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Lutheran girls lacrosse regains winning form under coach John Tucker

From the Boston Cannons to Baltimore Lutheran, John Tucker's lacrosse coaching career spans an extreme gamut from the men's professional Major League Lacrosse to the girls Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland C Conference.

With his Lutheran team having already tripled its win total from last spring, Tucker's reclamation project at the Towson coed school is in full swing and may only briefly coincide with the MLL season that runs from late April to early August.

As those who follow local high school lacrosse know, Tucker has held his share of boys lacrosse coaching gigs in the area.

His taking another new position is not surprising to him or those who have observed Tucker's propensity to job-hop.

"I've learned a lot about myself over the years," Tucker said. "It's just my personality. I like building things and then leaving them in a better state than when I started. My father worked 35 years at Bethlehem Steel and all he got was a gold watch. Maybe that's why I like challenges, and this is a challenge."

His résumé includes winning Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championships at Gilman and Loyola Blakefield, with stints at Severn and Archbishop Curley thrown in for good measure.

Tucker was also an assistant to the dean of MIAA coaches, Bob Shriver, at Boys' Latin.

Yet this is the first time he has run a girls program, although he was an assistant for two years to his wife, Janine, the head women's coach at Johns Hopkins University.

Tucker's list of other notable lacrosse accomplishments include being a member of championship teams at the highest levels of the collegiate (Johns Hopkins in 1984) professional (Philadelphia Wings indoor in 1989, 1990) and amateur (U.S. world team in 1986, 1990, 1994) ranks.

At Lutheran, the 52-year-old father of two has inherited a team that went 1-9 last spring after posting a 16-0 mark and claiming a C Conference crown in 2012.

One of the reasons he took the job as director of admissions at Lutheran is that the school is within walking distance of his Brooke Meadow home.

Moreover, he and his wife have started a club program for girls, Coppermine Lacrosse Club, at the school.

Yet it took more than those circumstances for Tucker to ultimately make the move from his alma mater, Curley, to nearby Lutheran.

"Janine and I used to walk down here with the kids and shoot around (the goals), and we saw what they had," he said. "It's a great school, and they're building something here."

He also would like to build the lacrosse program to the point where it is self-sustaining.

"There's a unique opportunity here," he said. "It's not a one-year fix, but it could turn into something special if it all comes together."

Tucker said that advancing middle age — his two sons are in college — is giving him a different perspective on life and the role of athletics in the lives of young people.

"It's been great," he said about Lutheran. "It's the true nature of what coaching is all about, especially at the C Conference level. Most of the girls have never played the sport before. For a guy like me, who's high strung, it's been a pleasant change. I've been to the top of the mountain (in lacrosse), and this puts me in a different position. It can be frustrating at times, but it's what life is all about."

Janine Tucker said that her husband's coaching techniques are good fits for all levels.

"Whether it's the MLL or high school, John is very good about getting players to play above themselves," she said. "He is outstanding at imparting knowledge about fundamental skills."

What he likes most about coaching girls is that they are more apt to pay attention to their coach.

"The girls listen, and they don't pretend to know things that they don't really know," he said. "There's an honesty to them, and they'll do what you tell them to do."

Tucker said that his practices are completely devoted to teaching the basics — catching and throwing, setting picks and shooting — rather than going over set plays.

While he said the Saints are "not deep enough yet" to have consistently effective defensive performances, his offense is predicated on quick transition play and creating mismatches. Offensive sets are not the team's strong suit.

"We like to ride hard and take chances," he said. "We're not sharp enough yet, seven-on-seven."

What he has brought, though, is an air of optimism to a program that switched coaches during the 2013 campaign.

Senior defender Victoria Lake said that Tucker's style seems to be working for a team that began the season with a 3-3 mark.

"A lot of coaches like to yell and scream at you," she said. "He takes you aside and tell you what you need to do. And he acknowledges the good things that you do."

His softer side is as effective as becoming emotional on the sideline when things go awry on the field.

"There can be a little more stress when you're used to working with elite-level players," Janine Tucker said. "But the girls are recognizing what they have is a really caring coach."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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