Reisterstown man is first male varsity lacrosse coach at Notre Dame Prep
By By Nelson Coffin
Owings Mills Times|
Nov 11, 2014 at 10:05 AM
Mac Ford's qualifications for landing the job as the first male varsity lacrosse at Notre Dame Preparatory School are off the charts.
The most notable of the Reisterstown resident's achievements in the sport — induction into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame — came in 2010, topping off an illustrious career filled with accolades and accomplishments at Gilman School, the University of North Carolina and the Mount Washington Lacrosse Club.
Moreover, Ford has also excelled on the sideline after his playing days, assisting Team USA women's squad head coach Sue Heether in the 2009 World Cup triumph over defending champion Australia in Prague, Czech Republic.
Even with all those things going for him, the choice of Ford to replace longtime NDP coach Mary Bartel was a surprise to some in the lacrosse community.
"It wasn't until Mac applied for the job that I found out he coached girls lacrosse," said Jamie Smith, Notre Dame Prep's athletic director. "So, sure, to some degree I was surprised when he applied."
At 51, having an established financial career as a member of the Ford Group at Morgan Stanley — and eight years after his youngest daughter, Molly, graduated from the all-girls school in Towson — it seemed like an odd time for Ford to pursue a job that opened when Bartel decided not to return after more than two decades at the Blazers' helm.
Yet he jumped at the chance when the opportunity arose.
"Mary did a terrific job building the program," he said of his predecessor. "People around the country know about NDP lacrosse because of her."
Ford hopes to build on that legacy by bringing a lifelong love of the game to his new position.
"After coaching my sister and me in club lacrosse and coaching for the Women's USA World Cup team, he had a passion to stay in the women's game," said Molly Ford, a star in her own right for the Blazers and as a collegiate player before graduating from Georgetown University in 2010. "His goal has always been to coach a girls high school team. I am just happy he chose my alma mater."
Moreover, she feels her dad is ready for the challenge.
"He is never complacent with his strategy and teaching methods," added Molly, who is currently coaching high school and club lacrosse in Dallas. "He is constantly studying the game at the highest level to bring fresh ideas and techniques to his players. He understands and knows how to break down skills and concepts to develop players to their full potential."
"I'm very passionate about girls lacrosse," said Mac Ford, a father of five. "I'm the crazy guy who goes to a girls high school game just to watch. I like women's lacrosse better than the men's game now, because it reminds me of the game I played back in the '80s."
That's the decade when Ford was an All-American attackman at Gilman (1981) and North Carolina (1984, 1985) and the United States Club Lacrosse Association Player of the Year (1987, 1988, 1989).
Ford was also a member of the 1990 Team USA squad that captured the World Championship in Perth, Australia. He was named the Best Attackman at the event.
Ford said he likes the transition-fueled passing game of the female version of the sport that he discovered when coaching his daughters' teams with the Freedom Area Recreation Council in Carroll County, which was an easy drive from his former residence in Glyndon.
That's where he learned that some things about coaching girls are different while other things are all too familiar among athletes of both sexes.
"Girls are more social," he said. "If they don't get along with another girl, they might not pass her the ball. Guys pretty much don't care who gets the ball. They pass the ball to the open guy. But when girls focus, they are just as competitive as guys. They'll knock you down and won't pick you up if they have to."
Harnessing that competitive desire will be one of Ford's major goals for the Blazers, who have not hoisted an Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship trophy since 2003.
"I've studied what the top girls were doing to get the best results," said Ford, who has run the Futures Lacrosse camps at Roland Park Country School the past two summers with his daughter Molly and Andrew Pons. "I try to take that knowledge and teach it to younger girls."
Ford even gives one-on-one instructions at a converted barn on his property in Reisterstown.
Despite his decorated career, Ford realizes that he and the rest of his conference coaching colleagues will continue to have an uphill battle against the dynasty at McDonogh School, winners of a national-record 112 games in a row and six consecutive league titles.
"I've learned a lot by studying what they do at McDonogh," he said about the Owings Mills school. "It's good to learn from the best. They have a lot of kids on middle-school teams, and they coach them up as they come through the ranks. They have a great system."
Although it may be difficult to match McDonogh any time soon, Smith said bringing Ford aboard was the right choice for a program "with a long and rich tradition" of success.
"When you sit down and talk to Mac, he's very impressive," he said. "It's the way he carries himself and communicates with the girls. We want to continue to be a strong program with competitive teams and high aspirations."