CMC and Claremont Lacrosse alumni coaching in World Lacrosse Championships
Not many colleges can say that they have a former player coaching in the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Lacrosse Championships, but Claremont McKenna College has two. Dylan Sheridan ’06 is making his first appearance in the World Lacrosse Championships coaching Thailand, while Merrill (Skipp) Stillwell ’09, is coaching Colombia for his second appearance in the World Lacrosse Championships. In addition to both alumni, current men’s lacrosse head coach Pete Ginnegar is an assistant coach for the Israeli team and current player Sung Mo Ku ’16 is playing for the Korean team. The Championships, which feature teams from 38 countries, are being held in Denver, Colo. from July 10-19.
Stillwell and Sheridan were teammates for a season and are products of the Claremont Cougars lacrosse program, the Five-College men’s club lacrosse team at The Claremont Colleges. The team plays in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA), which means it is not sanctioned by the NCAA, but is a club maintained by the students who participate in the sport. So, the logical question is, “How does a program that is not NCAA sanctioned, in a region where lacrosse hasn’t taken off yet like it has on the East Coast, produce two alumni who are coaches in the World Lacrosse Championships?”
The answer, according to the two CMC graduates, is simple. The Claremont Colleges and the club lacrosse team give its student-athletes unique athletic and educational opportunities. Those opportunities, along with the duo’s own drive and ambition, allowed them to succeed doing what they love, which is what eventually led them to a coaching career.
Before the World Championships, both Stillwell and Sheridan shared some of their experiences about their time in Claremont, coaching, and what it was that sparked their drive to coach.
Sheridan has a diverse and extensive coaching resume that began with him as an assistant at Pfeiffer University in North Carolina. He has coached everything from Division I and Division III women’s and men’s lacrosse and has been the defensive coordinator at Denver University for the past four years in addition to his international coaching duties. Along with being the defensive coordinator at one of the top lacrosse programs in the US, the game he loves has taken him all over the world, from playing in some of the biggest stadiums in the United States, to traveling to Japan, Australia, Germany, the Czech Republic, England, and eventually to Thailand later this summer.
While lacrosse has taken him all around the world, his interest in a lacrosse coaching career began here in Claremont, where he honed his playing, coaching, and administrative skills on the club lacrosse team. Because men’s lacrosse is a club sport and a member of the MCLA, the team operates with student officers, and as junior he became president of Claremont Lacrosse.
“During that time, I learned a lot of the responsibilities that coaches have: scheduling games, getting equipment, scheduling officials, and all of those things that if I was an NCAA athlete, I would have never had to deal with,” said Sheridan.
While most athletes might view the added responsibilities in addition to playing a disadvantage, Sheridan believes those experiences taught him skills that have become invaluable in his coaching career and gave him an insight into the coaching profession that others were not fortunate enough to receive. It is those skills learned as a Claremont Cougar and his own insatiable hunger for the game of lacrosse that helped Sheridan build such an impressive coaching resume at such a young age.
In contrast to Sheridan, Stillwell had a very different journey to the World Lacrosse Championships; however, his journey is still one that was ignited by the unique opportunities that going to CMC and playing for an MCLA team gave him.
Stillwell’s coaching journey started when he first was introduced to the Argentine National Team while he and a fellow teammate were studying abroad in Argentina the fall semester of his junior year. While studying abroad Stillwell was spotted playing and asked to help out with the team.
“I was lucky with Claremont [Lacrosse] to be able to go abroad, where a lot of other programs don’t allow that,” said Stillwell.
He was then asked to help coach the Argentine National team in the 2010 World Championships and after that, was brought on as a coach for the FIL. As a coach for the FIL, he traveled to Colombia a year and a half ago to help start the Colombian National Team. As the Colombian National Team prepared for the World Championships, he was asked to be a coach, an offer he gladly accepted.
When asked if there was anything about his time with Claremont Lacrosse that helped fuel his passion for coaching, he, like his CMC counterpart, explained that it was his time as president of the club that gave him insight into the coaching world. His unique experience of participating in a club sport, being fortunate enough to travel abroad, and his fluency in Spanish gave him a unique background that allowed him to fully grasp the opportunities that were put in front of him.
While both alumni took contrasting paths to become coaches, their coaching skills and interest in the profession blossomed in a similar way, as members of the Claremont Cougars and as CMC students. These two coaches who took such different paths to get to where they are today in the coaching world, now get the chance to face off as coaches as their two teams play each other in the National Championships.