Delaware's Bob Shillinglaw recently became the first coach in men's college lacrosse to coach 600 career games. The Severna Park native and graduate may not have envisioned such longevity, but he always knew he would be a coach.
"I was very, very fortunate," he said on Wednesday morning. "Very early through high school and college, I made the decision that I wanted to be a coach. Going through my collegiate career, I decided that I really wanted to get into it, the college aspect of it. Right out of North Carolina, I was able to get in as a one-year assistant [at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy] and then I took over as a head coach in my second year. I was able to get in as a head coach early in my career. The longevity of it speaks for itself. I'm very blessed to be able to be at the University of Delaware, which is a great institution and a great program. I'm very fortunate that I've had a long coaching career."
Shillinglaw, who will guide the Blue Hens (5-3 overall and 0-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association) into Saturday's meeting with No. 20 Towson (6-2, 0-0), has a 315-286 career record. He is the dean of Division I coaches, having spent 36 years at Delaware, and his 39-year tenure is second among active coaches only to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Walter Alessi, who is in his 40th season.
Shillinglaw pointed to former Severna Park football coaches George Roberts and Andy Borland and former basketball coach Butch Young, former Cornell mentor Richie Moran and current Denver coach Bill Tierney as influences. But he said his interest in coaching began at an early age.
"I got involved with youth sports, and around sixth grade, I was just really intrigued with that aspect of how coaches motivate players and get them to play hard and how they interact," Shillinglaw said. "Early in elementary school, I formulated this desire to be a coach, to be that person that can help others."
Shillinglaw is the winningest coach in the Blue Hens' 65-year history, but the program finished in fifth and sixth place in the CAA in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Shillinglaw, however, said he doesn't fret about job security in an age of athletics where coaches being dismissed for one poor season are becoming increasingly frequent.
"I don't worry as much about that aspect of it," he said. "Obviously, lacrosse has developed very similarly to football and basketball in that if you don't win, you're jeopardizing your career and your position. I think coaches have always known that it's a competitive field where it's what-have-you-done-for-me-lately and don't want to rest on their laurels. You want to win – whether your job is at stake or whether you're out there competing against an opponent. You want to win in practice, intersquad, you name it. … Coaches are competitive and they want to do well and they want to get players to produce, and there's a satisfaction from playing at your highest level. My philosophy has always been that if we can play at our highest level, whatever happens, happens, and you can't worry about the wins and losses."