Brandon Childs doesn’t just think of his old lacrosse college coach at work, where Childs coaches the team at York College in Pennsylvania.
No, Childs’ thoughts wander to Steve Koudelka nearly anytime he does anything.
“I don’t shovel my driveway without thinking, in the back of my mind, ‘What would Coach Koudelka say if he came to my house and the driveway wasn’t shoveled?’” Childs said with a laugh.
But that’s the kind of impression Koudelka, now in his 20th season as the men’s lacrosse coach at Lynchburg College, has had on his players over the years. Pay attention to detail. Don’t just play the game the right way; live life the right way.
Recruits learn the list of mantras before they set foot on campus; the formula for excellent living hangs printed in large type over Koudelka’s office door — tenets like, “A Lynchburg Lacrosse player holds the door open for people,” and, “A Lynchburg Lacrosse player loves to compete.”
Those standards have rubbed off on Lynchburg lacrosse alumni like Childs and Chris Perzinski, both now heads of their own collegiate programs. And they’ve done well. Counting assistants and LC itself, the Koudelka coaching tree has five branches in this year’s iteration of the NCAA Division III tournament, including Childs’ Spartans and Perzinski’s Elizabethtown (Penn.) Blue Jays. LC’s tournament starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday on Shellenberger Field against Sewanee. It’s the Hornets’ fifth-straight NCAA tournament appearance.
Both protégés have brought their respective programs to prominence. Childs, a 2004 LC grad who helped the Hornets to their first-ever Old Dominion Athletic Conference title and was a two-time All-American at attack, has turned York into a perennial power. The Spartans reached the program’s first NCAA tourney in 2014, Childs’ third year, and this year will mark the third appearance in program history. York is ranked No. 6 in the nation with just three losses — one came at Lynchburg, 9-8 in two overtimes, March 4 — and is headed into a second-round match against Morrisville (N.Y.) State. York will meet LC in the Sweet 16 if both win today.
Perzinski, who graduated from LC in 2008 and was an All-America defenseman as a senior, has coached Elizabethtown to its first-ever national tournament berth after the team won the Landmark Conference’s tournament over the weekend. The Blue Jays make the 19-mile trip to Franklin & Marshall in their tournament debut.
The 30-year-old coach said it didn’t take anything spectacular for him to “massage” the Blue Jays into a winner.
“I knew I was inheriting a team that had some levels of success and that the bones of a good team were there,” Perzinski said. “It was not my job to come in and completely rip everything apart.”
Oddly enough, neither of the young coaches came to LC on the coaching track. Childs wanted to be a sports writer, Perzinski an entrepreneur.
“I never had a thought about it,” Perzinski said.
But when he got a job in Charlottesville after graduation, he started coaching middle school lacrosse on the side. It snowballed — he came back to LC as a grad assistant and, after a year at Koudelka’s alma mater Gettysburg College, came back to Lynchburg as the first full-time assistant for Koudelka. He was on staff as the Hornets advanced to the national title game in 2015.
For Childs, who also coached at LC as a graduate assistant at one point, the revelation came sooner. He switched to a sport management major after his freshman year and began working camps. It just clicked.
“Obviously, when you’re done playing, the only way you can stay in it is to coach,” Koudelka said, crediting that desire and the two’s high school coaches while discrediting his own influence.
But both Childs and Perzinski say different. It was Koudelka’s way — the Lynchburg Way — that helped them be successful as players and, now, as coaches.
LC’s program instilled “a work ethic that I’m not sure I was born with,” Childs said.
More importantly to them, it developed a bond. Koudelka went to Childs’ wedding, as well as many others over the years. The two talk multiple times per week.
“As weird as it is to say this,” Childs laughed, “we’re friends.”