Toll rings in new era with A’s
It hasn’t taken Steve Toll long to put his stamp on the St. Catharines Athletics.
The leading scorer in franchise history has been on the job only a couple of weeks as the new head coach and long-time assistant coach Rob Taylor has already noticed a huge difference the ultra-competitive Toll has made on the organization.
“I played my rookie year with him,” Taylor said. “He’s the same type of coach as he was as a player. He’s very competitive. It doesn’t matter if it’s walking to the corner or playing mini sticks or ping pong.
“He brings that competitiveness to every practice. He challenges the kids. Just little things like challenging them to score on a breakaway and if they don’t, they run. It’s pretty unique and creative.”
Toll, who enjoyed a stellar professional career that included four National Lacrosse League championships in 13 seasons, is thrilled be back with the Double Blue.
“I played here for five years and grew up in St. Catharines so it means a lot to me,” Toll said. “To be back here and see the boys, it’s a good feeling to finally get going and see that talent we have.”
Toll, a 43-year-old Oshawa resident, has a well-earned reputation as an old school coach who demands nothing but the best from his players.
In his first couple of weeks on the floor, Toll said he has tried to balance establishing his demands without going overboard.
“I like to set the tone but I’ve been in their spot too and I know when you need a day off or when you don’t want to practice. I’m a hard ass but give me the effort when you are here,” he said.
That means quick, up-tempo workouts.
“I don’t like the two-hour practices. Give me an hour-and-a-half,” he said. “I think that’s what I realized the last couple of years I’ve been a head coach. The boys know you have been there before, you treat them with a little bit of respect. I ask for effort and if they give it they know they will be rewarded at the end.
“It’s a give-and-take type situation and so far it’s worked for me so I’m going to continue with it.”
Taylor loves Toll’s enthusiasm.
“He brings positive energy,” Taylor said. “Our practices are unbelievable. The kids are competing against each other because he’s bringing it out in them.
“You always know where you stand. If he sees something he doesn’t like, he’ll let you know but he also gets over it quickly. The amount of energy he brings is unbelievable.”
Taylor feels Toll’s demands have been well received early on.
“I think they have reacted very well so far. Time will tell, but I think he doesn’t drive it down their throats with authority. He has a lot of fun when he thinks there should be fun.”
Toll was member of the Athletics when winning was a forgone conclusion. That hasn’t been the case for the last several years —the last time the club finished above .500 was back in 2011.
Toll and new general manager Jeff Chcoski have pledged to return the organization back to its winning ways, but with one caveat.
“I do want to restore it but the hard part is not trying to rush it. They finished ninth two years ago and eighth last year,” he said.
Toll said it all comes down to a willingness to work.
“You have to give the effort every night. If you’re not going to give the effort, we’ll play different guys. I think that’s the situation. You can’t be loyal to anyone. If you work hard, I’m going to like you. If you don’t work hard, you might not be playing.”
Toll is also going to demand commitment.
“I’m driving in from Oshawa every night to coach this team so you have to make sure you’re here,” he said. “I understand you have a job or a prom, but I’ve missed my daughter and son’s games to coach here. If I’m making the commitment, then you have to make the commitment and that’s what to takes to win.”
The A’s begin the 2018 Ontario Lacrosse Association junior A season Friday in Brampton and Monday in Six Nations. They host Kitchener-Waterloo Wednesday, May 25 at 7:30 p.m. in their home opener at Jack Gatecliff Arena.
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