Thursday, July 9, 2015

Maryland's Stewart on Recruiting Trail for NAIA's Asbury Eagles

The Asbury University Eagles were 6-4 in their inaugural season (Photo / Asbury Athletics)
Wilmore, KY - Josh Stewart is a Maryland native and the current head lacrosse coach of Kentucky's Asbury University, located roughly 15 miles to the southwest of Lexington.

As an undergrad, Stewart was a goalie for Pennsylvania's perennially strong Messiah College lacrosse team. His Eagles compete in the NAIA and Asbury's top man is currently busy on the recruiting trail for the 2016 season and beyond. We caught up with him briefly for some thoughts on his program, and the NAIA's early efforts to gain a presence in the collegiate lacrosse world.

TF: Where did you grow up in Maryland? 

Stewart: I grew up in Carroll County and played for Francis Scott Key High School (2A) and then for the Central Maryland Lacrosse Club in the summer. I played in the first two CMD summer seasons.

TF: At what age did you first start playing? What was your position?

Stewart: I started playing lacrosse very early on – maybe first or second grade – and I was always a bigger kid so they looked at me and said "You're going to be a goalie." I just took it and ran with it, playing up in age and getting to see better action earlier than most kids my age.

We had so many kids playing in my age group that we had two rec teams at each level that fed our high school which is maybe why we were so successful when I was there. We all knew each other and had played together for six years before high school started.

TF: How did you hear about Asbury or Asbury hear about you? 

Stewart: I was the assistant coach at Messiah College at the time and one of the guys that was helping with the team, Rob Pepper, sent me the job posting for the Asbury position. He said he knew some people at Asbury and would be a reference and they were starting a program.

I looked at him in all seriousness and told him that no one played lacrosse in Kentucky. But I sent my resume in and fell in love with the town, the school and wanted to be a part of it.

TF: You're on the road recruiting a lot right now, how's that going? 

Stewart: Recruiting is going well, but very tasking at times when I'm on the road for three straight weeks and my family is back in Kentucky. We Skype often and I get a lot of phone calls from my daughters but they understand that I'm doing my job and they love the end result of watching my boys play.

With the NAIA so new to lacrosse, and Asbury a small private school in Kentucky, my job is to educate the players I see week in and week out about both.

I believe that both the NAIA and Asbury are great institutions and I want the players I come into contact with to know that. Whether they choose Asbury or not is not my decision and I hope they find the right fit in the end. I think it helps when I can provide these future college student-athletes with knowledge about other opportunities than the ones they have in front of them everyday.

The Eagles on attack (Photo / Asbury Athletics)
TF: What would you describe Asbury like as far as the location, field and general environment?

Stewart: Asbury is a great place not only to go to school but just to be around. It's a small Christian school that can be a little unusual from the outside looking in to most of the players I come into contact with but once I get players on campus to meet me and the team they normally feel right at home and get along with my players great.

They're a great group. The town of Wilmore sits just south of Lexington and right in the heart of the bluegrass. It's beautiful here and the people are awesome. Our athletic facilities sit alone at the back of campus and the Luce Center acts as the hub for all the athletic programs. It seems like each year we add something to the athletic facilities or upgrade existing ones so it's an exciting time for Asbury Athletics.

TF: I think you're looking for an assistant coach, how is that going?

Stewart: I am looking for one. I want a guy that wants to come in and continue to help build this program and facilitate the growth of the young men on my team. We're not all about winning  – while we definitely want to win – and it takes a special person to know and see both sides of what we are doing.

We want to win on and off the field and produce successful men who will become great people in the workplace, husbands, dads, and so on.

It definitely helps if the guy we bring in can recruit and develop the players on the field, too. [laughing]

TF: What do you think about the new NAIA invitational?

Stewart: I believe wholeheartedly in the NAIA and you don't hear much about it growing up in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic like I did, especially since there was no lacrosse to speak of from the NAIA really before this year as an entity.

The amount of money that the NAIA gives nationally for athletic scholarships is unreal and it's great for those student-athletes needing some help to attend school and want to play lacrosse. It's a great step for the game as a whole in my opinion. The NAIA Invitational is the first step in helping grow the game even more at the college level. It's a tremendous step for the game as a whole.

Lacrosse will become an invitational sport in 2016 (Photo / NAIA)

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