Pickens' Perspective: Smalkais has created a dynasty at Fairfield Prep
To become a great team, you need great players.
To become a dynasty, you need great coaching.
Fairfield Prep boys lacrosse knows this, because the Jesuits have both.
Six straight trips to the Division L state championship game prove that what Chris Smalkais is doing is working.
You can point to the fact that Smalkais has arguably the state's best feeder program in Wakeman Boys & Girls Club. You can grouse that he recruits or whatever the complaint of the day is.
But the reality is that Smalkais -- despite his mad scientist tendencies -- is a lacrosse genius.
And he's a genius it dealing with kids, too.
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Smalkais lives and breathes lacrosse. In the offseason, he helps coach a youth team in Newtown. During the season, he makes it a point to see every team he will or may have to play.
Because of his dogged preparation, he is able to school his kids on the tendencies of opponents the players have never seen. This means his teams are never unprepared for anything.
And more often than not, the most prepared team wins.
Smalkais also isn't afraid to play the best teams in the country year in and year out. That way when the state playoffs roll around, playing a powerhouse like Greenwich in the quarterfinals doesn't seem so daunting.
Prep this year has played two teams that LaxPower ranks in the nation's top 10 -- neither of them from Connecticut. So when it's time for Prep to take on the best in this state, it has already seen some of the best in the country.
But what Smalkais does best is challenge his players to be the best they can. It's not enough to be the most skilled team in Division L every year, the Jesuits players need to be the most mentally focused and most team-oriented in the country.
And even still that may not be enough to satisfy Smalkais.
But that's what makes the great ones great. They're never satisfied. It'd be easy for Prep to rest on its laurels and be content with five state titles in six years, six straight trips to the title game and seven trips to the state finals in the last 11 seasons.
But Smalkais challenges his group to relentlessly improve. That's what the great ones do.
And that's why Prep has a dynasty in boys lacrosse.