Matt Holtz didn’t quite know what he had to work with.
He also didn’t fully have a grasp of girls lacrosse at the high school level.
What he did have was nearly two decades of experience coaching lacrosse, which most recently included a seven-year stint as the head men’s coach at the University of Detroit.
And he used his expertise to help the Okemos girls lacrosse team thrive in what was initially thought to be a rebuilding season. In his debut season, Holtz helped the Chiefs to a 16-4 mark that included CAAC and Division 2 regional titles.
“I don’t believe in rebuilding years,” said Holtz, who is the LSJ girls lacrosse coach of the year. “I think if you start thinking about rebuilding years, then you don’t think about today. And if you don’t focus on today, then you can’t get any better. If you’re focused on tomorrow all the time you’re just not going to get any better.”
Getting better was one of three cores Holtz had for Okemos this spring. He also wanted the Chiefs to have fun and remain positive. All three were accomplished while Holtz incorporated things from his boys lacrosse coaching background.
“Bringing the boys lacrosse aspect to our game was an amazing factor for us this year,” Okemos’ Natalie Bloniarz said. “I think all of us girls learned different things from him that we wouldn’t have ever known if he didn’t come.”
Holtz, who returned to the mid-Michigan area because of his wife’s job, said his transition to coaching at the high school level was made easier by an accepting group of players on the Okemos roster.
“They really accepted me and the ideas that I had and the plan that I set in front of them at the beginning of the year,” Holtz said. “It was a good combination. There may not have been a better group for me to start out with just because of how accepting they were and how strong the senior leadership was.”
Holtz is looking forward to building upon the Chiefs’ success. With his blueprint now in place, Holtz is trying to create a culture that will keep Okemos as one of the state’s best programs.
“It took a couple of months for me to figure out how to coach the game,” Holtz zaid. “Now I kind of have an idea on what I want to do. Now it’s building a culture. I figured out what skills we have, what skills we don’t have and I have a good idea of what style we want to play going forward so we can start from day one in the spring next year and develop our style and our personality. We’ve got a culture and now we need a personality or a style.”