'Unscathed' is the word Boys' Latin veteran coach Bob Shriver used to describe his No. 1 Lakers' impressive 8-0 start as his team answered every challenge in a demanding non-league schedule to this point. Loaded with experienced talent, the Lakers are not only ranked No. 1 in The Sun's Top 15 poll, but they are also top-ranked team nationally in the Nike/US Lacrosse Top 25 poll. In his 38 years at Boys' Latin, the past 34 as head coach, Shriver has had a number of special teams come through in addition to 450-plus wins, five Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championships and eight more title game appearances. As this week's Coachpeak guest, we asked Shriver, a Boys' Latin and Washington College grad, about his team's fine start, what to expect in the MIAA this season and how the game has evolved in the years he's been coach.
What has impressed you most with the team's undefeated start?
We've played a bunch of teams from different areas, which has been exciting. It was the first time we played Hill Academy, which is the best team in Canada. We played Culver, who would appear to be the best team in the Midwest. We played St. Andrews, which is the best team in Florida. And Gonzaga, which appears to be the best team in the D.C. area. So it's been a good, challenging beginning and encouraging that we survived it. It hasn't been easy, but we have survived it.
With league play slated to start in full next week, what can we expect from the MIAA this season?
I know this sounds crazy, but we can expect the same things the league has offered forever and that is tremendous competition. If you don't come prepared to play anybody in the league on any given day, you're going to lose. On paper and just judged on how the scores have gone so far, we've all struggled at some points. We've come out unscathed and feel lucky about that. It's been a challenge. Because the way the league is now, you have to play so many non-league games, we're all scrambling with our schedules. Everybody has played anywhere from seven to 10 non-league games with a wide variety of competition. I think it'll be refreshing to come back into the league and play against teams we're all more familiar with.
What have been the biggest changes now from when you first began coaching?
If you look at it over a long period of time, the biggest changes have been rule related. We used to play 40-minute games with a whistle stopping and you can sub pretty much any time. We went to 48-minute games somewhere in the middle of the 90s and then we have evolved from a rule perspective with the college game. And then -- two -- even in the lacrosse-crazy Baltimore area, there's more kids playing now. If we go back 10-12 years ago, the amount of kids trying out for lacrosse has increased tremendously, even here at Boys' Latin. And I think if we look around all of Baltimore, there's more kids playing lacrosse in this entire town. That kind of follows the national trend where lacrosse is booming.
Which seasons stand out more than any of the others over the years?
We've had a couple phenomenal teams obviously. We've had two teams that won all the polls at the end of the year and were declared 'national champions,' if you will. People pay attention to those things, so it's quite an honor. I'd say both those teams -- 1997 and 2006 -- stand out because they were the last two teams to have gone undefeated in our league. Honestly, 2006 meant a lot to me on a personal level because my son happened to be on that team and all his teammates were kids I had been around for years and years because of their association with my son. So that was really exciting. The 1997 team -- whenever the conversation comes up about the best high school lacrosse team ever assembled -- that one is in that conversation. That was a special group with some remarkable players at the high school level that also turned out to be great players in college. So I think those two teams will always stand out just because they never lost a game.
How has coaching changed since he first started?
The college situation for kids, them wanting to go on to play in college has changed. We're a private school, so we need to attract kids to our school and I am always hopeful that we can attract kids to our school that happen to be lacrosse players and athletes. The combination of handling the college situation, trying to work with admissions a little more, and keeping a flow of kids into the school has changed things. Parents in private schools pay a lot of money, so you feel very responsible to them and rightly so. I think that all that has increased over the years. Everybody has such a vested interest in lacrosse, especially in this town. As a result, all the work that we have to do as lacrosse coaches -- and I'm sure I can speak for all the coaches in this league and other lacrosse-crazy schools -- comes with a lot of underlying pressure to make the experience a great one because so many of the kids want to go on and play in college.