Sept. 12, 2017
When the University of Denver women's lacrosse team takes the field at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium for the first time this season, there will be a new voice guiding the offense.
A little over three weeks ago, head coach Liza Kelly announced the hiring of Tee Ladouceur, tasked with orchestrating a squad that scored 239 goals last season and returns seven of its top eight scorers.
As a former student-athlete at Syracuse University, she was accustomed to scoring goals herself, amassing 130 goals in three years as an attacker. It was then where she seriously thought of getting into coaching.
"I was a three-sport athlete in high school, but I was considered a `lax rat' in college, where you just eat, sleep, and all you think about is lacrosse," recalled Ladouceur. "Coaching really drew me because I have a passion for the game and I can't see myself ever giving it up. A day without lacrosse would be weird.
"I think my coach in college (Gary Gait), he was the kind of guy who really wanted the best for his players, and I consider myself a really lucky person in terms of the path that I've had. I hope that as a coach, I can spread the game and help other players have the awesome experience that I did. I think it made me who I am. I just have a passion for the game and I want to pass it on to other players to have that same opportunity."
Gait, and other coaches that Ladouceur has had throughout her playing career, have left their influence on the new assistant coach as she discovered her own path and developed her own coaching style.
"I think I've had a lot of good coaches. Definitely the one in college, but there were certainly coaches before that who were really good role models to me. Gait was very supportive, encouraging, and at a time of need, he's always got our backs. He definitely has encouraged me and helped me along the way.
"I think I'm a little different than him (Gait). He's an absolute all-star and a big name in lacrosse, and I can't compare myself to him at all, but I certainly take away a lot of things from him like the major keys. I try to put my own spin and personality on to it. I try to be as honest and fun as possible."
Ladouceur's coaching career has taken her to Bethlehem Central High School, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Albany, and most recently UC Davis. Through those experiences, she realized where her strengths are, which she will utilize and expand upon in her new role at DU.
"I am on the attacking side of the game, so I think coaching the attack is obviously my biggest strength. I think I connect really well with student-athletes. I think I am a creative coach. I like to try new things and I'm willing to learn and test boundaries. Also, I think finding the balance between being disciplined and having fun with it on the field is another strength."
Her time in coaching has also provided perspective, and allowed her to see the bigger picture beyond her role as a student-athlete competing in a singular position on a team.
"I think that having an offensive philosophy means to kind of be balanced with what the team's goals are as well," said Ladouceur. "My biggest thing, no matter where I've coached, has been to have each other's backs. Some days you're going to have a good day and other days you may have a bad day. Or maybe the attack is not doing well but the defensive side is, and vice versa, and if the attack is getting a lot of opportunities we make sure that we're taking full advantage of those.
"In terms of being a good teammate and having each other's backs, you can't win a game by yourself. You have to use the support of your teammates. If we have each other's backs and make each other look good, that can make a really successful squad."
Recently moved to Denver, she is slowly getting familiar with her surroundings and getting introduced to her new players.
"A couple of them have stopped by in the office. I met a lot of the incoming freshmen at a luncheon the other day, and I saw a couple of the players in the locker room as well. As they came back to campus, they all started introducing themselves. I'm excited to go out there and finally get to see them play. "
Having been on the opposing sidelines against DU the last two years as the head coach at UC Davis, Ladouceur is familiar with some of them, from having done scouting reports on the players she will now have the opportunity to coach. Now, instead of figuring out how to stop them, she'll be finding ways to help them flourish.
"I have had to write a couple of scouting reports on them, so I know a little bit, but it's always different when you're with that team and you can build that bond and that relationship, and have that chemistry on the field.
"I'm excited to see the chemistry build between the players and build a little chemistry with them myself, and see what their true strengths and weaknesses are. Hopefully, we can muster something up that's really awesome."
Even though she is new to the program, she has already bought into the foundation laid and is already looking forward to getting to work and making an immediate impact.
"Our team goal is to win the BIG EAST. Any way that I can help our team, which is probably more offensively, so putting the ball in the back of the net and scoring more goals than the other team, is basically the goal. I would love to knock teams out of the park by 20 goals a game, but if we win by one I'll take that. As long as we score more than the other team, that is essentially my goal.
"I want to hopefully take a little bit off of Liza's plate and build relationships within the staff to help build the program that we are trying to build.
"I think just having responsibility over an offense is going to be a lot of fun and I'll hopefully get to play around with it a little bit. It's a totally fresh slate for everybody, for the players and myself, and that's why I am so anxious to get out there and see what their strengths and weaknesses are and get to work on some X's and O's. I can't wait to see what kind of creativeness we can come up with on the field. The BIG EAST is a good conference, but that's fun to me and I like the challenge."
It is evident that Coach Ladouceur has the tools and the competitive mindset to help lead the Pioneers into the new season, but she is also much more than just a coach.
"I have a wiener dog named Noodle, and I love coming home to her and playing with her. I'm trying to get back into learning the guitar, and I think Hannah (Hook) and I are going to pick up boxing. I'm looking forward to exploring Denver. It's a pretty cool city and I haven't spent much time here before. I'm excited to get to know the area better."