Keep Going, Keep Learning: Preparing for the Spring Season with Two Wolves Jack Kensil

Keep Going, Keep Learning: Preparing for the Spring Season with Two Wolves Jack Kensil

The lacrosse season is fast approaching. For those at the college level, the season is already in full swing. I can’t wait to make it down to Columbus to check out the Buckeyes this Spring and the PLL this summer.

I am a high school lacrosse coach at Clarkston High School in Michigan. I am the box coach and am also in charge of our advanced scouting. One of my favorite parts about writing for LPG is the fact I get to chat and learn from so many different people in the game. Our staff does a great job of sharing drills and schemes and evaluating how they can help us during the season.

Outside of my own interviews and writing, I have enjoyed “getting to know” and listening to Two Wolves founder Jack Kensil. The Long Island native played his high school lacrosse at the storied St. Anthony’s program before playing at Marist in college. 

Jack is currently the assistant coach and offensive coordinator for the girl’s lacrosse at St. Anthony’s and one of the top men’s and women’s lacrosse trainers on Long Island and in the country. Jack trained over 20 D1 currency or committed men’s and women’s student-athletes during the winter break: Joey Spallina (Syracuse), Brennan O'Neill (Duke), Johnny Schwarz (UNC), Emma LoPinto (Florida),  Lexi Zenk (UNC), and Abby LoCascio (Northwestern). Check out the latest Coach’s Companion podcast to hear a recap of this fantastic event.

I’ve never met Jack in person or seen him work a camp. Instead, I got to know Jack through LPG’s Coach's Companion podcast. I am a podcast junkie and will take notes and actively engage with the guests and hosts to learn more. Jack was no different.

I took notes on a few of his LPG shows and was able to speak with him to dig a little deeper and ask more questions. 

I have snippets from some of his interviews, my reaction and takeaways for the season, and my questions and Jack’s responses below. I hope you can take as much into your season as I did.

Coaching Philosophy: Trusting and Staying Curious 

I’ve coached lacrosse for sixteen years. Freshmen, JV, Varsity, and summer ball. There are two main types of coaches out there: a player's coach or my way or the highway guy. I like to put myself in the first camp. Never understood the guy who couldn’t have a conversation or answer a question or had to orchestrate every action on the field from the sideline.

One of the most powerful themes found in all of the conversations with Kensil is that “not every decision has to be his.” Instead, he is open and curious to hear the perspective and viewpoints of your fellow coaches and most importantly your players. 

Kensil has reiterated this viewpoint in a few of his conversations with LPG. The first step comes from trusting your players. After a timeout or at halftime, Jack says he is usually the last to talk. Instead, ask the players for their input and then try to help create a collective response based on their feedback.

This is even true with game planning. Jack shared how his players came to him while he was head coach at Byram Hills about changing a defensive game plan.

Full Interview May 9, 2022

Kensil's example demonstrates how he empowers his players. This empowerment allows the players to know that their voices are not only heard but listened to. Kensil shared how it also inspires confidence and strengthens his relationship with his players.

When you empower your players to make decisions during the game, it develops confidence and trust from players to coaches. It's really important that we make our relationships with the players a two-way street. I don't put myself on a pedestal, I don't put myself above them, or as a dictator. It's more a collaborative effort and knowing that I'm not the one out there getting a feel for the game. They have the freedom and the ability to speak up, and offer their insight or, you know, share what they think is going to work whenever they want.

This perspective was shaped by Kensil’s own playing career.

He struggled to connect with his coaches beyond the lacrosse field.

He strives to be the coach that he needed as a player.

Full Interview May 9, 2022

I asked Kensil how he puts these ideas into practice and how he would describe himself as a coach. 

I don't yell at people, I don't really raise my voice other than when I'm trying to get them to hear me from the sideline. Being yelled at doesn't make you or feel appreciated. If someone's being lazy, I'll just pull them to the side and be like, Hey, you think you could try a little harder?

Being a player’s coach doesn’t mean your teams lack discipline. Being a player’s coach means you understand where they are coming from and you look to inspire confidence and trust. Having that confidence enables you to have hard decisions about playing time and a roster spot.

These points have helped bring Kensil success on the field coaching and training the top men’s and women’s, athletes.

Practice plan and Roster Development:

Kensil shared how he enjoys having up-tempo practices that keep the players active, engaged, and involve “hidden conditioning.” Here is a list (with links) and a short explanation of some of the top drills.

  • “Duke” Scrapping Drill
    Modify numbers to suit your rosters. Jack shared how he likes to play this 4v4. The team that picks up the ground ball goes on offense to the goal.

  • West Genny
    Up-tempo, competition drill where players get to work on their offensive and defensive skills.

  • 3 vs 2 “3-second” drill
    The stopwatch is a great wrinkle to add to any drill. This one is no different. 3 vs 2 ground ball drill where players have to pick up the ground ball and then have “3 seconds” to make two more passes to find the open look, not the first look.

  • Offense and Defense Split
    Jack and his defensive coaches will then split the field into offense and defense. They will then switch the middies halfway through ensuring all of the players are getting offensive and defensive reps.

  • Step downs, empty the wheelbarrow
    Jack likes to end practice by getting the whole team involved in shooting step-downs. Instead of emptying the bucket, he is emptying the wheelbarrow. He shared how this helps leave players feeling good and involved. 

Kensil runs a motion offense. Rather than calling out plays from the sideline, his offenses enable his players to read and react to the defense.

Kensil shared how decisions making is a key skill to allow athletes to be successful and find playing time.

Full Interview August 30, 2022

Decisions making is a difficult skill to learn. Many would argue more difficult than even passing and catching. Kensil shared how he works to develop his player’s decision-making skills. Does it come from on the field or in the film room?

You could be the most talented, gifted lacrosse player in the world, but if you can't make decisions, we can't put you out there. You learn things when you experience them. Experiencing those game situations as often as you can and making the wrong decision is when everything really opens up. Putting them in that game situation as often as possible and in a setting that's actually smaller than on the field allows them for when they get to not only experience the game situation but also being that they experienced they've experienced it at a faster pace. When that game situation presents itself, the game slows down and they see it ahead of time.

In terms of film, I'm noticing they get it down faster when they see it, not done by me, but in a game by a player that they can relate to. They see the game situations, understand the skill that we're working on and how it is executed.

Men's vs. Women’s game

Some of you out there may be making the transition from the men’s to the women’s game. I myself have a young daughter and have made it a point to start learning more. Kensil shared how he believed it’s more difficult to be good at women’s lacrosse than the men’s game.

Full Interview October 22, 2022

I learned so much from my conversation with Jack and can’t wait to hear more from him in the upcoming months on LPG.

Good luck this season. I hope you continue to feed the good wolf. 

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