Eagles' head coach Ryan Ward talks with referees before the game. Photo by Helen Nelson
A native of Victoria, B.C., who starred at Butler University, Ward doesn’t mind that his players are likely no-shows for what will be one of the biggest games of his career.
Eden Prairie played three games in three days, a brutal stretch that concluded with an 8-3 loss to Minnetonka on Thursday. The Eagles (10-2) also played three games the previous week, including a 9-7 loss to two-time defending state champion Benilde-St. Margaret’s on May 5.
“They need a little time away from lacrosse, I think,” Ward said. “Their rest is valuable. They can watch it on TV.”
Ward said he fell in love with the Twin Cities are when he played for the Swarm. When he was traded to Edmonton, he continued to make his home here. Now, he is a regular jetsetter making flights between Edmonton and Minneapolis.
“I do it every year,” Ward, 31, said about juggling careers. “It does get a little tough at times with the family and the balancing act, but that’s just the way it is. That’s just part of what I have to do.”
Ward said he rarely attends Rush practices, but he does have NLL-sized goals at his home and St. Paul Preparatory School, where he teaches.
“It’s a working-man’s league, and they just understand that’s how it is,” Ward said about his long-distance relationship with the Rush. “But if I wasn’t playing well and contributing and scoring, I wouldn’t be in the league anymore.”
Ward said being a coach has made him a better player, allowing him to better understand what is happening on the field and why. Conversely, he said being a player helps him relate to the Eagles as they go through the ups and downs of a season.
Woodring, who has committed to play for Division I Denver, said Ward commands instant respect.
“It’s just nice to have a coach who can talk it, and he can back it up,” Woodring said. “He can show you a move. He’s not afraid to get out there and put his body on a defender and show us how it should be done.
“Ryan is a great coach, I respect him so much. He’s done a lot for our program.”