One on One - "Ben Floyd – Having Fun while Winning"
Many contemporary lacrosse fans will not know the name Ben Floyd – which is understandable as he has not coached since 1981. Ben Floyd was born 1937 in Peterborough, Ontario. Like many youngsters he grew up playing lacrosse and hockey. With time, his love for lacrosse took priority. During his lacrosse days, Ben Floyd was involved for more than thirty years in most every capacity - player, coach, manager, executive member in his hometown of Peterborough.
As a player he was a member of the 1956 Nisbett Junior “B” Ontario Lacrosse Champions and the 1957 UEW Junior Ontario Champions and Eastern Canadian Finalists.
When he aged out from Junior level lacrosse, Ben Floyd played one season for the Senior “A” Peterborough Timbermen in 1958. During that season, Ben Floyd was suspended indefinitely for punching referee Scoop Hayes. Floyd, had been tossed out of the game during the first period. At the end of the period, then dressed in street clothes, he became embroiled with Hayes for a second time. The end result, Ben Floyd punched the referee in the face closing his right eye. The referee was seeking to lay an assault charge but could not as there was no Justice of the Peace was available, Ben Floyd had the option of appealing his indefinite suspension, but he chose not to.
From that point on – Ben Floyd took on Managing and/or Coaching teams in Peterborough. He was the Manager for the Hastings Legionnaires – the 1961 Minto Cup champions. He also coached successful Peterborough Minor Lacrosse teams at the Bantam and Midget levels from 1968 to 1971.
In 1971, half way through the season, Ben Floyd was asked to take on the coaching duties of the Peterborough Junior “A” PCO's. The team finished in second place and in the OLA playoffs went onto to defeat St. Catharines, Bramalea and Etobicoke to advance to the Minto Cup. Peterborough lost in overtime in the seventh game of the Minto Cup series to the Richmond Roadrunners. This PCO's group had skilled players such as Jim Wasson, Tom Parnell Gord Floyd, Jim Johnston, John Grant Sr., Bob Wasson, Jan Magee along with Jim Gow and Greg Lustic on defence.
With such a strong nucleus and under the guidance of Ben Floyd, the Peterborough club went on to win four straight Minto Cup Championships 1972 to 1975. The 1974 PCO’s went undefeated - 46 wins and 0 losses - a feat no other team has accomplished.
In concert with his coaching activities, Ben Floyd was an Executive member of the Ontario Lacrosse Association. In addition, he made a significant contributions to the Peterborough Minor Lacrosse Association in various positions including the role of President. In 1975, his efforts were acknowledged as he was acclaimed the "Sports Personality of the Year" for the city of Peterborough.
During the 1976 season, despite finishing in first place, the PCO’s were eliminated by Bramalea in the OLA finals (Bramalea were swept by Victoria 4-0 in the Minto Cup Final). Feeling the need to recharge his batteries, Ben Floyd took the 1977 season off.
Ben Floyd coached 6 seasons of Junior “A” lacrosse. His teams played in the Minto Cup in five of those six seasons. His overall record in Minto Cup play was 19 wins and 7 losses and 4 Minto Cup championships. Overall, Ben Floyd coached 170 games at the Junior "A" level. His teams had a record of 149 wins, 20 losses and 1 tie That is a winning percentage of 89% - unequaled by any other coach in the history of Junior “A” lacrosse.
A historical note here for lacrosse fans: The 1973 Mann Cup was a one game final. The Peterborough Lakers defeated the Vancouver Burrards to win the Mann Cup. At that point, an early version of the National Lacrosse League emerged and the result was no Senior “A” team in Peterborough for four full season (1974-1977).
In 1978, Senior “A” lacrosse returned to Peterborough and Ben Floyd became Head Coach of the Peterborough Red Oaks. He coached the Red Oaks to the Mann Cup Championship defeating the Victoria Shamrocks 4-3 in an absolute thrilling best of seven series. This was followed up by a second straight appearance in the Mann Cup. However, the Red Oaks were swept 4-0 by the Victoria Shamrocks in the 1979 Mann Cup series. Ben Floyd’s last season of coaching was in 1980 when the Lakers lost in the Ontario Final to Brampton in 5 games (Brampton defeated New Westminster Salmonbellies in five games to win the Mann Cup).
In summary, Ben Floyd coached three seasons of Senior “A” lacrosse – winning a Mann Cup, losing in another Mann Cup series, and losing in the Ontario Finals. He finished with a coaching record of 69 wins; 38 losses and 1 tie for a winning percentage of 64%.
One would ask – “Why did such an accomplished coach such as Ben Floyd step away from coaching?” The answer - Work commitments took Ben Floyd to the United States for almost two full decades. His departure from Peterborough and lacrosse was due to career requirements.
In a game full of colourful characters – Ben Floyd fits well in the lacrosse world. Lacrosse fans from his era, may remember that he used a wooden stick to thump the boards. This was actually a wooden lacrosse shaft that Ben Floyd had cut to about 18 inches in length. He used this implement as a tool to aid in coaching. The stick was utilized to bang the boards to message to the players such as - time for a line change, to signal a particular offensive or defensive set-up or other specific directions to the team.
Ben Floyd’s ability to manage players and develop the very best from his teams is obvious. He maintains the key was “keeping it fun” for the players. Ben Floyd studied and learned from other coaches – particularly Bobby Allan. The Peterborough legacy of tremendous lacrosse players and coaches is abundant. Ben Floyd learned from them and became part of the Peterborough lacrosse legends.
He was inducted into the Peterborough Sports Hall of Fame in 2012 and as a Builder into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1991.
This interview with Ben Floyd was conducted in 2017 in Langley, British Columbia. Ben Floyd was part of an entourage of lacrosse fans who travelled to watch the MSL Peterborough Lakers win the 2017 Mann Cup as they defeated New Westminster Salmonbellies in six games.
1. Why did you take up coaching?
I enjoyed coaching children, I coached both lacrosse and hockey and I like to see the development. I knew lacrosse was a great game and if played properly is not dangerous, it is a safe sport to play. I started coaching at age 22 coaching Bantam (age 13-14-year-old). I coached the same players, the nucleus of 7-8 players right up to the Mann Cup team. I had some of these players for 15-20 years. The Wassons, the Floyds, the Evans brothers, (all my relatives – stated with a laugh).
2. Did you ever expect to be coaching at the high level you did?
My aspirations...I just wanted to see development. I wanted to see the game grow. My main goal was to see the game and help to ensure it is played properly. There were teams who played lacrosse to hurt opposition players and played stupid lacrosse. I wanted to see that out of the sport.
3. Do you have a particular philosophy or style of coaching?
Having fun. And it is more fun to win than to lose. It was always about having fun, even in practice. That's why the players always showed up early to practice. I made it fun. To this day, most of my players will tell you they had more fun playing with my teams than anybody.
4. Who or what influenced your style of coaching?
Bobby Allan as much as anyone. Bobby has a great mind for the game. He could run and design plays. It was not just about conditioning and running up and down the floor, it was about having a place to go and how to do.
I saw Bobby coach and I arranged to have meetings with him. We would go out for dinner to talk lacrosse and I learned from him. I started doing this when I was coaching major midget (players age 16), I was in my late twenties. These meetings went on through my coaching career into Junior and Senior. Bobby showed me some plays which I see are missing from today's game. We always played a team game with a lot of action away from the ball. Whereas today's game is a lot individual play - pick the ball carrier and go like Hell with the ball. We used the fast break a lot.
I think the game would be better with the so-called old style. Watching this Mann Cup series (2017 -Peterborough Lakers vs. New Westminster Salmonbellies), with the amount of interference I can't believe, it is more like a football game. I believed in plays but I let the really good individual players to do their thing. JJ. Johnson, Bobby Wasson, Paul Evans play their own game. They didn't need a play. They had great skills and were able to do it on the fly.
5. Who is the coach you most admire? Why?
Bobby Allan. Bob was about A to B to C to D. I liked his plays, but I still wanted the players who were capable, to be individuals.
I admire Don Barrie - in minor lacrosse, he did an excellent job. He taught basic lacrosse fundamentals and he did a great job.
In Junior lacrosse - Cy Coombes was a good Coach. I admired him. He was for the players.
So, no one individual coach - You preferred to learn the best from everybody?
One I liked the least was Jim Bishop who was honoured more than anyone else. But his players didn't go on to play long careers. He destroyed their desire for the game. He took the fun out of it. All sports should be fun.
One of the keys to my success was making it fun. The kids nowadays - the coaches are screaming and yelling at them. I always thought if a Coach is screaming and yelling at his players, it bothers me. It tells me he doesn't know what to say, so he screams and yells.
6. What do you feel are the reasons why you were as successful as you are?
That's easy. I had great players. I had great athletes with great attitudes. They loved the game and they all loved each other. And the other teams weren't as good (laugh). We had more talent.
7. Best team you ever coached? Why?
The 1974 team that went 46-0. That team had so much talent. It was our fourth consecutive Minto Cup appearance. (The PCO's went onto to make five consecutive appearances winning the last four and the core of the team had played in most of those series). We were so much better. We could have played in the Senior League and probably ended up near the top. That was the year the first game of the Minto Cup, we were ahead 12-1 at the end of the first period. We let them add some players to their roster, but we still swept the series.
8. Best (most skilled) player(s) you coached? Why?
JJ Johnson was really skilled. Bobby Wasson was a great face-off guy. Brian Evans was great. Paul Evans was a hell of a goal scorer. Tough - He didn't back down from anyone. You could take a whack at him and he just kept going. It didn't matter who he was going against.
Defensively, Greg Lustic and Jimmy Gow were great players. Teddy Floyd. They knew their roles and they excelled at it.
Jimmy Wasson was a good offensive player. Gordie Floyd and Steve Plunkett. Go down the entire line-up, there wasn't any weak spots.
9. Toughest player you coached?
Not far behind - Gary MacIlmoyle. The guy could run two chain saws at the same time. He was that strong. Gentle giant. But, when you got him mad, look out.
I never had to pull tough guys back. I never had to tap them on the shoulder and tell them - "Now". They knew their role and they played it.
10. What do you think (in general), your players thought/felt about you as a coach?
I think 90% liked me. There are probably some jerks who didn't like me (chuckle), but I won't mention their names. They know who they are.
11. if you could go back in time - is there anything you would do differently?
There is one thing I would have done differently. Guy Legault - I had to do it at the time. I suspended Guy. He had broken the team rules on curfew during the Minto Cup. He didn't show up for practice and I sent him home. We lost the series in the seventh game and I could have used him in the seventh game, BUT it wasn't fair to the team if I dressed him. Although it is about winning, it sent a message, I had to establish, “This is what we have to do". I wasn't really strict, but I expected you to be at practice and ready to go. I always said', "If you are going to party - party after the game, not before the game".
12. Do you miss coaching?
Missed it after I stepped aside, but it was time to move on and pick up golf and other things – to do some things for myself.
13. Do you feel you could still get behind the bench and coach (and presumably be successful)?
Yes, definitely, I see how poor some of the coaching is. I would bring back fast break and the pick out of the corner. The interference they allow now, we would score so many goals. Now, you can wipe an opposition defender right out an there is no call. Mind you, the checkers are tough, today.
Final thoughts from Ben Floyd
Make it fun. The players will play better if you make it fun. That way, there won't be any sulking. Don't allow player to snipe at each other. Any bitching should be done by the Coach. Players should just encourage each other. Be positive, have fun, you will have success.
Ben Floyd stands in front of his name in the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame