Much has been made about the University of Utah going NCAA Division I since their announcement to join the varsity lacrosse ranks on June 15, 2017.
It has been hyped-up in the media, with coverage from national lacrosse media outlets such as LaxAllStars, Inside Lacrosse and The Lacrosse Network to name a few. TLN produced a three-part docuseries, entitled “Going West”, of which two of the episodes have already aired. The episodes, about 10-minutes in length each, feature a behind-the-scenes look at the University’s coaching staff, life at practice and how the Utes prepared for their regular-season rivalry game against Brigham Young University.
We had the chance to do an interview via email with Tyler Steinhardt, General Manager at The Lacrosse Network, on the film’s production. Below is a transcript of the interview, where we get an inside look into what went into making the show. The series can be found on The Lacrosse Network by clicking here. The final episode will air on Wednesday on The Lacrosse Network.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.
Matt Anderson – Who were some of the decision-makers in creating this feature on Utah Lacrosse and why did you decide to highlight the program?
Tyler Steinhardt – Under Armour began the conversation about a Utah Lacrosse docuseries the day they became D1. As a partner school and the farthest west program in the country, UA wanted to both document the formation of a new program as well as the rise of the game in the west. As a lacrosse media company with west coast origins, we were excited to partner on this project and tell the story of the Utes.
MA – What made you want to feature the Utah lacrosse team over other new NCAA Division I programs that have appeared over the last few years?
TS – The coaching staff and Pac-12 conference affiliation makes the Utes program unique. With three young MLL All-stars on the staff, the coaching staff brings a different energy to the locker room than most other collegiate programs. The speed at which they have transformed this program has also been incredibly fascinating to capture as well.
MA – Could you talk about the process of putting this documentary together?
TS – A lot of the work for the documentary came during the fall and winter, as we sketched out our vision for the piece. We spent two weeks in Utah, capturing practices, coaches meetings, the BYU game and interviewing over a dozen folks involved with lacrosse in the state. Fortunately we got connected to Tim Haslam who helped facilitate many of these interviews. Since filming in April, we’ve been editing non-stop for the last 6 weeks, trying to condense the history of these characters, lacrosse in Utah and much more in 30 minutes.
MA – How is the Utah program unique from other lacrosse programs you have featured?
TS – The focus on culture really stood out to us. We’ve spent a lot of time in locker rooms with elite high school and collegiate programs, but we’ve never seen such a focus on building culture. All of the coaches are also very well read – citing books on leadership, organizational psychology, coaching, and more throughout our interviews. They’re clearly thinking about the program at a different level than most.
MA – How does Coach Brian Holman compare to other lacrosse coaches that you have seen?
TS – Brian has a unique task of bringing a program to Division I, and that requires having a very clear vision for the team. It’s focusing both on the season today as well as the plans for 2019 – that’s not easy to balance. We were also struck by his deep personal relationships with his players and the trust he put into his assistant coaches, specifically during game time and throughout the week in practice. The entire coaching staff is a well-oiled machine, it was really impressive to see up close.
MA – What does your next episode hope to cover about lacrosse in Utah?
TS – I don’t want to give anything away, but we spend a lot more time with the coaching staff.
MA – What did your team learn about lacrosse in Utah from creating this docuseries?
TS – The lacrosse community in Utah is both organized and passionate. I think the Utes are part of a cascade of growth in Utah, and coupled with the high school sanctioning and reorganization of the youth level will make the state a hotbed in the near future. Also everyone knows Fish.
MA – What future coverage do you have planned of Utah Lacrosse beyond this current docuseries?
TS – That remains to be seen, but we hope to come back in 2019 to capture a game.
MA – Being so heavily involved in the sport, what do you see as the potential for lacrosse out west?
TS – There is a hunger for more lacrosse in the west. I was pretty surprised by the turnout for the Utah vs BYU game – it’s exciting to see how that crowd grows as the Utes go Division I. The game is not just growing, but the talent is increasing, and that bodes well for the future of lacrosse west of the Mississippi.