Since taking over as the Richard M. Moran Head Coach of Men’s Lacrosse after the abrupt departure of former head coach Peter Milliman in April 2020, Connor Buczek ’15 has faced circumstances unlike any other as a first-year head coach.
Buczek’s former roles as a student athlete and assistant coach for the Red had a major impact in his decision to accept the mantle of head coach.
“This is a place that’s meant so much to me and I look forward to hopefully giving back to these guys for years to come,” Buczek said.
As a midfielder for the Red from 2012-2015, Buczek earned three subsequent nominations to the First-Team All-Ivy and All-American squads, which recognize the best collegiate players in the country, and even earned the Ivy League Player of the Year award in 2014. Prior to taking over as head coach, Buczek served Cornell as a volunteer assistant coach from 2015-2017 and as the assistant coach from 2017-2020.
Unfortunately, Buczek has been unable to showcase his abilities as the head coach on the field because of the Ivy League’s cancellation of the 2021 spring sports season, which has posed a new set of problems for the coaching staff.
Under Ivy League rules preventing in-person team practices, Buczek and the coaching staff have had to work much harder at keeping the team connected. This task has been especially important, as the pandemic and other stressors have negatively impacted the mental health of student athletes.
“Our goal as a staff was to make sure that we were here for these guys first and foremost as people,” Buczek said. “It all starts with making sure that we’re looking out for the well-being of our student athletes and making sure that they’re doing the right things and taking care of one another.”
Buczek noted that the lack of regular games and practices has been a challenge for maintaining morale and facilitating team communication .
“You kind of live for those Saturdays in the spring and facing greatness on the field and all the challenges and hurdles that come with that,” Buczek said.
This lack of in-person events is especially difficult for current freshman and sophomore players who haven’t had an opportunity to play at a collegiate level, which has presented the team with an experience gap among its players.
“It’ll just take some situational awareness and gameplay to get us back up to where we want to be,” Buczek said.
In the absence of regular play, Buczek remarked that the team has evaluated all parts of the program to rethink how to influence big picture strategy, individual player development and character development.
Beyond his coaching responsibilities, Buczek also plays midfield for the Cannons Lacrosse Club in the professional Premier Lacrosse League. Buczek is utilizing the time spent on the field to inform his perspective while coaching and creating strategies for the team.
“I’m around smart people who are introducing new ideas, talking about systems and thinking about things in a way that I don’t,” said Buczek. “Being able to play allows me to constantly have those conversations and be around those people that are questioning how you think about the game and adding to your repertoire.”
Though he expects players and the coaching staff to make mistakes, his goal for the team is to perform to their best.
“That’s really what our goal is, to show up and be the best version of ourselves every day, and when we fall short to be honest with ourselves and improve from there.”