Kayla Treanor's Move to the Sidelines

PHOTO BY GIL TALBOT

Kayla Treanor is in her first year as an assistant coach at Harvard after a stellar playing career at Syracuse. She's helped Harvard to a 4-1 start this season entering Saturday's game against her alma mater.


When Kayla Treanor started her collegiate playing career at Syracuse, she knew she’d eventually want to enter the coaching world.

The profession was in her blood as her father, Mark, coached boys' varsity basketball at her alma mater, Niskayuna (N.Y.) High School, for “20-something years.” Then there’s Treanor’s sister, Alyssa, an assistant coach at Union College, and her head coach at Syracuse, Gary Gait, said he “absolutely knew that Kayla wanted to [coach.]”

Therefore, as Treanor wrapped up her collegiate career last May – one that included four first-team All-America honors, three Tewaaraton Award finalist nods and a trio of IWLCA Attacker of the Year awards – the suitors came calling.

Harvard eventually won out, and after moving to Boston in August, the Crimson officially announced Treanor as their new assistant coach.

Now, with the 2017 regular season in second gear, Treanor’s helping shape the Ivy League program into a title contender. She leads the offense and draw control team for Harvard head coach Lisa Miller, who coached at Syracuse for a decade before moving to Harvard. Miller said Treanor's impact is already tangible.

“Kayla just loosened the kids up a lot,” Miller said. “I think they needed somebody that young in that position, beyond the fact that they’re in awe. Sometimes some of the things she does with her stick skills, I’m not going to lie, I’m in awe. You can see the skill level going up.”







Treanor, renowned for her free-wheeling style in attack and flair for the spectacular, acknowledged that she, at age 23, lacks the experience of her counterparts. In her eyes, though, that’s an “advantage rather than a disadvantage” because she can better relate to her players.

She said she understands what it takes to compete at the Division 1 level, and that's especially important at an Ivy League school such as Harvard where conference rules limit official practice time. As a result, she coined the fall as Harvard’s “investment season” and worked 1-on-1 with the Crimson’s attackers, improving their stick skills and shooting technique.

Treanor pointed specifically to sophomore Keeley MacAfee and seniors Maeve McMahon and Marisa Romeo as those who worked extensively with her. Each has eclipsed the 10-point mark through five games.

But for Treanor, imparting her knowledge of lacrosse onto players extends beyond a drill here or a pointer there.

PHOTO BY SYRACUSE ATHLETICS

Kayla Treanor was a four-time first team All-American and three-time Tewaaraton Award finalist while playing an exciting style of lacrosse at Syracuse.

“I definitely played a more creative style of play, not very traditional,” Treanor said. “I think I played like that because of my stick skills, so that’s definitely one thing that I’ve really tried to be a point of emphasis in coaching.

“In most sports you have to be super athletic to play at a very high level, and I think that lacrosse is very similar,” Treanor added. “But if you have off-the-charts stick skills, then you don’t have to be super athletic. It’s finding that balance, and the better your stick is, the better player you are.”

Treanor said the hardest part of coaching is that she’s relegated to the sidelines once the game starts. In other words, Harvard’s staff – which includes another Syracuse alumna in Carla Farkes – will prepare all week, and then she almost feels “helpless” when the whistle blows.

That dynamic came as no surprise to Michelle Tumolo, a fellow attacker, Treanor’s teammate on Team USA and her former assistant coach at Syracuse.

Tumolo, now an assistant coach at Oregon, said Treanor’s presence practically gave Syracuse a fourth coach, and that she never let her plaudits or statistics muddy advice for her teammates. When Treanor became more serious about becoming a coach, Tumolo also said she talked with her “for what felt like hours” about how hard the transition could be.

It’s something Tumolo said she experienced when she was a 22-year-old assistant coach at Florida, especially with recruiting all over the country. Tumolo, however, said that when “you love the game, it’s easy,” and that’s exactly how Treanor’s mindset is.

“Being a player at the top of the pack like Kayla Treanor, she loves lacrosse and loves teaching and loves the game,” Tumolo said. “If you love the game, then you’re going to put everything into it. I think Harvard is extremely lucky to have her on staff because she really does love the game. She puts her life into it and can easily teach and show people how to play the way she did.”

As for Gait – someone Treanor hailed as a mentor and said “everything that he did for me, I just want to be able to give that to other people” – he echoed the same sentiments as Tumolo.

“She’s so knowledgeable and does a great job at delivering the message as well as making sure the content is well directed,” Gait said. “She understands strategies and what needs to be done, and as a competitive person we always knew she’d be good at that. We’ve seen it for so long, and she’s really going to be a good coach.”

The question before Treanor, then, is what the future has in the store.

PHOTO BY SCOTT MCCALL

Kayla Treanor's stick skills have left many opponents in awe, and even her current boss at Harvard, Lisa Miller, is blown away seeing what she can do with her stick. She'll put those skills to use this summer for Team USA at the World Cup.

She'll play this summer with Team USA at the World Cup in England, a tournament in which the Americans will try and secure an eighth title. They had a training camp in January and will have another in May, and Treanor said coaching at Harvard has helped keep her game at a high level.

“I’m thinking about lacrosse every day,” Treanor said. “I can hop into any drill that I want; I like to play with the girls a lot. I’m playing and have a stick in my hand every day.”

In the coaching realm, Treanor said she’d love to be a head coach one day, but doesn’t envision that happening any time soon. Rather, she coined herself “a live in the moment kind of person” who’s wholly invested in Harvard’s season and learning as much from Miller as possible.

Miller – who joked that Treanor helps on the recruiting trail because “we’ll walk around with her and kids will take selfies and there you go” – said Treanor’s definitely in coaching for the long run.

“Some kids come in and you can see they’re not going to coach for long,” Miller said, “but she’ll be coaching until she’s old and gray.”

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