The varsity lacrosse team at Viewpoint School in Calabasas has struggled, going a combined 6-30 in its three years as a CIF-sanctioned program, with each season played under a different head coach. The Patriots will have another new head coach this coming season, but their fortunes might be about to change.
Viewpoint has taken the bold step of creating a full-time teaching position for its lacrosse coach and has hired the well respected Mike Delabar away from Loyola to build the program from the lower grades up. It’s a bold step because there aren’t many other schools in the L.A. area that have found a way to put a lacrosse coach on staff full time, much less a school that can start teaching lacrosse in third grade (or earlier).
“The title is head of lacrosse operations, so I think that pretty much means I’ll be doing everything that has to do with lacrosse — middle school and high school,” Delabar said. “They told me I could think outside the box. … The end goal is to get a 5/6 team there, and even a 3/4 team — to get a team at each age group and try to do that as quick as I can, or as quick as they’ll let me.”
Delabar said he will coach the varsity team and oversee both the JV and middle-school teams. More importantly for the development of Viewpoint’s lacrosse players, though, Delabar will teach physical eduction classes that focus on — what else? — lacrosse.
“[The middle school students] take gym class with their sports coaches,” Delabar said, “so I might have a morning practice, then teach seventh-grade lacrosse, then seventh-grade soccer, then eighth-grade lacrosse, then eighth-grade soccer, then have after-school practices. That was the whole idea — it was the only way they could make it a full-time job.”
A native of St. Louis, Mo., and an alum of Catawba College in North Carolina (where he played lacrosse and soccer), Delabar has been coaching lacrosse in the L.A. area for 10 years. He is well known around the Conejo Valley, having worked with the Silverfin club and Thousand Oaks youth programs, as well as assisting with a long list of high school programs. That work ultimately led to his new position.
“I got kind of lucky, because of how long I’ve been coaching and all the kids I’ve been in contact with over the years,” Delabar said. “One middle-school player I had coached, his mom has some connection to Viewpoint and was really lobbying for me to get the job. She came to me, and she already had spoken with the AD about me, so I could just call and send in my resume.”
Viewpoint interviewed a few other candidates, and Delabar said the school’s athletic director came to watch him coach both a practice and a game, and then the offer came.
Delabar spent the last three seasons as head coach at Loyola, leading the Cubs to a 13-3 record last spring and a No. 5 seed in the US Lacrosse Southern Section North playoffs. Loyola won two playoff games before falling to eventual North bracket winner Palos Verdes. In his two full seasons as head coach, Loyola went a combined 24-10 and was in the playoffs both seasons.
“The kids [at Loyola] were tremendous, that was the hard part,” the coach said. “Leaving the school, though, not really. They don’t really put a lot into lacrosse. They’re driving for their football, basketball and track teams to succeed — and they do, that’s why they’re in CIF every year — and they made us aware that we’re not a top-tier sport, and we’ll just use the field when we can get it.”
While interviewing at Viewpoint, he received assurances that the school was fully committed to building its lacrosse program, so he made the jump. He still is coaching the Loyola summer club team — “I didn’t want those guys to miss a whole summer season just because I’m leaving; it was pretty cool of them to let me do that” — and also coaches a Silverfin 5/6 tournament team, but he is finding time to get his Viewpoint players together this summer.
“We had our first practice on Sunday, and we had 13 guys,” he said. “They could do a lot of special things, and they didn’t know they could do them; and they couldn’t do a lot of things, and they didn’t know that they should be able to do those. The guys I saw, I was impressed with.”
It remains to be seen how quickly Delabar can elevate the Viewpoint program to the status of consistent contender, but if he does, it might just establish a model other schools can follow — if they decide lacrosse is important enough to make the bold investment.
“I don’t know if other schools can afford to do it, to put people on full time,” Delabar said. “Fortunately, I’m at a school that can afford that, and when people see what we’re doing, hopefully I’m pushing other schools toward that.”