Castleton University’s new women’s lacrosse coach Josh Dionne was just a small town kid from Merrimack, New Hampshire, a place not known for lacrosse.
Dionne had to find a way to teach and develop himself on the lacrosse field without camps and clinics and being self-taught where he claims his love for coaching originated.
After a successful high school career at Avon a private institution in Connecticut doors were opened for through a scholarship to Duke University, a Division-1 nationally ranked program for lacrosse.
“Once I get there, it was an eye-opener. I didn’t know conditioning or weight lifting. I showed up as this ignorant kid to a D1 school and it was a kick in the butt the first fall I arrived. I was never pushed in Merrimack,” Dionne said.
Dionne would go on to win back-to-back national championships at Duke in 2013-2014 and he says those title moments stand out the most.
“In 2010, our whole platform for getting recruited was to win a national championship. The first title we started 1-4 and the fact that we came back and won it was pure joy, everything came to fruition. I remember just flashing back to sixth grade in the woods in New Hampshire just trying to get better,” said Dionne with a smile.
Dionne finished his career a three year starter at Duke with 140 goals and 22 assists totaling 162 points. Dionne was named a two-time USILA All-American honorable mention.
It proved, he said, that if you want something you have to work for it.
After Duke, Dionne had two short assistant coaching stints at the Naval Academy and University of North Carolina but he said it felt like something was missing.
“I thought coaching at the highest level at the age of 26 was going to be a storybook ending, but I quickly realized that I wasn’t coaching, it was more guiding. I realized that Castleton had this spot and they’ve been good but they haven’t had top-end coaching. I felt I could make waves,” he said.
Dionne hopes to bring positive reinforcement to the CU women’s lacrosse program and constantly remind them that they’re working toward a goal. He said he hopes to change their lives.
The impact is already starting to settle in just three short months, said senior captain Erin Shuttle.
“He’s an amazing coach who obviously wants to pass down his knowledge and is great at breaking down the basics and teaching. He just brings a different energy and enthusiasm to everything we do,” Shuttle said.
Since arriving at Castleton, Dionne said he has made it a point to not overcoach and said he really believes he has an opportunity that goes way past the game of lacrosse.
“I like to use the game and relate it to life. The reality is sports end for these girls so if I can make them realize what hard work can be capable of, hopefully they will take that far in life and someday get a great job and become great mothers, etcetera,” Dionne said.
Shuttle seems to be recognizing exactly what Dionne is hoping to build.
“It’s easy to tell that he truly cares about us and he want us to have fun and love what we’re doing every day. He wants to lead us to success and he knows how to do that,” she said.
The women’s lacrosse team has been dealing with constant change with three different coaches in just four seasons, which doesn’t generally translate to success.
Dionne wants to simply give these players a familiar face and something consistent.
“They haven’t fully been able to buy in and say ‘this is how you win a championship’ and now I can come and change the culture. They’re realizing that I am not here to police them, they understand that hard work on and off the field is going to lead to good things,” he said.
Senior captain Morgan Derosia has high hopes for her team in her final season as a Spartan.
“Win or lose, I know we are going to put in the work day in and day out. I think we are capable of some great things with this team and this coaching staff,” Derosia said.
Dionne is no stranger to big games and goals and he is motivated to put Castleton women’s lacrosse on the map in a short period of time.
“From my experience, you can’t make it about wins and losses. That creates people feeling like a failure when they don’t win. I want them to enjoy the process. I don’t think these girls smiled a day in the last few years on that field. My biggest goal is for them to smile every day and those will translate into wins. By year three I want to be in the second round of the NCAA tournament. I think once we reach that the sky is the limit with this program,” he said