Tyler Black, The Quiet Leader on the JU Dolphins Defense
Note: This article is part of a series. We took a fall tour to visit with our Florida born impact players at Florida’s NCAA schools. Our first stop found us at Florida Tech where we spent some time with Andrew Conley and Coach Ryan McAleavey. After that we made our way to Lakeland to visit with Brad Fretti and Dan Krispinsky. Heading northwest out of Lakeland we headed to the hills of Pasco County and the beautiful campus of Saint Leo University where we chatted with Winter Springs’ Matt Obermeyer. We then went a few miles south we found Coach Whipple and a trio of Florida’s top players. After Tampa we headed back toward the Florida Lacrosse News World Headquarters in Central Florida. After a short break we were able to catch up with Coach RJ Rossi and his sophomore standout, Will Diamond.
The last stop on our tour was Florida’s only men’s Division 1 program, Jacksonville. Coach Guy Van Arsdale and Jupiter High School alumni Tyler Black both took time out to sit and speak with us. What we found was a driven and determined coach who knows exactly what he wants to accomplish with that program and a very humble, unassuming, and highly skilled defensive leader in Tyler Black.
FLN – Coach, what can you tell us about your class of 2016 now that you have seem them through their first fall season?
Coach Van Arsdale – We are really pleased. We brought in a big class…we felt we needed to. It’s year four in the program it’s time for us to really take some steps forward. It’s a very physically big and athletic group and they are from all over the country. There are some guys who I think will have significant impact on our program immediately. Guys who will help us get better just due to high competitiveness at practice. How we practice is already different because that competitive level which has increased just in this past year. We have taken some real strides in this past year. Now it’s year two of us being in this position with the program it’s a nice transition. Last year was difficult in that we brought in a “change of climate” as happens with any coaching change. You’re going to bring in some changes and we brought in some pretty significant changes.
FLN – Plus, a lot of the guys who came in last year were not your recruits.
Coach – Exactly. There we quite a few guys who came here under different auspices that saw it as a different place and we changed it. For some guys that worked and for others it didn’t and so it was a transition. So the nice thing is that the guys we have coming back from last year, who are with us now, are guys who are fully bought in. They understand what we do and why we do it, they believe in it and they embrace it. So it makes it easier this year, especially for the freshmen. You know, last year we had fifty guys who had to learn everything all over again and there weren’t any older guys to say, “this is what we do in this drill and this is what we do in that drill,” they were all learning as they went. It was great to watch the first week of fall practice when the older guys would grab the young guys and say, “Hey, we don’t do that here.”
FLN – With the class of 2016 is this all of your guys or are there some early commits who were recruited by the previous staff?
Coach – No, this is all us. When we got here there were actually no commitments. So we started from scratch right away in September. You know, everyone talks about the early recruiting and how important it is and I suppose that’s good for some places. But there are so many good, athletic kids playing this sport in so many places that you can find great student athletes late in the game who are great. We’ve got a couple of guys…well these guys could play anywhere.
FLN – Well, the number of kids playing has out grown the number of D1 programs. So there a lot more kids out there now.
Coach – That’s good news for us. Frankly, when I hear about these 2015’s making commitments to other places I think, “Great. I hope they fill up their classes fast then I can go through and find the guys I want.” I’ll find those late bloomers, those guys who don’t really figure the game out until late in their junior year or even the summer before their senior year. And I’ve got room for them to come and play great D-1 lacrosse in a great climate. So to us we don’t see it as a problem we see it as an advantage. One thing about recruiting these days is that great players don’t fall through the cracks. They get found.
FLN – Coach, last year you guys had your troubles on the road. Are you making any specific changes to address that this year?
Coach – You know, that’s a great question. Part of what we do is we have to look at the physical aspect of how we travel. For example when we have to leave the day before a game because we have to fly north. In order to get up to New York we have to take a flight at six in the morning, which means you are getting up at three in the morning ot fly, they you have a 2-3 hour bus ride to Marist or Siena and get to a hotel and sleep, then get up and practice, then sleep then get up and play. We know there are probably better ways to do that and we’ve got to figure that out. We did play tough on the road; we lost a couple of one goal games so we need to continue to develop a certain mental toughness.
FLN – Well on the upside, talking about mental toughness, you guys were 2-0 in OT games. How good of an indicator is that of the character of your program.
Coach – I think the whole season showed it, although it didn’t always work out that way, it showed that we have kids who are willing to compete, and we have a couple of guys who are really good in those meaningful moments.
FLN – Tyler, last year you had a great season on the field with 28 ground balls, second on the team with ten caused turnovers, obviously an impact player last year. Now that you’re an upperclassman and you have that season under your belt with the new coaching staff, how do you see your role changing within the team?
Tyler – I’m trying to be a leader, I’m not very vocal. I’m very quiet. On the field I like to talk but off the field I’m not very good at talking, so that’s the problem with being the leader. I know the coaches keep pushing and want me to do more of that. As far as my role in the game I feel more settled now that I’m an upperclassman and I know the system and I’m with guys that I’ve been playing with for three years now, so we’re definitely more meshed together.
FLN – Last year you guys won a couple of overtime games and played some really tough games. The conference was super tight and you guys were in it until the last week of the season. How is that fight and toughness going to shape the team this year?
Tyler – I just know that we are a team that continues to fight. For both of the OT games we were behind for most of those games and fought back. We just continue to fight for all four quarters and that’s kind of what our team is known for. We have a couple of guys that are just great play makers. Ari Waffle and Cam Mann are just incredible as far as what they can pull together and what they can do when the team needs it. TJ Kenary also… definitely a playmaker this year.
FLN – You guys were solid at home last year but struggled on the road. Now that you are a more experienced team and you are a team leader. What do you want to see your team do differently this year to win those? They were some very close games last year.
Tyler – Yea, except for Duke they were all one or two goal games. I don’t know, I think we just don’t travel early enough. We get up there and it’s a complete change..we are used to this warm weather down here and we get up there and it’s cold. Last year it, in fact I think the last two years, it’s been cold everywhere we go. We get up there the night before our games and it’s just not enough time to get acclimated. But this year we are going to win our away games. We’re going to do that.
FLN – What are the goals for your team this year?
Tyler – Well that is one of our goals, to win our away games and we can definitely do that this year. And the MAAC tournament for sure, to make that and certainly to win that. That’s a pretty simple goal and something that every team wants to do. We’ve never beat Siena, never beat Marist, never beat Detroit. So we want to change that. At home we open up with the Moe’s Southwest Grill Classic, so we’d like to win that. That’s a pretty big deal and will be on TV. That will definitely be good for our program to win that on TV in front of everyone.
FLN – OK, last year you were just a sophomore but still second on the team in caused turnovers. How do you do that? What is it about your style of play that gets that ball on the ground?
Tyler – Honestly, I don’t throw checks. I am terrible at throwing checks. I think with my speed I can just be there, right there in people’s faces. I think then I just get lucky with my checks because I know I’m not that good at that, for sure. So I think it’s just with my speed and all of the agility drills we do I can just be there.
FLN – Wow, so the harder you work and the faster you play the luckier you get, huh? There might just be something to that.
From your first fall season of your freshmen year to now, how do you see the work ethic and level of competitiveness on your team?
Tyler – Our work ethic this year is much better than last year. We go out there every day and we compete. Everyone, 100%, everyone is competing. In past years we would have a few people who would stick out in practice now everyone is going hard. Which is very good, we actually looked better (in fall ball than we ever did last year. That’s without learning plays or anything, just pretty much playing pick-up lacrosse in our scrimmages, we’ve never looked that good before so I’m pretty excited about that.
FLN – That’s great. Do you still keep track of your alma mater, Jupiter High School?
Tyler – Yes, made it to the final four last year. Very impressive. I still talk to quite a few kids on the team. I’m three years out now so I don’t know too many. But our goalie last year, Stone Wharton, is up at St. Joe’s now and Steele Stockstill went there for a year before transferring but he’s at Hofstra now and I still talk to him. I think they’re going to be pretty good this year. During my junior year of high school we had our first winning season and they’ve been getting better ever since.
Florida Lacrosse News thanks Coach Van Arsdale and Tyler Black for taking the time to speak with us. Coach Van Arsdale has a very clear vision for this program and understands what it takes to recruit top-notch talent to a small, non-hotbed university.
Tyler Black is one of the most humble, nicest athletes we have ever met. He understands that leadership isn’t about dancing around on the sideline and banging helmets and chest thumping. This guy gets out there every day and does his best to get the job done. That’s the kind of work ethic that will help a coach with a clear vision get this program over the hump.