By Chris Goldberg
TopLaxRecruits.com, Posted 8/15/17
Former Northwestern standout goalie Bridget Bianco said there is no feeling like making a big stop with the game on the line – or helping a young keeper find the same success.
“I love being a goalie; it’s unique,” she said. “You have to have a few screws loose. It’s a lot harder to stand in the goal than score goals.
“It’s a special position, and not many can do it. There is not anything like the adrenaline of making a save. That’s why I love being a goalie coach. I am so passionate about it. I want young goalies to know it’s OK to fail. If you don’t fail and get scored on you can’t be a great goalie. I have learned so much and became a better person through being a lacrosse goalie and I want to give that back.”
Bianco was a member of NU’s 2012 National championship team and an All-American in 2013 who also was a Tewaaraton finalist (top 25) in 2014. In high school she played for legendary New Jersey program Moorestown.
Today, she relishes her role as a goalie coach and 2020 Illinois coach for girls’ club power Summit Elite, a national team of top players from Illinois and Colorado. The Denver program will be holding tryouts for players in the classes of 2018-2025 on Aug. 26 and 27 at the University of Denver Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium and Diane Wendt Fields. Click here for full story on tryouts.
Bianco’s move to coach high school aged players came after spending a year as an assistant at Richmond. Last year she moved back near Northwestern in Chicago and served as a goalie instructor for Midwest power Loyola Academy and recently launched biancolacrosse.com specializing in private instructions, small group training and collegiate consulting.
Her interest in coaching young goalies was sparked when she trained Loyola’s Delaney Oliveira, a key starter on the team’s 9th straight state title squad this spring. Bianco, who also played in 2016 for the Philadelphia entry in the new women’s pro league, the United Women’s Lacrosse League (UWLX), believes her varied experiences at each level have helped shape her as a player and a coach. She answered these questions:
How do you coach young high school players differently than when you coached college?
Bianco: “I try not to change too much. You’re preparing them for college. I was lucky to get to coach at Richmond under (head coach) Allison Kwolek. I learned so much and I will forever be thankful for that. I know a little bit into the world of college lacrosse. I just try to keep the same attitude and tone. Our girls want to play college lacrosse so they need to know what this is going to be like. Once you reach that level it’s easy to translate it down and help to prepare young girls before they head off. With little kids you try to make it fun. It may be a new sport and it’s intimidating, especially being a goalie. They may let in 20 goals and make no saves and probably think they are not good. That’s not true. I let in 22 goals in college one time. You make it fun and go from there.”
How do you approach the task of coaching young goalies?
Bianco: “You need to have the basics before can create your own style. You must know the fundamentals. No two goalies play the same. To become yourself in the goal from that you need to have consistent drills for hands, feet and one that combines them both. That doesn’t mean you get into the goal and toss balls at the goalie. You shoot at them and slowly combine drills like ladders. You have to have goalie specific drills.”
How do you approach teaching the mental side of the position?
Bianco: “I think I go right off the bat and say, ‘Hey I was where you were.’ I like to tell them stories. I also want them to ask questions; I won’t let them leave without asking two questions. You also need to take them through the process of building their confidence by saving shots and putting them in situations where they can have success.”
Why do you help young goalies deal with failures?
“I want young goalies to know it’s OK to fail. If you don’t fail and get scored on you can’t be a great goalie. I have learned so much and become a better person through being a lacrosse goalie and I want to give that back.”
Why did you join Summit Lacrosse?
“It’s a newer program and I love trying to spread the game in places like Denver and Illinois. They just want to spread the game and they want kids that don’t have maybe the same opportunities that kids that join clubs in Long Island, New Jersey or Philadelphia have to be seen.”
What advice do you have for young goalies?
“My advice is to trust that your fundamentals are there and and to trust the learning process. Also, don’t just stay in the goal. I played half goalie and half field until 7th grade and I think that helped my athleticism in the goal. That helped me have no regrets on my decision. If you get scored on, don’t get frustrated just because you are getting scored on. You will never get a shutout; you’ll always get scored on. A goalie gets knocked down; but people remember how you react to failing and not that you failed. They will remember how you came back the next game, not the bad game. If you fail in a game, it’s going to be how you react to that – whether it’s positive or negative. That’s your choice.”
Tell me a little bit about new your company, Bianco Lacrosse?
Bianco: “I just launched my website biancolacrosse.com this week and I’m so excited! I want to take the passion I have for the game, and specifically the goalie position, and help train athletes in Chicago as well as college coaches nationwide. Most college teams don’t have a goalie coach on staff or the budget to hire a full time goalie coach. My goal is to train college coaches to also be goalie coaches through a structured and systematic approach that allows them to train their goalies effectively even if the college coach has never played the position.”
How do the rules of the pro game – players can move freely on whistles and the 90-second shot clock – change the game?
“It changes the perspective. The game moves so much faster and lets you see how you can work through things. I try to translate the changes while coaching. You have to think, for instance, when you are a man down and have a 90 second shot clock what does our defense do? So what would I want my high school defender to do? No passes in the middle … we do 6 on 6 in smaller area. There’s a lot less people and it lets you see the game from a fresher perspective.”
How did you experience at Northwestern help to shape you as a player and eventual coach?
“We were national champions my freshman year. I wouldn’t trade my time at Northwestern for anything in the world. I grew as a person and met unbelievable people. I learned an unbelievable amount about the game. We had an unreal coaching staff and the best way to put it is that without Northwestern I would never be the lacrosse player or person I am. My teammates were my family for four years. We were far from home and you trust your teammates. It was a lot of hard work and it paid off. I can reflect on my time and what I remember most are the relationships and that’s why we won big games and became champions.”
How was it playing at a high school powerhouse like Moorestown under legendary coach Deanna Knobloch?
“Moorestown is a dynasty. There’s not enough I can say about Deanna Knobloch and (husband and assistant coach) KC. Honestly, I wanted to play soccer and I was going to quit lacrosse and play soccer. But when you step on the field there you don’t want to leave. They prepare their teams and girls to go to that next level, which is what I want to do at Loyola Academy. It’s a family environment and at Moorestown they expect to be champions. I loved my four years there and being part of history and part of a bigger thing than just lacrosse. It’s cool that everyone knows Moorestown girls’ lacrosse as something very special. The girls’ team is known well beyond the town and they are near and dear to my heart.”