Swarm combo coaches club lacrosse

Two lacrosse professionals double as Gophers coaches.
Head coach of the Gophers men's club lacrosse team Joe Cinosky speaks to his players during their game against Duluth on Saturday at the Sports Dome. Just the night before Cinosky and Gophers assistant coach Aime Caines were in Washington for the Minnesota Swarm's game against the Washington Stealth.
February 29, 2012

On the sidelines, Joe Cinosky and Aime Caines are the typical coaching duo.

Cinosky, head coach of the University of Minnesota men’s club lacrosse team, runs up and down the field, hikes up his jeans, claps his hands and yells at his players through a makeshift megaphone of rolled-up paper.

Caines, one of his assistant coaches, paces with stoic composure, arms crossed, observing and saving his words for halftime.

One detail sets them apart from the average coaching tandem: They’re professionals.

They juggle their Gophers coaching duties while also working for the Minnesota Swarm, a professional indoor lacrosse team. Cinosky plays on the team while Caines is an assistant coach.

Cinosky is the Swarm’s leading defenseman and a member of the 2010 World Champion U.S. lacrosse national team. Caines spent five seasons in the National Lacrosse League as a forward before moving on to coaching.

This weekend, Cinosky and Caines had games with the Swarm and the Gophers within 12 hours of each other — and 2,000 miles apart.

The Swarm played the Washington Stealth, at 8 p.m. PST on Friday in Everett, Wash. The Gophers played Minnesota-Duluth at noon CST on Saturday in the new recreational sports dome on campus.

“After the game, we were enjoying our after-game meal and talking outside the locker room, and they were rushing off to catch a ride to the airport so they can get home and coach the next day,” John Arlotta, the Swarm co-owner and vice president said.

The Gophers lost 11-9 to the Bulldogs, their fiercest rivals in the Upper Midwest Lacrosse League in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association. Cinosky and Caines are the only professional coaches in the UMLL, Chris Larson, the league’s secretary, said.

A red-eye flight after finishing a game at 10:30 p.m. EST is tiring enough. Not taking off until 2 a.m. due to a delay is worse.

 “Get back to Minnesota at 8 in the morning. A little breakfast, a shower and back at the dome, here, ready for Duluth,” Caines said. “A long weekend, but it’s worth it.”

“We’re running on fumes right now,” Caines added.

Cinosky injured his hamstring in Friday night’s 15-7 win in Washington, but was back running on the sidelines Saturday.

“It definitely didn’t help being cramped on the plane,” Cinosky said. “The two hours of sleep wasn’t great either but I managed to work through it.”

Cinosky seemed to forget his injury altogether when the game commanded his full attention. He clutched his thigh after jumping during a goal-scoring opportunity and visibly hobbled on the sideline during Saturday’s game.

“This game is exciting and it is pretty easy to get up for and get the adrenaline going,” Cinosky said after the Gophers game Saturday. “I’m probably going to crash pretty hard in about an hour or so.”

If he was tired during the game Saturday, it wasn’t immediately clear — he gave a profanity-laced pep talk to his players at halftime.

The players seem to appreciate the professional guidance, but their coaches aren’t that much older than most of the Gophers club team.

Cinosky, 26, graduated from the University of Maryland. Caines, 36, coached high school lacrosse in Minnesota after his professional career ended in 2005.

“It’s definitely nice [to have the professionals coaching], especially in Minnesota. There’s not a lot of professional lacrosse around here,” said Sam Swanson, Minnesota club lacrosse player and president.

Cinosky has been head coach of the Gophers for two years and played for the Swarm for four. Caines has been the assistant coach for the Gophers for four years and spent three with the Swarm.

Both were a part of a lacrosse movement heading west and settled in Minnesota to help grow the sport beyond the East coast, where it is most popular.

The Minnesota State High School League added boy’s lacrosse as a varsity sport beginning in the spring 2007 season. Cinosky’s home state, New Jersey, instated the sport in 1974.

Caines and Cinosky also work with youth lacrosse. Both coach high school and various programs dedicated to increasing Minnesota involvement in lacrosse.

Weekends of games are not the only busy times for the pair. They also juggle morning workouts and pre-game practices with the Swarm as well as 10 p.m. to midnight practices every Monday and Wednesday with the Gophers.

“We try to work our schedules where we can do everything. But it is a lot of time and devotion to the both teams. It’s a passion — a love for the game and the sport — and most of all, it’s the guys, the camaraderie between the players and coaches,” Caines said. “We wouldn’t do it if we weren’t having fun.”

They said development of lacrosse in the state is their main goal, but added that the lacrosse team is aspiring to become a varsity sport at the University.

“We’re always progressing this club,” Swanson said. “We’re making advancements. Everything we do is in the limelight of getting to become [a] Division I varsity sport someday.”

Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State currently have the only Big Ten varsity lacrosse programs. Cinosky said he hopes that will change in the future.

“I can only wish. I haven’t actually spoken to President [Eric] Kaler,” Cinosky said. “I’d love to get him out here … I know he likes lacrosse, that’s for sure.”

The Swarm has only one Minnesota native on its roster — a member of the practice squad. There are no Division I collegiate programs in Minnesota, so it’s not uncommon for the Swarm to track former Minnesota high school players at out-of-state universities and draft them after graduation.

“We want local players wherever we can. In fact, we’re hoping not just that the U becomes Division I one day and we can get some people off the U program, but UMD is another great program in-state,” Arlotta said.

Although the dream is yet to become reality, given a tight athletics budget and Title IX regulations, Cinosky and Caines will continue their grassroots campaign to grow lacrosse into a popular Minnesota sport.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly named the co-owner and president of the Minnesota Swarm. His name is John Arlotta. It also incorrectly identified the Big Ten schools with Division I lacrosse programs. Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State have lacrosse programs.

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