Coach Aaron Couchot releases the lacrosse team from practice.

New lacrosse coach focuses on basics, not plays: After discovering the sport in college, coach vows to spread his passion

Aaron Couchot has a lot on his hands.

He’s a husband, a father, a claims supervisor and a lacrosse coach for an Elk Grove youth club team.

And now he has one more role to add to the list: he’s the new SCDS lacrosse coach.

That means that Couchot is committed to lacrosse at least six days a week.

“It’s very difficult right now. I’m super busy,” he said. And so are the boys.

On the team, students are involved in schoolwork, orchestra, band, the school newspaper, other sports and more. Couchot said he knows he’s not just dealing with “meathead jocks.”

“These are scholars,” he said. But because of these commitments, Couchot has yet to see all his players at one practice.

“It makes me a little nervous,” he said.

However, Couchot said it’s refreshing to see the boys’ enthusiasm for lacrosse and for their other interests.

“It’s neat to interact with them. It kind of brings me back to when I was in high school,” he said.

But when Couchot was in high school, he wasn’t playing lacrosse.

In fact, considering how many years he has been coaching youth lacrosse, it might come as a surprise that he didn’t start playing the sport until his college years. But it’s true.

Born in Ohio, Couchot lived in Colorado, Texas and Louisiana before his family settled in Bakersfield for his high-school years.

Youth lacrosse just wasn’t around in any of those places. He played soccer, basketball and baseball and sailed before playing tennis competitively in high school.

Once in college at the University of the Pacific, Couchot found he didn’t have an athletic outlet. The spring of his freshman year, he saw some guys playing lacrosse and had a college friend who played, so he decided to check it out.

“I really did fall in love with it,” he said. “I always wanted that physical contact type of sport.”

He had never played organized contact football because he moved around so much, he said.

“(Lacrosse) takes on the physicality from football that I was always craving and the technical aspect from tennis that I was familiar with,” Couchot said.

When he graduated with a social sciences major, he left with great memories of his time playing lacrosse.

But he was disappointed he hadn’t had the opportunity to play longer.

Where was lacrosse when he was growing up? It had been in his life for only a short window of time.

So Couchot made a promise to himself that if he ever got the opportunity to coach and spread the game lacrosse at the youth level, he would do just that.

And he’s kept it. He’s been coaching for nine years. He started as an assistant coach on an under-15 club team and has since become the first high-school coach for that program and coached under-11 and under-13 teams. He currently coaches the Elk Grove Gladiators, an under-15 club team.

Now, Couchot is further fulfilling his promise with this new role at Country Day.

Couchot is taking over the position left vacant by former coach Brooke Wells, who is now head of high school.

Senior Dominic Stephen said the two coaches have different philosophies.

Wells said his coaching philosophy involves high-scoring, aggressive games. He likes players to run and shoot on offense and double team the player with the ball on defense.

In contrast, Stephen said, Couchot’s focus is on the basics. “(Couchot) emphasizes movement, so we do a lot of running, and all the drills involve nonstop motion and circles,” Stephen said.

Because of this difference, Couchot and the boys are still getting used to each other.

Senior Christopher Liston said it’s “weird” for the players who have played under both Wells and Couchot.

Take practice style, for example. The majority of practice with Couchot is spent working on ball handling, catching and passing, senior Alex Bushberg said, whereas Wells spent more time on live play. Drills in circular formation are also new.

At a late-February practice, Couchot breaks the boys into two groups. They form circles and pass to each other in that formation, switching the throwing hand and the direction at Couchot’s instruction.

The circles have some of the boys confused.

“You guys are going the wrong way,” Couchot tells one group. “Keep moving your feet.”

“Not fast, but you have to keep moving.”

Couchot said there are basic theories and fundamentals of lacrosse; they include playing solidly on defense and playing with movement on offense, he said.

Bushberg said he thinks it’s good Couchot has made the basics one of the focuses of practice because passing and catching were a weakness for the team last year.

Despite the different coaching philosophies, Stephen said the team has handled the transition well.

However, Liston disagrees. “We (were) doing one thing, and now we’re doing something else,” he said.

Despite practicing live action after warming up and doing drills, the team has yet to go over specific plays.

“That’s been worrying us a little bit,” Stephen said.

After running drills, the players ask Couchot if they’re going to cover plays.

For that to happen, Couchot says, they need more players on the field at practice.

But practice must go on. “You ready to do some live play?” Couchot asks the boys.

The boys get positioned and start playing at Couchot’s whistle.

A player misses a catch. “That’s all right,” Couchot tells him. “That’s why we’re out here.”

Because SCDS didn’t have enough players due to illness and other commitments, some Bella Vista members played with the Cavs in the scrimmage on March 9. Despite the lack of players, the boys won 6-3.

Couchot said he was encouraged by the scrimmage results against a larger, more experienced team.

He said he was also impressed with the ball movement on offense and the few goals that the team allowed on defense.

“I think Couchot is doing a great job,” Bushberg said. “He’s obviously passionate about the sport.”

Previously published in the print edition on March 17, 2015.

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