When Mark Ziminski took over as the head coach of the South Brunswick High School boys lacrosse team 14 years ago, the task laid in front of him was a daunting one.
After all, he’d be starting the program from the ground up.
“We started the program in 1999 and we had no lacrosse in South Brunswick whatsoever,” Ziminski recalled. “We didn’t even have a youth program. No one in town was playing.”
His first year at the helm was a frustrating one. The players on the team had no knowledge of the game at all and it showed on the field as the Vikings finished with a 1-12 record.
“That first season we were taking linebackers who’d never played the sport, giving them poles, and telling them that you can’t just tackle people on defense,” Ziminski said. “That first game of the year we had 13 penalties. They were football guys thinking they can play the sport the same way.”
For Ziminski, who was head coach at A. L. Johnson High School in 1985 and 1986, it was a stark contrast from what he had dealt with in the 11 years prior to becoming head coach at South Brunswick.
From 1988 to 1998, Ziminski served as an assistant under head coach Tom Hayes at Rutgers University. Going from a Division I sideline to a program where no player could even catch or throw a ball was a little different to say the least.
He had to be the most patient he had ever been in his coaching career.
“It was certainly one of the hardest things I ever had to do as a professional,” Ziminski said.
However, at no point did Ziminski waver. The task of building a successful program was certainly achievable in his mind and it has showed as the years progressed. By teaching the game the right way and instilling discipline to perform in the classroom and carry oneself in the proper manner on the field, Ziminski’s words have resonated with his players over time.
By doing this, the coaching staff and the program soon found success.
After three seasons, the Vikings were county champions and have developed into one of the more consistent teams in the area eversince. They are so consistent that Ziminski was able to earn his 150th career victory at South Brunswick when the Vikings defeated Scotia-Glenville (N.Y.) 7-2 in the season opener on March 31.
“It shows that a lot of people have contributed to our program,” said Ziminski on what the milestone meant to him and how far the program has come. “It’s not just one person. It’s all the coaches that have coached with me over the years.
“The kids understand it’s a process being a part of the program. I’ve got guys that have been through the program that have come back to help. It’s not just when you’re here, but also when you leave to try to come back and contribute. That to me is the whole picture in order to have a successful program and what’s indicative of 150 wins. It’s about the enjoyment the kids have had to be a part of South Brunswick lacrosse.”
Ziminski has amassed a career record of 152-75 at South Brunswick, which averages out to an overall record of 11-5 on a yearly basis.