Every September, Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala welcomes back the team with a barbecue in which he gives a speech mentioning the previous season’s highlights and looking forward to the upcoming year.
This past September, he spent all of one minute reviewing 2013 with his players.
That’s not shocking when you consider that last year was one to forget for the Blue Jays. Despite a 9-5 record, they missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1971. It was the longest streak in Division I college athletics, but Pietramala saw little need to relive that with the team.
“When you play at Johns Hopkins and you don’t make the playoffs for the first time in 41 years, I think you’re very aware of exactly what happened,” he said. “It’s not something that you can look beyond and pretend never happened. It’s something that you’re going to hear about at the end of the season and over the summer. You get the questions of ‘What happened?’ It was something our guys were keenly aware of, that they didn’t make the playoffs. That being said, my feeling and the feeling of my staff was that the most important thing we could do was move forward. We couldn’t move sideways, we couldn’t move backward and change what happened. When you lose a game, you know you’ve lost it. It’s easier to get after your guys when you win and harder to do that to them when you lose because they already know that they lost.”
Questions about last spring will likely dog this season’s squad until May when the 18-team field for the NCAA tournament is unveiled. Pietramala is aware of that, but he also knows that the best thing the team can do is find a way to redirect that energy in positive directions.
“Channeling is one thing. Dwelling on it and allowing it to hold you back is another,” he said. “These guys know what happened last year. They lived with it all summer and they live with it now. Here we are and this is a new lacrosse season and what are you and I talking about? We’re talking about last season. So when you think about it, you don’t think those questions come up for them? And you don’t think the media is going to ask them? And you don’t think that when we have a meeting with the media, last year is not going to come up? So the most important thing we can do is to learn from last year and move forward and not allow it to happen again, and that has been the approach. These guys have taken a what’s-in-front-of-me kind of approach.”
What may play into Johns Hopkins’ favor is that there are 17 new faces in the freshmen class. That turnover has given the players a fresh perspective on the upcoming campaign and Pietramala a much different group to inspire.
“We graduated a lot of players and this is a different team,” he said. “It’s different leadership, it’s a different makeup. So really the approach has been that we need to move forward, we need to do some things differently obviously, so that we don’t get the same result. But nonetheless, the goal has been to move forward and not keep looking over our shoulders. We all know it’s there. I’m sure that it motivates every one of us. But I don’t think it’s something that we need to constantly harp on or remind ourselves. I think we need to be positive and move forward in a positive fashion, not a negative fashion.”