Get to know Stephen Palencsar, North Salem High School’s new varsity boys lacrosse coach
Stephen Palencsar was recently named head coach of the North Salem High School varsity boys lacrosse team for the 2023 season. The North Salem Post met with Palencsar to learn a little more about him and his coaching style. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up and played lacrosse in Croton-on-Hudson. After changing careers, I became a special education teacher and was fortunate enough to be hired at my alma mater, Croton-Harmon High School. I served as the boys varsity lacrosse coach at Croton-Harmon since 2009 and coached for several club programs at all levels over the last decade.
What appealed to you about this particular coaching job?
I moved to this area about ten years ago. As my own son has gotten older and more involved with sports I wanted to be closer to home at the end of the day. I felt that the North Salem lacrosse program lacked some of the year-to-year consistency that is needed in order to grow a successful sports program and hoped that I could provide that.
What do you uniquely bring to this role?
I think I understand what is needed to bring growth and improvement to the lacrosse program here. Growth and change take time and it’s important to understand the long-game when trying to build up a program. We need to increase involvement at the youth level and get more kids picking up their sticks year-round.
What do you see as the potential for North Salem lacrosse going forward?
The new facilities are fantastic. Having access to a turf field and being less impacted by seasons and weather will allow for more training time. The small class sizes present a challenge, but if we can generate some excitement around lacrosse, I think we will attract more players to get involved at the youth level.
What makes lacrosse a sport worth trying?
I think lacrosse appeals to younger kids because of the speed of the game. While lacrosse is physically demanding, the sport has been extremely proactive in changing rules and equipment in order to keep players of every age and ability safe.
How would you describe your coaching style?
I want our players to work hard to improve while getting the utmost out of the team experience. Lacrosse is a fast and fluid sport. I want our players to have the freedom to operate within a system and have the mental “tool kit” to make quick decisions on the field. Players should be told why we are asking them to move in certain ways or make particular decisions. Increasing their “Lacrosse I.Q.” will allow them to make quicker decisions in competition.
What do you like most about coaching?
I still enjoy being a part of a team. Working toward a common goal and being part of something bigger than yourself is always rewarding. For me, seeing kids start to “get it” and use the skills I’ve taught them is a great feeling.
What should the community know about this year’s varsity team?
This year’s team is coming off of a two-win 2022 season. The boys are eager to improve and they have been showing up consistently, listening, learning, and working hard. Before we started training we worked on forming a team culture and identity that we wanted to achieve. The boys really focused on wanting enthusiasm and positivity to be part of who they are and so far they have lived up to that.
Where is the team strong and where do they have the most room to grow?
We have some tremendous athletes on the field. That will be helpful because we lack depth at every position. For me, a team isn’t expected to be playing their best lacrosse in March. It’s important that we keep the energy high and keep learning and improving our skills so that we are putting the best version of the team on the field in May.
Anything else you'd like to share with the community?
The new field behind the Middle/High School is really going to be a great place to watch a game. We would love to see more community members coming out to support our teams. It would be great to have North Salem lacrosse games be something that families mark on their calendars!