2012 Convention: Virginia’s John Walker in the Zone
Virginia’s run to the 2011 NCAA men’s lacrosse championship was fueled in part by a much-publicized midseason switch to a zone defense, a move decidedly un-Cavalier-like for anyone accustomed to the Wahoos’ traditional pressure defense and up-tempo style.
||UVA's defensive coordinator John Walker will discuss the Cavs' zone defense at the 2012 National Convention.
Now, Virginia assistant coach John Walker is prepared to share the secrets behind what made the zone a successful piece of the Cavs’ championship season. Walker will join an impressive list of college coaches sharing their knowledge with their high school and youth counterparts at the US Lacrosse National Convention, presented by Champion, Jan. 13-15, 2012, in Philadelphia.
"It was borne out of necessity with where we were at the time," said Walker, defensive coordinator of the 2011 Cavaliers. "I’ll take everyone through how we arrived at that conclusion and what coaches can take away if they decide to play a zone defense."
Walker, who’ll be joined at the Pennsylvania Convention Center by colleagues such as Duke’s John Danowski, Drexel’s Chris Collins and Salisbury’s Jim Berkman, has some familiarity with necessity. Back injuries partly limited his senior season as a player at Army. Upon graduation, the All-American was stationed at the U.S. Military Academy Prep School to help coach the lacrosse team instead of regular Army duty in part due to limited physical mobility, according to former Army coach and National Hall of Famer Jack Emmer.
"It was here that John dedicated himself to the coaching profession with the same commitment he made to graduate from the Academy," Emmer said.
It also marked a homecoming for Walker, who spent a year at Army Prep before heading to West Point. Life at the service academies is challenging, to say the least, and many initial enrollees do not graduate.
"If you have any chance of making it in the coaching profession on the collegiate level you need to have the ability to persevere. John has it," Emmer said. "John was challenged over and over again and decided to carry on at the Academy. His experience at West Point defines his character."
At Army Prep, Walker coached for three seasons alongside Tom Hansen, who coached Walker in 2001 there.
"That school gave me a lot," Walker said. "I wanted to give back there, and the best way for me to do that was to get into coaching."
Walker received a medical discharge from the Army and left Army Prep for an assistant coaching position under Dom Starsia at Virginia. Walker coached the faceoff unit and goalies in his first two years.
"John has done a great job since coming to Virginia," Starsia said. "He’s a former first-team All-America attackman now working effectively with our defense. He is one of the bright, young lights in our profession."
"I was fortunate to follow a great coaching tree," Walker said. "Coach Emmer at Army was a great influence on my life. I learned a lot of lessons from Coach (Joe) Alberici and Mac Diange. All those guys inspired my life, impacted my life, and I knew I needed do the same for kids."
"Defense: The Virginia Way" with John Walker will take place at 9 a.m. Jan. 15 at the 2012 US Lacrosse National Convention. Lacrosse coaches, officials and administrators can register for the convention online at www.uslacrosse.org/2012convention before Dec. 28 for $105, a savings of $45 on the walk-up price. Registration includes pre-event access to speaker materials and post-event access to video of all convention presentations (a $300 value).
— Paul Krome
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