by Mack Abbott
Ask just about anybody in the lacrosse world about Jeremy Tallevi and there might be three words that come to mind: passion, emotion and preparation. The long-time Western Mustangs head coach brings an unrivaled approach to the game each and every time he is on the field, whether it be pacing the sidelines or running around with his men’s league team. Walk by any Mustangs practice and Tallevi can be found barking out orders to ensure that each guy on his team knows exactly what to do, no matter what the situation.
Currently in his 14th year with the Mustangs, Tallevi is one of CUFLA’s longest-serving coaches. When you consider the long hours, countless road trips, and heartbreaking defeats this is no small task. Over the years, Tallevi has managed to keep Western consistently in the upper echelon of CUFLA’s West Division.
Tallevi’s passion for the game is undeniable. Aside from the Mustangs, this passion has seen him capture a Founder’s Cup championship in 2001 with the Wallaceburg Red Devils, coach under lacrosse’s brightest lights in the NLL during stints with the Anaheim Storm, Portland Lumberjacks, and Edmonton Rush, and reach all points in between.
Tallevi has also found himself behind the benches of the Brampton Excelsiors, Burlington Chiefs, and Kitchener-Waterloo Braves of the Ontario Jr. A Lacrosse league. Most recently, he has taken to coaching the lacrosse stars of the future, stepping behind the bench of his son’s team in his hometown of London.
However, when it comes to the emotion he brings while coaching, even family can sometimes take a back seat. Just ask the McMaster Marauders head coach: Jeremy’s older brother Jason Tallevi. As the story goes, about 6 or 7 seasons ago, the Mustangs and Marauders met in a heated Wednesday night battle just a few days before Thanksgiving. After numerous choice words and questionable plays throughout the game, things eventually boiled over between the two coaching staffs. Before long a pylon had somehow made its way from the Western bench towards the McMaster bench, striking one of the Marauder players. Some foolish retaliation saw two pylons head back towards the Mustangs bench. As Jason put it, “Thanksgiving at Jeremy’s house that year was very nearly cancelled until the two wives got involved, but there weren’t many pleasantries shared between myself and Jeremy (at the table).”
Brotherly quarrels aside, throughout CUFLA, Jeremy Tallevi might also be known for pulling some rather unusual tricks out of his playbook. Tallevi can often be found calling for his infamous ‘stick checks’, forcing players to remain honest if they want to win a game against the Mustangs. He has also been known to try his goalie’s skills on the attacking end of the field, as was seen in an early season game against the Brock Badgers this year. Whatever the tactics, it has worked, as the Mustangs have remained successful over the years. Western consistently find themselves a top-three seed heading into the CUFLA West playoffs, were the 2001 Baggataway Cup champions and were last year’s Baggataway finalists, falling to the McGill Redman in a heartbreaking 6-4 loss.
As his current and former players would attest, Tallevi is perhaps one of lacrosse’s most prepared coaches. He approaches each and every game as though it will be his last. When players arrive to the field, each one receives a detailed game plan, outlining the other team's tendencies, strengths, weaknesses, top scorers, match-ups, and more. The style of play by the Mustangs changes year-in and year-out, determined by the roster that is assembled. Tallevi’s longtime team manager, Mike Frith, reiterated the importance of that preparation in helping the Mustangs remain successful each and every year. “Jer is very good at identifying players' strengths and figuring out how to best put those players into situations that will help our team win games.”
It seems as though this year is no different. The preparation has once again paid off thus far during the 2013 season. The team recently finished the regular season with the lowest number of goals against in 12 games played in CUFLA’s West Division, allowing only one more than McGill—who play only 10 games in CUFLA’s East Division.
This season, Tallevi hopes his unwavering passion, emotion, and preparation will lead the Mustangs over the hump to capture their first Baggataway Cup since 2001. Using last season as motivation, Western hosts the Toronto Varsity Blues on Friday, October 25th at 8 pm in the first round of the CUFLA playoffs. The winner of that game will proceed to the Baggataway Cup Final 6 starting November 1st in Montreal, Quebec.