Blaxers Blog: Chris Garland Turning Lacrosse Into a Transformative Experience


To Chris Garland, lacrosse and friendship are synonymous. 

“I’ve been fortunate enough to make so many great friends and meet great people,” Garland said. “The guys I’ve coached with guided me throughout the way and became some of my closest friends.”

Since the age of 15, he’s been active in the sport and vows to continue until he can’t any longer.

CHRIS GARLAND

Hometown: Wallingford, Conn.
College: Hampden-Sydney (1997)
High School: Choate Rosemary Hall (1992-94) Xavier High School (1994-96)

Notable Accolades:

  • Juiced Cherries, College Placement Coordinator, 2023 head coach

  • Detroit Country Day School, head coach (2019-present)

A COURAGEOUS LEAP

As a former day student at Choate Rosemary Hall, Garland grew indifferent about running track.

Many of his friends played lacrosse, and the junior varsity lacrosse coach, Pascale Musto, convinced him to try the sport. Garland had his own football cleats, but the school provided him with a helmet, gloves and elbow pads. It was Musto who gave him his first stick.

“I could only imagine how many more kids would play lacrosse if there were more coaches who had the courage to ask,” Garland said. “With the specialization of lacrosse and prevalence of club sports, you see less kids like me who started playing as a high school freshman. That doesn’t happen much anymore. It took me a long time to figure this sport out, and I was fortunate to watch high level lacrosse.”

Following his initial lacrosse exposures, Garland videotaped NCAA tournament games to routinely study the sport. 

“There were so few games on television that I had to record them when they came on,” he said. “I probably watched the 1995 DIII national championship game 30 or more times.”

As a junior, Garland transferred to Xavier High School in Middletown, Conn., where he became a first-team All-Southern Connecticut Conference honoree in 1996 as a senior.

“It was an awesome experience playing at Xavier under Jeff Lombardo,” Garland said. “When I first arrived, we weren’t very good, however; we kept improving as a team, and I became team captain during my senior year. He turned the program around in the right direction before leaving for Daniel Hand in 2008.”

Garland’s path to Hampden-Sydney started while in grade school. He attended a day camp with a few friends from Choate Rosemary Hall who grew up in Princeton. 

“This was back in the day when coaches recruited from camps, and I had no intention of playing in college,” Garland said.

IMLCA Hall of Famer and then Hampden-Sydney head coach Ray Rostan introduced himself and kept Garland in close contact. Then at a second camp at UMass, Garland assumed that he played decently despite a sign measuring his talents to the other campers.

“Mark Millon walked up to me after a game, tapped my shoulder and told me, “You’re a college lacrosse player” and walks off,” Garland said. “That was a pivotal moment that helped me practice and play harder later.”

Garland made his debut with Hampden-Sydney in 1997 as a defenseman, as the Tigers finished 8-7 (4-2 ODAC). He described his experience as amazing under the guidance of Rostan, M.V. Whitlow and Bobby Wynne.

During his senior campaign, Garland’s father was gravely ill with cancer and made a rare appearance while witnessing his son score a goal.

“I didn’t play in the Final Four, but that was a very special moment for me,” Garland said.

To graduate, students must pass the Rhetoric Proficiency Exam, a required essay assessment. Garland said that Hampden-Sydney helped him adapt to any situation based on their courses and expectations.

“When I graduated, I moved to Charlottesville and coached sixth grade lacrosse,” Garland said. “Seven or eight kids I coached from [now] Lakeside Middle School ended up at Hampden-Sydney. I wasn’t a four-year player, but I had so much faith in my institution. That’s how highly I think of my time at HSC and Coach Rostan. He’s a truly great man.” 

Since 2015, Lombardo has served as the UConn men’s club coach. He led the Huskies to an MCLA tournament appearance in 2019.







NUTRIENTS OF KNOWLEDGE

After stops at St. Anne’s Belfield, Blue Ridge School, Westwood, Westlake, Gilman, Mater Dei School and Georgetown Prep, Garland’s first varsity head coaching opportunity arose following his Georgetown graduates’ completion (2009), when he moved to Minnesota to guide The Blake School and serve as an assistant at Edina High School.

“Everywhere I’ve been and who I’ve coached with, I learned a lot,” he said. “The transformative people I owe the most to are Richard Freedman, JJ Pearl, Rusty Ward and Gary Mitchell. I started coaching travel lacrosse with Dr. Richard Freedman in Charlottesville. When my father passed away, I was drifting a bit. Richard changed my life. I coached with JJ, Rusty and Gary with the Baltimore Breakers Lacrosse Club. They taught me how to run an organization and be a consummate professional. Those three people, and their families, are so important to me, and I miss them dearly. We had some great times together.” 

While coaching the Breakers, Garland noticed a Michigan player on the roster whose father knew Juiced Cherries Lacrosse Club founder and director Jake Kenney. Kenney founded the Juiced Cherries Lacrosse Club in 2013 after winning national titles at Princeton in 1997 and 1998. His brothers, Derek (1999) and Nate (2003), won titles at Virginia.

After some bonding and coaching, their father, John, informed Garland of an opening at Detroit Country Day School. The club’s master clinician and Virginia alumnus was a 2005 [USA] Lacrosse Man of the Year and Team USA U18 head coach who became a 2010 MHSCLA and 2021 NILC hall of famer.

Initially, Garland wanted to move on from coaching high school lacrosse, and he had a meeting with Brandon Childs at York to see if it would work out. 

“Coach Childs is someone I truly admire,” Garland said. “I was headed over to Gilman to discuss the possibility of coaching a fall and winter sport, and then traveling up to York and serving Coach Childs in some capacity. It would’ve been a huge undertaking, but I believe so much in what he stands for that I wanted to make it work.” 

However, after conversing with DCDS’ former head of school, he reconsidered his decision and became head coach in 2019. 

Previous to his arrival, the Yellow Jackets were 5-10 in 2018. Garland rallied the Yellow Jackets to 10-10 (2019) and 13-4 (2021) seasons.

Throughout his 16-year teaching career, Garland’s thirst for knowledge helped fuel his student’s success. At Detroit Country Day School, his history curriculum prioritizes the citation of facts from reliable resources.

“Historians play a critical role in our society, as they help people unlock and understand the past,” he said. “While traveling the nation, I’ve learned about the regions where I’ve taught and my student’s backgrounds. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a distortion of historical facts, and some aren’t inquisitive enough to conduct their own research to learn about our nation’s past. Therefore, I love teaching the subject matter.”

He implores active reading as others understand the world around them and become well-rounded individuals.

Before becoming the club’s college guidance coordinator in 2016, Garland served as a college counselor at St. Paul’s. He focused on college placements for his student-athletes.

“We put a ton of time into identifying the right schools who are a great fit for our kids,” Garland said. “We attend events with a laser focus on those who need to evaluate our kids in-person, their factors and ensuring that our kids and their families do their due diligence. We have a robust conversation with our players and their families about what they want out of their college experience.”

Garland said that Juiced Cherries benefited from the confluence of Michigan’s lacrosse growth and dedicated individuals whose sacrifices made it a reality. 

“There are so many people who deserve a lot of credit for the growth of the game in our state,” he said. “Parents, rec league coaches, high school coaches, Coach John Paul, and parents who love this sport.”

The Cherries guarantee high level instruction, exposure and demanding schedules from in-state and national opponents.

“If this is what you want, here’s where you need to go,” Garland said. “This isn’t a money-making venture, and we’re not a monolithic club. We keep working until you tell us to stop. College is a match to be made, not a prize to be won.”

Juiced Cherries’ 2018, 2019 and 2022 teams won 2020 Inside Lacrosse Invitational championships.

“The events are great while competing against awesome programs with kids who pridefully represent our state,” Garland said. “We’re very proud of our kids and their parents who are dedicated to us and Michigan lacrosse. We’re honored and humbled to be able to serve.”

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