrupted his coaching flow. It was man down for a high school game and a stall warning was made. In college lacrosse, that doesn’t happen. The heat of the moment made Coach Hansen think it was the same for high school. Coach/Ref Hansen mixed up his rule books.
Deron laughed it off and said, “My officiating partner Pat Melnick tells me the one thing that calms me down when I coach. He says, ‘Deron, you know you wouldn’t have called that if you were reffing this game!’ When Pat says that, I take a deep breath and relax. Sometimes I’m coaching and my partners are reffing my game. The next day, I’m reffing with them. But going from reffing to coaching, I don’t think about any of that. When I’m coaching, I’m coaching.”
Hansen has been coaching at Esperanza for four years. He said, “It is exciting to see kids and parents who are new to lacrosse fall in love with the sport.” A benefit from donning both Head Coach and Head Official uniform (sometimes both on the same day!) is that Coach Hansen takes what he sees on field and teaches it to his players.
“I see so much of the best lacrosse, and I take my lacrosse IQ for granted,” he said, “I only think you can build your lacrosse IQ with experience you have with the game.” Included in lacrosse IQ-building experience is watching film. Hansen says this is a ritual practice at Esperanza, and that it “changes everything.”
Hansen has not just three, but four vantage points of view on the game of lacrosse. The player, referee, and coach sees the game through an additional lens, literally. Hansen is a Radio, TV, and Film major who has been involved in film since graduating from Fullerton. As a videographer, Hansen takes all of his lacrosse experience to work when he films the sport.
“You have to know the game. You have to anticipate what’s happening. To film lacrosse, you need people that know lacrosse. They can see that that guy’s gonna turn it over; they can see little things you have to think about that make coverage better. You react so much differently than a player or reporter,” said Hansen.
Years of seeing the game through a player, coach, and ref’s eyes translate directly to Hansen’s video. Whether filming the MCLA National Championships for TLN, or volunteering to livestream the Southern Section Championships for MaxLaxOC.com, Hansen’s old defensive instincts are still at play. Lacrosse IQ, anticipation, reaction, and vision are nowhere near rusty for Hansen.
Coach Hansen encourages his young players to referee. He says, “It gives them a different perspective of the game, and a higher understanding of what’s going on. We are always looking for more high school-age, playing officials to give back to the game.” In turn, Hansen added, their own game will inevitably improve.
Hansen will continue his 4-dimension lacrosse life remembering, “Lacrosse has been good to me,” as he said. The highlight of Hansen’s refereeing career– being able to officiate the MCLA DII National Championship at Chapman in May–was prepared for with a modest pre-game contemplation: “It’s just another game guys,” Hansen told his partners, “Let’s go out there and have some fun.”
To become a referee and give back to the game like Deron Hansen, visit the OCLOA website: apply