Graham No Stranger to Ashland or Its Lacrosse Program

By KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
Bill Graham is back at the helm of Ashland lacrosse.
Issue Date: 
November, 2017
Article Body: 

Bill Graham is the new boys’ lacrosse coach at Ashland High, but he’s no stranger to the school, the sport or the community.
The 37-year-old Graham grew up in Ashland, graduated as a Clocker in 1998, and as a senior, played on the school’s first varsity lacrosse team. An English teacher at Ashland High for the last 14 years, Graham, his wife Christine and seven-month-old son Jack live in town. And, as far as coaching goes, Graham isn’t new to that role at all. He coached the Ashland boys’ varsity lacrosse squad from 2006-2009 and later coached as an assistant at Framingham High, as defensive coordinator at Regis College, as an Ashland High volunteer and also as the Clockers’ junior varsity girls’ coach.
“I knew when I left in 2009 that I wanted to be a head coach again,’’ Graham said. “We got to the tourney my first year, but we had some ups and downs. It was the right time to leave and for a new voice to be heard. I coached in other places and immersed myself in the sport.’’
Graham’s other stops helped him to become a student of the game, always learning, always growing. “I wanted to learn how to be better at working with kids and to help motivate them,’’ he noted.
When coach Fred Federico stepped down after three seasons at Ashland, Graham knew that the opportunity was right for a return.
“I coached in the system and I’m a teacher at the school,’’ he said. “I also admire the community. Fred did a nice job and I’d like to build on that. My prime goal is to create an environment where players want to pursue the sport and become part of Ashland lacrosse. I also will stress that our players be consistently competitive and strive to qualify for tourney berths.’’
Graham, who graduated from UMass-Amherst in 2002, says he wears Ashland pride on his sleeve, and his coaching style will emphasize the values and ideals the school and the athletic program promote. “I want our kids to be respectful and responsible,’’ he noted. “And, to focus on achievement, involvement and integrity. As far as my coaching philosophy goes, I want our players to be prepared and competitive. Winning, reaching one’s potential and enjoying being part of a team all are in the mix, too.’’
Graham’s game approach will depend on his players’ talents and skills. “Maybe I’d like for us to be an up-tempo team, but if I don’t have the players to implement that approach, then I have to adjust. Being flexible is a big key. Coaching is all about determining abilities and skill sets and putting the players in the right positions.’’
When Graham meets with prospective players, they no doubt will discover quickly the attributes he admires when he’s assembling a roster. He wants players who have a sense of being highly competitive, who want to improve daily, and who have passion for lacrosse.
“Those are qualities I look for, but I also want candidates who have a good IQ in the sport, who are quick, skilled and have a strong work ethic,’’ he said. “Endurance also is a plus.’’
Having previously coached in the Tri Valley League, Graham knows it’s a circuit that has capable players and quality coaches. “Medfield and Dover-Sherborn are the crown jewels,’’ he said. “Playing in what is one of the best leagues in the state, we have to compete consistently and be flexible if we’re to succeed. Brian McLaughlin is Dover-Sherborn’s coach and he was also on board when I was directing Ashland. He’s an example of how good the TVL coaches are.’’
Graham will inherit a team that’s young and has no seniors. “That’s a plus, because it’ll allow me to build a nucleus of kids who are familiar with each other,’’ Graham said. “We’ll have players who are skilled and know technique, but we’ll still need to focus on basics and maintain a clear vision.’’
Graham indicated that his one and only year of playing lacrosse at Ashland was “exciting,” and that he learned a lot in that one year.
“We were young, had only three seniors and didn’t get to the tourney,’’ he recalled. “It was a thrill to be part of Ashland’s first-ever lacrosse squad. I was recruited to play by Mel McKee, who was an assistant coach when I played basketball. He started the youth lacrosse program and also the high school team. He was a fine teacher of lacrosse.’’
Graham’s discusses own top thrill in his previous coaching stops. “When I see kids that I instructed now working as coaches, that’s rewarding,’’ he emphasized. “I coached Dan Norton in 2006 and he’s now the head coach at Hopkinton. That’s a good feeling.’’
Having Bill Graham coaching at Ashland again is a solid move.