Nathaniel Mayo is a football guy. He lives it, breathes it, talks it, and walks it.
He was a standout defensive lineman in high school just down the road at St. John’s Shrewsbury and went on to compete at Worcester State University (WSU) in the late 1990s, where he helped the Lancers reach a top-ten ranking in the nation.
But Mayo is not limited to drawing x’s and o’s with a pigskin in his hand. This 34-year-old coach applies his football IQ to a sport he never played: lacrosse. Mayo is in his first year as the men’s lacrosse coach at Emerson, and said he has coached lacrosse at a collegiate level since he graduated from WSU.
Since then, he has been an assistant coach at the University of Hartford and head coach at Nichols College.
Still, as a lacrosse coach, Mayo brings his football style with him. Each day, he emails a practice plan to players before the start of workouts outlining what each quarter of the practice will consist of.
This includes a time where Mayo has his team convene and share inspirational quotes or stories that they feel will push them to do better. Mayo even calls plays in a football fashion.
“Another thing we do like a football team is hold up cue cards that have different colors on them to represent different plays,” Mayo said.
So far, the players said they are taking to the different approach.
“Practice plans are awesome,” said defenseman Billy Leopold, a sophomore print and multimedia journalism major. “We know what we have to get through, so the harder we work, the faster practice will go by.”
Mayo said the team is adjusting well.
“The coach they had before me had a very different coaching style,” Mayo said. “These guys have really bought into my style; they like the discipline.”
But despite the early season bonding, the Lions have yet to win a game. As of yesterday, they are 0-4 with an average margin of defeat of 8.75 goals.
Mayo said the losses are not a product of lack of effort, but rather a lack of depth.
“This is the smallest team I have ever coached,” Mayo said. “We are only carrying about 14 guys right now. Most teams we play carry around 30.”
He said recruiting at Emerson is more difficult than recruiting he has done at other schools. Because the school’s admissions process is selective, he said, it can be tough to find players that are talented on the field, intelligent in the classroom, and also have an interest in Emerson’s course offerings.
“We are so low on guys right now,” Mayo said. “We have guys playing positions that they have never played before; we have a goalie playing defense right now. Staying healthy right now is very important for us.”
And while this may be the smallest roster Mayo has ever coached, it isn’t his first time with limited manpower. While at Nichols, Mayo said he began with just 19 players. But after his first season, the number grew to 23, Mayo said, and ballooned into the high 30s once his recruits began pouring in.
Mayo said he is hoping for a similar change at Emerson.
“Our goal for next year as a staff is to get 15 more guys here,” Mayo said. “My staff and I are going to be recruiting non-stop all summer. I know I’m going to be traveling to different camps every day of July all the way through the middle of August.”
Rather than aim unrealistically high, Mayo said his goal for Emerson is to finish in the middle of the conference. He said that six of the eight teams in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference advance to the postseason.
To reach that goal, Mayo cited a few players in particular that need to perform well, including freshman Max Smith.
Mayo said he has been impressed with the screenwriting major since he saw him at a recruiting camp while Mayo was still a member of the Hartford coaching staff.
“Division III players are usually one-hand players,” Mayo said. “Max Smith can do both. It also doesn’t hurt that he puts in time in the weight room. He is the most complete player that I have coached at the D-III level.”
He also talked about his team’s three captains: Gold, Clayton Fisk, a sophomore illustration major at Massachusetts College of Art, and Phil Shore, a senior print journalism major and former contributor to the Beacon. Fisk plays for the Lions through the Pro Arts Consortium.
“Clayton is a fantastic leader,” Leopold said of Fisk. “He leads completely by example. He switched to goalie when he was one of the best middies on our team. Phil Shore is also really killing it on defense for someone who has never played there before.”
Gold said that despite the limited numbers and the adjustment to a new coaching style, he is confident his team will make things work.
“We deal with our small roster by working hard by going out every day and doing it,” Gold said. “As the season is going on, we are getting more conditioned to it and are figuring things out. It has been a learning process and we are getting better at it.”