By CAM MOYER
KENNESAW, Ga. — Sometimes in the world of college sports, when there’s an opening for a coaching position, a former player’s name gets brought up as a candidate. The same situation occurred for Kennesaw State lacrosse defensive coordinator Tom Mudrak.
Mudrak played four years at KSU after spending one year at Presbyterian College in South Carolina. Now he has the opportunity to coach his alma mater and is hoping to help lead them to new heights.
Mudrak received a lot of recognition from the SouthEastern Lacrosse Conference where he was a four-time all-conference defenseman and twice named to the conference all-tournament team.
But that’s not what he holds highest on his list of accolades from his playing days.
“I think the captaincy is the most important and the award I am most proud of,” Mudrak said. “Being a captain is what everyone should strive for in sports, not just being good with your talents but also being able to make everyone around you better.”
Mudrak expected the leadership role as soon as he got to Kennesaw. He knew the fact that he was a former Division I player that he’d be one of the better players on the team. Those better players usually step up to take that role and Mudrak did seamlessly.
“He’s a great leader who led by example,” former teammate Brandon O’Neal said.
Most of the men on Kennesaw’s lacrosse team grew up in Georgia, which isn’t typically known as a lacrosse hotbed for star talent. Growing up in the state has, in a way, helped Mudrak mesh better with his teammates. He saw that as a common point and used it to build his relationship with the team, which is imperative for a captain to do.
“If you’re a good player, even if you’re not necessarily a bad guy, you just don’t mesh with the team well, it’s going to be hard,” Mudrak said.
From his own perspective, Mudrak sees a leader as someone who brings stability to the program.
Mudrak got into coaching early on, while simultaneously playing for the Owls. During his junior and senior seasons playing, he coached at Kennesaw Mountain High School. He credits that time coaching to helping his playing, saying: “If you’re having to explain concepts to younger players, it really makes you have to understand all the ins and outs of the game. You have to know not just where the guys are moving on the field, but why they are.”
After finishing his playing time at Kennesaw and graduating, Mudrak took on the job as defensive coordinator at Reinhardt University, one of Kennesaw’s conference rivals. He helped lead Reinhardt to its best season with a conference championship in his only year there. He had to beat his alma mater twice to get there.
“I think it’s been a smooth transition from player to coach,” Kennesaw State head coach Tyler Yelken said. “And I think we’re better for it.”
Things have come full circle for Mudrak. After his one year at Reinhardt, Mudrak came back to Kennesaw as the defensive coordinator at his alma mater.
In his first year as defensive coordinator at KSU, Mudrak helped take the Owls to the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association national tournament as an at-large, where they lost in the first round to eventual champion Dayton. He hopes they can continue to build on the success of last year going forward.