Meet Jay Lee – Head Coach - Green Gaels
This interview with Jay Lee took place on May 8th of 2022
Paul Chamois General Manager of the Gaels was part of the Committee who hired Jay Lee to become the Head Coach of the Gaels. Paul noted – “Jay Lee came highly recommended by Jonas Derks. We are very happy with the way things have turned out. Jay is very good with the players – he talks eye to eye with them. He is a teaching coach who does not berate his players. He is doing a very good job.”
Gaels Head Coach – Jay Lee
Born in 1971, Jay Lee played most of his lacrosse career in Whitby including five seasons of Junior “A”. He has been coaching minor lacrosse for several years. Taking on the role of Head Coach of the Gaels in 2022 is Jay’s first experience at coaching at the Junior level of lacrosse. If you have the opportunity to speak with Jay Lee – you are
quickly impressed with his intelligence and his insights pertaining to dealing with the young lacrosse players of today’s generation.
1. Jay – Tell us why and when did you take up coaching?
My first jump into coaching would have been approximately 15 years ago. I have a daughter who is now 20 years old and played in the Whitby house league program and from then on - I kept rolling. I was involved with all three of my kids and their teams throughout Whitby minor and then I became involved with teams my children were not involved with and I just kept going.
2. This is your first year with the Gaels - What does it mean to you to be coaching the Green Gaels?
It all happened quite quickly. The Gaels did have plans in place for another coach who had to step aside due to work commitments. I had to think about it for a bit as it requires serious commitment. But the more I thought about it, the more excited I became for the opportunity and the challenge. It is my first experience coaching Junior lacrosse and it is with the Gaels - a storied franchise.
3. Do you have a philosophy or style of coaching?
Number one - I am big on all the players having a sense of belonging within the team. Everyone is involved - Yes, players have different roles, but it requires everyone completing pulling together, fully engaged and completely part of the environment. When mistakes happen, they become corrected and it is never an assassination of a player if they screw up.
The second factor I preach is be organized, always know what is coming next and be prepared for that – such as having a good transition game, having an organized power play, an organized man down. A huge factor for me is about being smart on how you play the game which from a player standpoint – stupid penalties are not acceptable – penalties happen, but control the stupid stuff. Obviously, lacrosse is a super intense game which often means playing on an intense edge, but you have to contain yourself and not allow yourself to take stupid penalties which is within your control.
The third big factor is ball control and possession – we are working closely with players to play the probability factor to make the smart decision. If there is an 80% plus chance of executing a good fast break – take it. If it is south of 80 – think about not taking the risk. If we have the ball, the opposition team cannot score. Sometimes players try to make “Hail Mary NLL” type passes and our players are not of that caliber. Do not give the ball away in an uncontrolled manner. I am OK with giving the ball up on a thirty second clock violation, rather than making a poor decision that has minimal chance of success.
4. Obviously you are a teaching coach – are you an emotional coach?
I am pretty low key. I don’t subscribe to screaming on the bench or in between periods in the dressing room. I do not believe that gets you anywhere good. As a bench staff we have talked about it. I believe a bench penalty is unnecessary and unfair to the players. We bring the smarts to the bench. I have worked with Chris Tucker for years; he is very low key like myself. And with Jeff Fernandes and Justin Bragg, we are all cut from the same cloth. There is plenty of consulting between us. We are learning from each other and we tweak as we go along. As Head Coach, I get to make adjustments from working with the Assistant Coaches.
5. Who or what influenced your style of coaching? Coaches you have studied – anyone you played for or observed that have influenced your own personal style of coaching?
A couple of coaches I remember – Jim Hinkson and his energy level and his focus on skills and development. I also look to an NHL coach who was a big lacrosse guy – Jon Cooper of Tampa Bay – he played lacrosse at Hofstra. What I see in a coach like Jon Cooper is a super organized and cool controlled individual. I notice his players are there to play for him, to play for each other and to play for the team. The other coach I like is Sean McVay in the NFL. At age 30, he became the youngest Head Coach in the NFL. I have studied him and obviously, he does a really good job.
6. What do you think (in general), your players think/feel about you as a coach?
There is a good number of them I have coached in the past and have nothing but good experiences for them and myself. I think the players recognize we as a coaching staff are committed to the program, we are behind them – they have a sense of the environment they are playing in – it is not a dictatorship – it is respectful in both directions. The players recognize they know they are going to make mistakes which will not be ignored, but the players will get coached and there will be no assassination of players. Coaching has changed over the years – you have to operate on a foundation of respect - otherwise, it does not work.
7. What are your expectations for the Gaels this season?
I have to say, I know the core of the roster – they have the smarts and desire to compete and have success. However, I do not have a full appreciation of the entire Junior “B” league and I will acquire that with time. What I am seeing right now - we have a strong back end and we can build upon that. I am very optimistic about our back end and I believe we will get better. We are at a stage right now offensively; we have considerable work to do. I fully expect we will make the playoffs and from there, we will see how it goes.
8. Any final thoughts you would like to share Jay?
I am enjoying being part of the Gaels. I know our entire coaching staff is pleased to have the opportunity the Gaels are providing. I am super impressed what the Gaels Executive group brings to the team and the game with respect to the pride, the tradition, the whole family aspect – it bubbles right through to the players – they know they are getting a top-notch junior experience. They are being reminded to appreciate it. They are being treated like professional athletes. In return, small but important things like helping the trainers and carrying the equipment off the bus is part of the experience of being a Gael. I am having fun and hope the Executive are happy with how things are proceeding.
The other members of the Gaels’ coaching also commented on being part of the Gaels organization.
Chris Tucker (Defensive Coach) - It is a great honour to be part of the Gaels organization. Growing up, I played in Whitby, so I was not exposed much to the Gaels. But, I am quickly learning the staff is great, the fans are great and the environment at the arena is fun.
Jeff Fernandes (Offensive Coach) – Having played four years of Junior here, it is really good to be back home with the Gaels. Going forward with the Family, Honour, Pride, Tradition is continuing the culture.
Justin Bragg (Associate Coach) – I played five years with the Gaels, it is more than a lacrosse team, it is a family. For me, it is about giving back to the team. The players on this team are young and have good lacrosse futures ahead of them.
Written by Rad Joseph
Oshawa Green Gaels
1977 and 1978