If you know Burnaby Lacrosse, you know Ty Yanko. Only a few years ago Yanko was a high school player in the US, lighting up the opposing teams’ nets for The Calverton School in Maryland, scoring a whopping 56 goals in 2017’s season. Now he is helping Burnaby players achieve and surpass the amount of success he has had in his own career by teaching them new skills, correcting bad habits, and using his connections with different coaches to help his players get on different teams to help them gain exposure for example, helping his players get on Team BC lacrosse.
The recent National Lacrosse League draftee made his coaching debut last season with Burnaby Minor Lacrosse, coaching the boys Midget A Lakers. All the players could tell the type of coach and person he was after one season playing under him. And that’s a dedicated person who loves the game and wants to help a community of people. This characterization is based on discussion with four members from Yanko’s team.
(Full disclosure: I am also player on Yanko’s team)
During his first season coaching in 2020 with the Lakers, he would examine other teams, strategizing the best plays, and matchups between players days or weeks before matchday to give Burnaby the best chance to beat the opposition. Prior to one of his games, he pulled three players aside and gave them some strategic advice.
“You three will take turns marking #12,” he told three players. “I have been watching a few of their games and he is their star player. He likes to shoot from the outside so make sure you step out on him.” Yanko then gave them some words of encouragement. “You three are all more than capable of defending him and that’s why I chose you three.”
He decided to continue his coaching career with the Burnaby Devils 18U team (18U meaning for players 18 and under) field lacrosse team after the box lacrosse (indoor lacrosse) season ended with the Burnaby Midget Lakers. He is currently coaching three teams besides the Burnaby 18U team. He is coaching Team BC 16U team as well as the teams for Centennial Secondary School, and St. Thomas More.
Yanko offered to let some players from the 15U Burnaby Devils team train with his 18U team as well as call them up for games on the weekend. This helps the players gain extra development, and now about four to five 15U players go to practice and often play with the older kids to improve their skills and compete in a competitive environment with tougher competition.
Yanko often helps his players outside of regular practice hours. During the summer he took eight players to some field lacrosse and box lacrosse training sessions. They focused on personal development, often pausing practice and correcting mistakes as well as how to improve the effectiveness of their movements. Four players from the summer training sessions told 8forty that they really appreciated the sessions and felt like it really helped their skills improve even in a short period of time.
“I am glad to be able to train with Ty,” one of the players from the summer session told 8forty. “In just a few sessions I saw big improvements in my game.”
Yanko believes these extra training sessions help his players gain an edge on the opponent. Yanko says, “Having that extra time where you’re outworking your competition is such an important thing and whenever I can provide that opportunity I do.”
Yanko has played for Team B.C, The Calverton School, Division one lacrosse for Hobart, and the Calgary Roughnecks in the NLL.
Playing on these high-level teams has helped his ability in evaluating players, their weaknesses, and how they can improve. That ability to assess players is one of his most valuable traits as a coach, Yanko says.
Yanko wasn’t always completely satisfied with his experience playing. There was a time when he wasn’t able to play in his preferred position, and it led to him losing his passion for the game. Playing for the Lakers where he was able to play offense again helped him get his passion back. Playing Yanko on offence paid out for the Lakers as he led the league in scoring that year, something he has always wanted to achieve. Having the freedom to play where he wanted to play on the floor helped him gain back his love for the game.
“I played in Burnaby my last year of Junior A and it was the best season that I’ve ever had,” he told 8forty.
For Yanko, coaching is a way to give back to the community that helped him.
“Burnaby gave me an opportunity to gain my passion for lacrosse back, and it really motivated me to want to coach young Burnaby players as well to provide them with the same opportunity that Burnaby Junior Lacrosse provided to me.”
When asked about his strongest coaching traits, Yanko points to strategy, and his players agree. They described him as a wizard at drawing up plays on the fly since he can analyse the flow of the game extremely well. For example, in a game against the Maple Ridge Burrards, he called a timeout and drew up a play for the team after analysing the game and which plays would be able to exploit the opponent’s defence. After drawing up the play, the players went back on the floor and executed the play, resulting in an easy goal for his team.
Yanko also coordinates when it’s time to switch from one defence to another to confuse the opponents like he did against the New Westminster Salmonbellies. Once the man-to-man defence wasn’t working, he instructed his team to switch to the zone defence. This confused the opposition, and helped the Lakers gain the win over the Salmonbellies.
Yanko has not only helped his players improve on the field, but also helped them off the field. He is helping his players get on additional teams if it will benefit them. “I’m just trying to get guys to play on teams that really helped me in my career,” Yanko says. “I have some connections to university lacrosse coaches, and a lot of the guys I coach have the potential to reach the levels I was able to play at, and I think they were just such good opportunities for me so it’s definitely something I want to help them get to as well.” Yanko has reached out to Team BC coaches helping his players get on the team, as well as college and university coaches, talking about his players and helping them get in contact.
Yanko has advice for players today. ‘Be coachable,’ he says. ‘Be coachable and receptive to coaching. Ultimately those are the best traits you can have as a player.’
As for work ethic, he believes you should always be trying to outwork your opponent. “If you want to be a great player then you have to put the work in every single day,” he says. “Because your competition is always working to get better and if you’re not taking advantage of your time and opportunities to improve then you are doing yourself a dis-service.”
Yanko plans to continue coaching, specifically in Burnaby due to the deep connection he has with the club.
“When you were given an opportunity I was given, I think that you develop an attachment to that city and that organization,” Yanko says.
“I’ve established my roots in Burnaby lacrosse.”
Cover image: Burnaby Lakers