With a resume ladden with stellar lacrosse credentials, you’d think the man who just took over the reigns of a collegiate program steeped in success would love to talk about the sport he has spent over twenty years in.
Instead of predicting glory and triumph for the laxers, first year men’s lacrosse coach Jeff Tambroni prefers to talk about philosophy — not the type involving x’s and o’s or defenders, midfielders and attackers, but a broader type of approach to life — something he calls the Cornell Way. This is a coach more interested in talking about creating a way of living for his players — opening doors, saying thank you, being prompt — than about saves, ground balls, or shots.
Blue Collar Ethic
“We want to be the hardest working lacrosse team in the country. I think if everday we do things the right way, the Cornell Way, we’ll be successful.” Tambroni proclaims.
Growing up in Camillus, N.Y., “a town where lacrosse is king,” the former assistant coach at Loyola College wielded his first stick at age six and began a career laced with accolades and national championships.
Tambroni spent his college days at powerhouse Hobart College, collecting three rings and as many All-American honors in his four years. In fact, his senior campaign marked the end of a 12-year streak in which the Statesman reigned supreme. But in talking about his proudest moment in the playing ranks, the man at the helm cites the rush of donning his first collegiate uniform. Tambroni is a man who relishes challenges, and savors the prospect of hard work, and this clearly comes out as he recounts his career.
After graduation, he moved to the coaching ranks, begining with an assistant position at his alma mater. Under his direction, the program upgraded from Division III to Division I and the squad concluded its inaugural campaign in the No. 12 slot in the nation.
Tambroni has been patrolling the sidelines of Schoellkopf Field since 1997 as an assistant, coordinating one of the most potent offenses in the nation last year. The new head man groomed two of the top three scorers in the Ancient Eight, including Sean Steinwald, who notched 60 points. Having followed Big Red lacrosse growing up, he recalls last June 8 — the day he was promoted to head coach, as the most memorable day in his career.
“I’m not sure what I felt or how I felt at that moment,” he mused.
Visions of the Future
And while he has a definite vision for the future it is not one that is limited to triumphs, accolades and grandeur.
“We don’t talk a whole lot about Ivy League championships and that stuff,” he pointed out. “I want to be known as creating a program that’s built on doing things the right way. I want to bring back the winning tradition of Cornell lacrosse. I don’t want our guys taking shortcuts in school or on the field.”
A man who has been around the sport his entire life, Tambroni attributes his outlook to the coaching style of those he played for. He played his high school lacrosse at West Genesee High School, one of the most outstanding programs in the country, where he garnered All-American accolades.
Implementing the philosophy has been made easier by what the coach describes as a supportive administration, an amenable student fan base and a wealth of support from the local community. Ever the optimist, Tambroni sees one of Cornell’s perceived shortcomings as a shining point.
“The reputation of Princeton, Harvard and Yale as the elite of the elite…has not been an obstacle as much as it has been a blessing. Cornell is a very special place. It tends to attract a more blue-collared kid, and that’s the type of kid I want to coach,” the coach said.
In the end though, he does not want to be known by the amount of games he has won or titles he has brought to East Hill.
“I want to be known as a guy that got the team to play together, who had a common goal within the group he was coaching, and knew how to accomplish it year in and year out.”