Same Sport, New Game
written by Ben Woehrle, as appears in the March 28, 2018 issue of Focus
Kurt Brillhart has been coaching the boys of this year’s senior class since they were all in fourth grade. This year, it will be for the first time as head coach of the Midland Varsity lacrosse team.
Brillhart has been involved in Midland lacrosse since it first began close to ten years ago. He never played lacrosse when he was growing up, but when his oldest son first became interested in the game, he volunteered to be a coach. Brillhart coached his two sons in the youth program and eventually became the director of youth lacrosse in Midland along with running tournaments such as the Honor the Game tournament. He has been one of the major catalysts in creating a lacrosse culture in the city of Midland as it has become more popular year after year. Over the years, Brillhart has followed his son, Garrett, as a coach and became the Junior Varsity coach in 2015. During that time, Joe Stadelmaier was the head Varsity coach. Stadelmaier, who had originally brought the sport of lacrosse to Midland, decided to step down from the job after last season, which left an opening for Brillhart to take over.
The Midland lacrosse program combines students from both the Midland High and Dow High sides of town. When it came to officially deciding who the coach would be, Eric Albright, the MHS Athletic Director, made the final decision.
Brillhart is excited for the opportunity to coach this group of boys that he has followed throughout the years, and notices that the varsity game is different from the teams he coached in the past.
“The biggest change in moving to varsity is the step up in competition,” Brillhart said. “The seniors we have are very talented, and a few years ago they were still developing as JV players. I have coached these guys before, and one of the reasons I wanted to be with this team is because I have known the boys since they were in fourth grade.”
Midland High senior Cam Donoghue has played for Brillhart three out of his four high school lacrosse seasons and enjoys the relationship that his coach is able to create with him and his teammates.
“I have always felt comfortable talking to Coach Brillhart,” Donoghue said. “He has always been very encouraging but he doesn’t beat around the bush. He will always get right to the point and tell you what you need to do to get better.”
Elliot Moore is an MHS junior and has played on the varsity team for the past three years. He played for Brillhart during his youth and notices a different style of coaching than in his first two years in high school.
“Coach Brillhart brings a new intensity to practice and it seems more organized than it has been in the past,” Moore said.
Moore said that Coach Brillhart’s practices are getting them ready for a long postseason run.
“Our ultimate goal is the state championship,” Moore said. “We don’t want to settle for anything less than that, and I would say that the new style, the new intensity, that coach Brillhart is bringing to practice is going to help us be more successful this year than in years past.”
Just by observing a practice, it is evident that Brillhart is fully enthralled in his new position. He constantly cheers on his players when they score goals and never allows a dead moment. Even before practice starts, Brillhart has the boys stretching so that they can accomplish as much as possible that day. Throughout the practice, he will let out loud screams and constantly talk to his players to keep their energy up.
Brillhart knows that this year’s group could be very special with all of their talent and experience.
“We see a lot of potential with these guys and we just want to bring it out of them,” Brillhart said. “I really believe that this group of kids will battle very hard together, and as hard as they work and as talented they are, my goal is to have them reach their ultimate potential by the end of the season.”
The Midland boys lacrosse team has won multiple Saginaw Valley League championships since joining the league, and Brillhart’s goal for this season is to become more noticed as an elite program in the state.
“We have been getting better and better every year and being more recognized by other teams in the state as a premier lacrosse program,” Brillhart said. “I think we have earned the respect that we deserve and I hope that we can keep that trend going.”
Moore said that although Brillhart may be a great coach, what separates him from other coaches is his ability to relate to his players and make them feel like they can trust him.
“He knows us as people, not just lacrosse players.”