Alex Whitten, with some recent Connecticut laurels on his crown, will be the next head coach of the Western Albemarle High School lacrosse team.
Whitten grew up in Connecticut, the son of a high school lacrosse coach. Besides lacrosse he played football (he was all-state at safety) and ran track (all-state in the quarter mile). He played college lacrosse at Duke University in the mid-1990s, as a starting midfielder. His younger brother followed him on the team a couple of years later. After Duke, Whitten went into what he called, darkly, “corporate America.” Six years was all he could stand. In 2003-04 he started coaching at New Canaan High School (CT), population 1,250, just outside New York City. His team has been conference finalists for the last two years. Last season they won the title.
“Kids like playing lacrosse,” he said. “You have the ruggedness of football and hockey, the footwork of soccer and the off-ball work of basketball. Lacrosse calls itself ‘the fastest game on two feet.’ It’s got a lot of things that make it fun. There are five times the number of kids playing now than when I played.”
Whitten has a lacrosse coaching business that puts on specialty clinics and he expects to continue it here. Meanwhile he has moved his family to Ivy and he is looking for a job.
He said he will start a Western Albemarle Lacrosse Club, a youth club that will compete at the middle school level. “The idea is to teach the values we want the boys to show in high school,” he said. “We’ll try to raise the level of lacrosse, which is already well-established here. What I want to accomplish is a program with consistent performance, year-to-year, competing for district and state titles every year. Ultimately I’m a very fundamental coach. My message is, ‘be a great kid and work hard.’ It’s an acquired-skill sport. It takes time to acquire the skills.” He called his practice style “up tempo.” He has already met with prospective players and their parents.
There is not a big market for lacrosse players after college, so for Whitten the aim is to get the high school players into the best colleges they can reach.
“Baltimore and Long Island have the deep lacrosse heritage, but we see kids come out of here. We want to place kids at the best schools academically that they can get into. I say to kids, pay for it now so you have options later. You have to have the grades now.”
Whitten knows U.Va. lacrosse coach Dom Starsia, who once recruited him, and is personal friends with the coaches at Roanoke College and the University of Richmond. “I know most of the guys around here,” he said. “Lacrosse is my life, really. I’ve been involved in all kinds of lacrosse programs. I have a reputation for being honest and that goes far with coaches.”
Whitten said the decision to come to Crozet “is a leap of faith for us. We don’t really know anybody here. I heard about this job and Charlottesville is an attractive town. It’s got great energy. This area is conducive to the way we want to raise our family. We’re excited about it.”
First practice is February 18.