Coach’s Corner: Coach D’Ambrosio

Coach DAmbrosio coached at the Berkshire School before coming to Hotchkiss.

Coach D’Ambrosio coached at the Berkshire School before coming to Hotchkiss.

Coach Andrew D’Ambrosio, head coach of the Boys Varsity Lacrosse Team, joined the school in 2017; he also serves as the dean of the Class of 2022 and instructor in history, philosophy, and religion. Mitchell Riley ’22 said, “Coach D’Ambrosio is so knowledgeable and expressively passionate about the game of lacrosse. In the past few years, he has begun to revitalize lacrosse at Hotchkiss with his dedication to our program. He asks all of us to buy-in to our culture, as he does the same. He’s a great leader for all of us, as players and as young men. He always has open ears for his players and is there to guide us through any obstacles we may face.”


What mindset do you try to instill in your players?

We spend a lot of our time as a team trying to become more process-oriented. This is much easier said than done in many cases. At a place like Hotchkiss, where success and excellence are expected, it is easy to get hung up on wins and losses, Founders League titles, college commitments, and other measurable outcomes. While it’s true that we do care about the ends, we really try to focus on the means. When we all buy into the amount of extra work that is required outside of the season, outside of normal practice hours, and outside of ourselves, we can begin to be a team that values each other and the privilege of playing the game. Ninety-eight percent of the time or more, games are not won and lost during the game itself. 

It has taken several years, but I do believe the players in our program are beginning to make these important connections. We spend a lot of time talking about the equation “Performance = Capability + Behavior.” [Just] being talented or hardworking is really not enough. These two aspects are in service of each other, and we hope that we get that across to the players.


What were you most looking forward to this season?

This team has been three years in the making. I was truly looking forward to the Seniors really enjoying the ride this year. Many of them were on the team as Lower Mids in 2018, and that was not an easy season by any means. This group of Seniors and PGs really bought into the rebuilding process, and I am saddened about the fact that they will not be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. 


How have you incorporated your own experiences into your coaching techniques?

I try to remove my own experiences from my coaching. A mistake that many young coaches make is to become far too self-referential in their coaching style. My career in lacrosse was certainly not notable, so therefore not worth revisiting. The one thing I do carry over into my coaching is the need to know the “why” of things. I spend a significant amount of time, perhaps too much, explaining the game of lacrosse. Like all sports, lacrosse has both an artistic aspect and a scientific aspect. We don’t want our players to simply just do something on the field, we want them to know and understand why they’re being asked to take specific actions.


What do you love most about the team?

I have loved the culture that has developed over the past couple of years. Our players are beginning to realize that discipline is truly not the enemy of enthusiasm. It was becoming increasingly evident this year that the team was going to be a lot of fun to work with. They were certainly talented and hardworking, but they also had perspective, which led to balance. It also helped that we had quite a few characters who would provide levity at the appropriate moments.


What has been your favorite coaching moment so far?

My favorite moment at Hotchkiss has actually been a collection of short conversations this year. [The school] has a strong tradition of lacrosse and many senior faculty members who still remember the days of undefeated seasons and Founders League titles. A number of them have dropped in my office to say that they have been happy to see a resurgence in the number of students on campus who seem to have a passion for lacrosse. These conversations have been extremely encouraging as we continue to move forward.


How do you integrate new players into the team?

This really begins in the recruiting process before student-athletes even choose Hotchkiss. Prospective players hear from our staff, current players, and alums, so they are already known entities before they arrive on campus. Our captains and returning players play the largest role once new students arrive on campus. This process begins in September and slowly builds to March when we begin the season.


What led you to Hotchkiss?

I was looking to make a change in my own career and Hotchkiss had an opening. I felt like I knew the school well since I had grown up in the Founders League as a student at Loomis Chaffee. It was difficult to pass up an opportunity to teach talented students with a collaborative faculty while also having the chance to coach one of the most storied programs in New England.