As many Poets know, the Whittier College Men’s Lacrosse Team has received a change in staff. Former Head Coach Brian Kelley has stepped down, passing the line of qualified coaches down to none other than the new Head Coach, Nicholas Marks. Ready to take on the task, Marks will oversee the necessary action to bring victory to the Campus.
Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Marks lived in the world of sports from an early age. He participated in football, basketball, and baseball, but it was not until the age of 12 that Marks found his appreciation for lacrosse and began playing the sport. From that moment on, he knew it was the sport for him. “As soon as I picked up lacrosse, I fell in love with it,” said Marks. “Lacrosse was not a major sport in Illinois at that point in time, but it was big enough.”
So Marks pursued lacrosse into high school and college. Attending Loyal Academy in Wilmette, Illinois, Marks played both football and lacrosse for all four years. Loyal Academy was known for its outstanding lacrosse team. It was one of the main teams in the district to a hold state championship. Equipped with a highly-developed program relative to that area and an experienced coaching staff, their reputation served them well, leaving Marks and his team two-time State Champions. “That’s where I really developed a passion for it,” said Marks.
With his eyes set on attending a high academic college, Marks continued his education at Salisbury School in Salisbury, Connecticut for a postgraduate year upon finishing high school. Focusing mainly on his academics, Marks found a way to keep his passion for lacrosse alive. He participated on the school’s lacrosse team where they won a Founder’s League Championship.
With his academics in line and skill level at an ultimate high, Marks continued on to pursue higher education at the University of Bucknell in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Equipped with a scholarship, Marks played as a starting midfielder for a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I team during his four years at the university.
There, he graduated with a Bachelor Degree of the Arts in Classics and History. Set on attending law school, Marks found himself in the difficult rut of the 2008 recession, which lead him to seek refuge in actively playing and coaching lacrosse. Marks balanced playing professionally, coaching high school, and coaching club, all while maintaining a part-time job working as a sales consultant for a lacrosse equipment manufacturer.
“Everything at that point was about lacrosse,” said Marks. “That’s what got me through that tough period. I was like ‘alright, I guess I’ve got to read into this. This is clearly where my interests are. Maybe I need to talk about being a full time coach’. ”
Asking for guidance from his former lacrosse coach at Bucknell University, Marks was able to obtain a job at his alma mater as Assistant Coach and Defensive Coordinator. He held this position from 2012 to 2016, leaving his team with 47 victories, 22 victories in the Patriot League, and with two appearance in the Top 20 National Rankings.
It was after this experience that Marks made the decision to attend North Central College, where he strived for his Masters in Leadership Studies. Here, he was able to help coach the NCAA Division III Lacrosse program the school had to offer for just one season. “I was centering in the fact that I wanted to be a Division III head coach, and I needed to get experience in that division,” said Marks.
This chance at leading a Division III team was only the beginning of a series of great opportunities for Marks. Seeing that Whittier had an opening for head coach, Marks called former head coach Brian Kelley and applied for the job. “I ended up being their guy,” said Marks. “I got to meet with the players, which was awesome. I got to know the staff very well, [and] the administration. Everybody was extremely welcoming. I [saw] myself here.”
The potential that lies in Division III is what drew Marks to Whittier College. Although he came from Division I himself, the programs for Division III have expanded exponentially, standing now with 236 programs nationwide. Division III programs outnumber Division I programs more than three times over. “There are a lot of really good Division I players that are going to play Division III Lacrosse because Division I doesn’t have enough spots,” said Marks. “There’s a bottleneck in the Division I landscape, and it’s making Division III the place of more opportunity.”
Academics are at the center of importance for Coach Marks. Each player has to complete five hours in the Center for Advising & Academic Service (CAAS) per week. To Marks, academics come first, athletics is number two, and social life is number three. Academic excellence is at the forefront of everything the Lacrosse team does. “We really want our guys to have 3.0s and above. That’s why you’re here. You are a student athlete. Being a student comes before being an athlete.”
Coming from a school that had a student athlete experience, Marks found this Division III College more fitting for him. “I was ready to be a head coach,” said Marks. “This was a great fit for me, personally. Lacrosse is sweeping itself across the country to the West Coast, and this is the spot to have some serious growth.”