By Meghan Creane
For a man who has only been coaching at Union for six years, Paul Wehrum has surely made a name for himself. A longtime member of the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame, his charisma and admiration for his team are palpable as soon as someone even mentions the word “lacrosse.” As Greg Mooney ‘14 says, “Everyone admires his passion for the game and it makes you want to play for him.” Wehrum’s players are constantly on his mind and he understands their passions and goals perfectly, having been a college lacrosse player and captain himself at SUNY Cortland.
Wehrum had a successful run as a player at Cortland, gaining skills and knowledge useful in coaching the Dutchmen. “I was the captain of Cortland the last time they played at Union…that was 30 years ago.” Though last Saturday’s matchup against Cortland was an out of league game, it is as important—if not more than—any game on the schedule. Wehrum enjoys playing teams with a high talent level, because as he says, “You don’t get better by playing teams worse than you…[Cortland] is a challenge, and my team likes a challenge.”
As Wehrum says, his players “want to make their families proud—that’s something I’ve learned…they feel bad when they don’t win, as if they have let their family down.” Wehrum knows this from personal experience as a college lacrosse player, and he chuckled, “I may look 20 years old, but I have more experience than you would think.” Given that Wehrum is a husband, father and coach, he understands the importance of the bond between not only the players, but also their families. He notes that “the parents’ group is great…it’s a unique thing to have a group like this…constantly competing year to year to be the best parents’ group yet.”
He admires the boys for their balance of sport and academic prowess, and is proud of having his “number one goal for the team to have the most academic honorees in the Liberty League…a goal we have accomplished six of the past seven years.”
Among the goals of making the Liberty League Playoffs and getting an NCAA bid, Wehrum holds the academic goals of the team in the highest esteem. “The most important thing for the boys is academics…this is something every team at Union experiences,” given the lofty academic standards at the college.
While he respects the hard work and dedication of each of his players, this past weekend’s game against Cortland left a few standing out in his mind. Among them is Captain Kyle Christine ‘13, who Werhum describes as “the shining light of the Cortland game …shutting down All American Joe Slavik holding him to zero goals and zero assists.” Wehrum also mentions Alex Stone ‘13 and Nolan Connors ‘13 as players to watch this season.
Despite the focus on the seniors, Wehrum comments that his team “is still very young with 15 newcomers.” Even though they’re new, they have developed a respect for Wehrum. Cam Slatton ‘16 says, “I respect and admire his knowledge of the game.”
One of the most notable player losses from last season is goalie Sean Aaron ‘12, who is succeeded by Stefan Basile ‘15 and Devyn Jeffereis ‘14.
Wehrum describes the team focus using a system of “big eye on one and little on another” as a way for the team to stay focused on the present, but also be aware of future challenges.
Currently the team has “the big eye on Oneonta State and the little eye on St. Lawerence,” which is their first Liberty League game. Wehrum is also looking forward to the team’s games over spring break. He relishes the time spent with the players and their families. He takes this as an opportunity to “get to know the boys and families better…by staying in the same hotel and eating with the guys.”
Interviewing Wehrum was a unique experience because it gave insight to the heart and soul of the men’s lacrosse team. Wehrum runs the program with as much respect for his players as they have for him.
Needless to say, Wehrum is dedicated to Union as a coach and a member of the campus community. As a player who has been with him for four years, Peter Griesinger ‘13 says it best, “You can geuniely expect to learn and laugh each day with Coach Wehrum. He finds a great balance between the importance of lacrosse and its real life parallels.”
Be sure to come out and support Coach Wehrum and the rest of the Dutchmen for their 2013 season.