Linehan Aiming to Elevate BHS Boys Lacrosse Program
Steve Linehan could be called “Mr. Lacrosse’’ in Bellingham.
The 50-year-old Linehan, who played lacrosse all four years at St. Michael’s College in Winooski, VT, not only started the youth program in Bellingham in 2012, but he also served as its president for five years. On two occasions, he was the preferred choice to be the high school’s varsity coach, but he twice turned down the opportunity.
That’s all changed now because the 18-year resident of Bellingham, who’s worked relentlessly in the town’s youth leagues as a coach and a board member in softball, basketball and lacrosse, will be the Blackhawks’ boys coach this spring, taking the reins of a program that’s failed to achieve a winning record in its nine-year history.
“There’s stability at the youth lacrosse level, and the enrollment is healthy,’’ Linehan said. “I just felt the time was right to build a high school program that’s strong on character and has competitive spirit. It’s time to develop a program that can compete in the Tri Valley League.’’
Linehan’s immediate goals are “to build a foundation of love and respect for the sport and to be able to compete with the mid-tier TVL teams.’’ His longer-range objectives are admirable.
“In three years, I believe we can become tourney eligible and in five years, if all goes well and we get a little luck along the way, I see us competing for a league title,’’ he emphasized. “And that means competing with Medfield, Dover-Sherborn, Westwood and Hopkinton.’’
The boys team did appear in two playoff games, but those berths were achieved by compiling a .500 record against teams in Division 3. The TVL comprises mostly Division 2 squads, so scheduling two games in Division 3 and splitting them enabled BHS to qualify for tourney play. That situation existed as the “MIAA’s Sullivan Rule’’ but no longer applies in TVL lacrosse.
A native of Woburn, Linehan may be directing his first varsity lacrosse team, but he’s no stranger to coaching at the high school level. He was Ashland’s junior varsity basketball coach for five years after serving as a volunteer freshman coach. This year, he worked as King Philip’s varsity assistant to Mark Champagne.
Married and the father of three teenagers, Linehan is acutely aware that his goals and the time frame to achieve them may be somewhat lofty since Bellingham has yet to post a winning season. But he points to several factors that should work in the Blackhawks’ favor. “Our freshmen and sophomores this year will be the first group to have extensive youth lacrosse experience,’’ he noted. “Also, the skills learned at the youth level will eventually help the varsity team, and a turnout of 30 boys will enable us to field a jayvee squad.’’
Linehan plans to change the culture by stressing pure fundamental development with a heavy emphasis on defense. “We’ll be defensive-oriented,’’ he said. “We’ve got to learn how to stop more skilled teams. We’ll be inexperienced in goal this year so our defense will have to keep us in games.’’
A midfielder at St. Michael’s as a walk-on, Linehan was voted most improved player as a senior. He knows what kind of sacrifices he made to capture that award and is fully cognizant of how Bellingham’s success will be measured in his early days on the job. “Our success will be measured by how much we improve from day to day,’’ he said. “For us, winning will mean competing harder and better. We’ll strive to develop a good culture overall, and the attributes our players must have are mental toughness and a strong competitive spirit.’’
A healthy competitive spirit is definitely part of Linehan’s athletic philosophy; but, he says, “I want to develop that but being accountable, responsible and committed are the important values.’’ He provides more insight into his philosophy by labeling “character development’’ as more important than lacrosse progress: “The players I coach will all go out into the world and deal with life issues; few will go on to play college lacrosse. That’s why it’s important to build strong character.’’
Linehan played high school football and basketball at Austin Prep in Reading. After graduation, he enrolled at St. Michael’s, where he graduated in 1989 with a degree in psychology. Currently, he works in sales for Ben’s Uniforms of Amesbury, a firm that manufactures public safety gear.
The Bellingham Area Youth Lacrosse Organization (BAYLO), which Linehan founded, increased its participation rate from 50 players in 2012 to 150 in 2017. His work with BAYLO has taught both boys and girls to be proficient in lacrosse. His goal now is to elevate the Bellingham varsity by making it fundamentally sound, competitive and proficient.
That task begins on April 4, when the Blackhawks travel to Westwood for what becomes Game 1 in the Steve Linehan era.
McKay Is New BHS Girls Lacrosse CoachWhitney McKay is Bellingham High’s new girls lacrosse coach, and the former college all-star hopes to bring a sense of team play and consistency to a program that has never experienced a winning season.
An academic all-star at attack at American International College, McKay was the Yellow-jackets’ top scorer for two seasons at the Springfield, MA, school. “I’ve met the girls on several occasions and stressed that we’ll focus on speed,’’ said McKay, who hails from Corning, NY. “Quickness and speed are helpful in developing offensive momentum. I’ll also teach fundamentals and help the girls learn to play as a team.’’
Before her first season as a varsity coach gets under way, the 23-year-old McKay, who teaches at the Douglas Middle School, has scheduled a 5K road-race fundraiser, which will be run around the high school. Before the 10 a.m. race, she and her players, along with booster club members, will conduct a lacrosse clinic for girls from kindergarten to grade eight. The clinic will run 8:30-9:30 a.m.
The girls varsity begins its season on April 4 at home against Westwood.