Coach Church to take men’s lacrosse by storm

February 24, 2023


Photo contributed by Shaun Church.

Coach Shaun Church returned to his alma mater, Onondaga Community College, to help coach them to the 2017 National Championship. Church is the first men’s lacrosse coach at Virginia State University.

In April 2022, Virginia State University announced four new, never-before-seen athletic programs to the Virginia State campus: women’s soccer, men’s soccer, men’s lacrosse, and women’s lacrosse. Months after, new coaches came to Virginia State’s campus to build up respective teams – one coach being Coach Shaun Church, head men’s lacrosse coach at Virginia State. 

For men’s lacrosse, the Trojans are the first in the CIAA to add the sport, the first in the NCAA Division II institutions, second among the NCAA Division II HBCUs, and third amongst all HBCUs, according to VSU’s press release from April 2022.

Church’s lacrosse background starts in Long Island, NY, in Uniondale, where he lived in middle school. He is originally from Queens, NY, but his family relocated to the Long Island area when he was in middle school.

“I picked up lacrosse in middle school,” Church said. “Around my junior year of high school, I was great, and I started to get recruited. At that point, I transitioned to Hicksville High School for my junior and senior years to prepare myself for college.”

After high school, Church attended Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, NY, which he states was “one of the best junior colleges for lacrosse.” After his 2-year stay at Onondaga, he went to New York Tech for a year, then Salisbury University. He graduated from Salisbury with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Coaching. His lacrosse team won the National Championship in 2011-2012, along with several members of his team receiving All-American honors.

“I’ve been around a lot of winning and tradition, and that’s what I am hoping all of it is for, so I can be able to set the tone on what it is we need to be doing to be, as we say, Greater, here,” Church said.

— Coach Shaun Church

“We took every position player of the year title,” Church said. “It was a magical time, those two years.

After college, Church started his coaching career as a grad student at Eastern University in St. Davids, PA, then became a lacrosse Offense Coordinator at King’s College. After that, he got his first head coaching break at ASA Community College in NY, where he coached men’s lacrosse for three years. After leaving ASA CC, Church returned to his alma mater, Onondaga as a coach.

“I was able to coach there and learn for a year and get under the coaches that coached me when I played there,” Church said. “There, I was able to win my first championship as a coach. Sometimes you have to do a year where the program is much more established with what you’re trying to build. For me, that was Onondaga.”

At Onondaga, Church’s men’s lacrosse program won a championship. After leaving, Church coached at Monroe Community College in NY.

“I was there for five years. I had a top ten team every year and sent a couple of guys off each year to different institutions around the U.S.,” Church said. “COVID put a big damper on my plans there. We had a really good team, but we could only play two games [because of the start of the pandemic]. We were able to knock off our rival Genesee, which we couldn’t do for 15+ years. I had an excellent team at Monroe.”

After leaving Monroe, Church arrived at Virginia State in Sept. 2022. He immediately hit the ground running to recruit lacrosse players for the upcoming college team.

“A lot of my recruiting had to happen at lacrosse events I could go to in the fall if the kids hadn’t already committed [to college programs] and through different recruiting websites online,” Church said. “I also worked with SweetLax. That allowed me to get to some of the best tournaments throughout the summer even though I wasn’t coaching college lacrosse.” 

Church credits a lot of his coaching success to SweetLax, an elite lacrosse program that, according to their website, “focuses on developing player skills and teamwork while stressing the importance of academic performance to reach the Collegiate level.”

“They gave me a lot of opportunities to coach and get around kids and train them,” Church said.” And in a business mindset, they taught me how to structure my own team. That’s something that I’m hoping to do out here in the Petersburg area. I want to give back to the youth and get lacrosse really picking up around here.”

Church plans to bring his unique mindset to men’s lacrosse at Virginia State.

“I’ve been around a lot of winning and tradition, and that’s what I am hoping all of it is for, so I can be able to set the tone on what it is we need to be doing to be, as we say, Greater, here,” Church said. “I’m prepared to push what is expected here, which is us being greater every day. That’s my mantra already going into next year.” 

Coach says his lacrosse background as both a player and a coach gives him a “whole different angle” regarding the sport. His years as a player gives him experience and a unique athletic viewpoint. He looks to bring success to the university through “discipline and fundamentals.”

“We are disciplined and fundamental in doing what we need to be doing at Virginia State to make sure that these students are successful on and off the field here,” Church said.” Whether that’s an ACE student study hall or students holding a 2.3 GPA to play, there’s no room for them to fail and lose financial aid.”

— Coach Shaun Church

While the lacrosse season will not start until Spring 2024, Church has already begun working with the players on campus and preparing for the Spring season (which, according to Virginia State’s April 2022 press release, should be held from February to May.) The seven student-athletes on campus are going to weight training sessions and doing position, offense, and feet work out on the football turf and the green.

“We already have a couple of scrimmages planned for the fall, “ Church said. “The fall schedule is already mapped out on where we want to go [When the season comes] we’ll be here, ready to go full-tilt,” Church said. “We’re going to make a statement that we are here and ready to put our part in the greater.”

Coach Church is looking forward to next year when the Trojan community can see lacrosse debut for the first time.

“I hope next year everyone comes out and supports whether it’s a scrimmage or a home game,” Church said. “We are looking forward to showing everybody the program. We want the community to come out and learn. We want to bring more back to the community. I’ve been telling everybody to get ready to be greater.”

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