WEST BLOOMFIELD — West Bloomfield High boys lacrosse coach Aaron Avery recalled that it was four days before the season was set to begin when suddenly he was left with a decision to make.
Avery, an assistant at that time, said the expected head coach stepped down, leaving him and the players surprised and suddenly in a predicament regarding the immediate future of the program.
“Basically, what it came down to was either I do it or there is no season,” Avery said. “In that regard, it was an easy decision, I knew it was the right thing to do. My concern was I hope the guys believe in me. … I’m a football coach guy, everyone knows that, but I do know what I’m doing.”
Avery took the job, his first lacrosse head coaching position, though he has been an assistant in the sport for four years.
He has also coached football in the district for 17 years at various levels.
Avery said he’s excited about the opportunity to bring his ideas to the game and incorporate his background from the gridiron.
“I’ve learned so much from (the previous lacrosse coaches), and what I bring from football, I think is a good balance,” he said. “I’m hoping to get in the (players’) heads that fundamentals and teamwork is what it takes to win games. ‘Don’t be selfish, and trust and rely on your teammates.’”
The coach said his players are sold on his concepts.
“We won our first game, and right now, they are buying in, to their credit,” he said. “I’m really proud of them for believing in themselves, mostly — going out there and doing what I ask them to do and finding, ‘wow, this can work.’”
At press time, the Lakers were 1-0 after beating Warren Cousino 9-5 March 22 at home. West Bloomfield opens its Oakland Activities Association White Division slate with Oxford High at 7 p.m. April 15 on the road.
On defense, the Lakers play what Avery calls a “man zone.” He said it allows the defenseman on the ball to be aggressive without worrying about getting beat to the net, which can happen more often in a man-to-man scheme he said.
“We always want our guy to be on the ball hard. We want him to be very aggressive and never let the other guy comfortable. The reason we can do that, is because there is a strong zone support around the ball carrier,” Avery said. “The kids really like it. They don’t want to go out there and be passive, they want to be aggressive within the bounds of the game.”
On offense, the Lakers run a 3-2-1, basically meaning there are five guys in front of the net with one guy setting things up behind the net.
Avery wants to spread the defense out with precise passing on the perimeter. From there, he believes the defense will get impatient and his players will be able to take advantage of the new lanes that are opened.
“It’s just fundamentals,” he said. “If you can catch the ball, you can move the ball. If you can move the ball, the defense opens up. If the defense opens up, you get shots. Hopefully, those shots go in.”
Avery added that he has an experienced team, with 14 seniors, eight juniors and a sophomore. The Lakers have seven returning starters from the squad that finished 3-11 last season.
“We’re bringing back a good deal of talent. This could be a great season,” he said. “It’s kind of cool to have this opportunity thrown at you.”