WPAOG Podcast

EP78 The Sky's the Limit with Michelle Tumolo, Noto Family Head Women's Lacrosse Coach at West Point

Episode Summary

This episode features Michelle Tumolo, Noto Family Head Women's Lacrosse Coach at West Point. Tumolo shares her transformative journey from player to coach, highlighting the evolution of lacrosse at West Point and the unique challenges her players navigate as Division I scholar-athletes at West Point. in Division 1. Gain a deeper understanding of Tumolo's coaching philosophy, her emphasis on team building culture and relationships, and her excitement about coaching the Women's U 20 team in Hong Kong in 2024, along with the inclusion of lacrosse in the 2028 Olympics.

Episode Notes

This episode spotlights an engaging conversation with Michelle Tumolo, the Head Coach of Women's Lacrosse at West Point. Join us as Tumolo shares insights into her coaching journey, delving into her passion for lacrosse, the transition from player to coach, and the immense pride she takes in leading the team at Army West Point.

We explore the evolution of lacrosse at West Point and the strides made in developing women's sports programs. Tumolo sheds light on the remarkable balancing act her players undertake, managing academics, and military commitments, and excelling as Division 1 athletes.

Tumolo opens up about her unique approach to team culture, emphasizing the significance of building strong relationships with her players and fostering a supportive environment. Discover the philosophy that propels her coaching style and contributes to the success of the team.

In an exciting twist, Tumolo shares her anticipation as the newly appointed assistant coach for the Women's U 20 lacrosse team set to compete in Hong Kong in 2024. 

Additionally, she reflects on the potential inclusion of lacrosse in the 2028 Olympics, expressing her enthusiasm for the sport's global recognition

Key Quote:

“ For these young women to be focused on academics and, it's not easy academics, right? And then their military obligations and then to be a D1 athlete on top of that and a successful team. it just makes me feel so honored to call them my players, to be able to lead them and learn from them. You know, obviously, they're all becoming leaders and they're constantly learning every single day as they lead and as they get older and have more responsibilities, it's been an honor of a lifetime for the past few years. I think I've learned the past few years how to become a better leader as well.” - Michelle Tumolo

Episode Timestamps:

(00:06) Michelle’s career highlights

(05:55) Philosophy on teamwork

(10:09) Revealing the new women’s lacrosse staff

(14:30) Women’s lacrosse in the 2028 Olympics

(16:11) Plans for the upcoming season


Michelle Tumolo’s LinkedIn

Army West Point Women’s Lacrosse  

West Point Association of Graduates

Episode Transcription

AOG028 - Michelle Tumolo V3


Announcer: Welcome to the WPAOG podcast. This episode features an interview with Michelle Tumalo, Noto family head women's lacrosse coach at West Point and assistant coach for the U 20 USA women's national team and former player for Team USA. In this episode, Michelle talks about her remarkable journey from player to coach, delving into the evolution of lacrosse at West Point, and the unique challenges her players conquer as Division I Scholar Athletes.

Please enjoy this interview between Michelle Tumalo, Noto Family Head Women's Lacrosse Coach at West Point, and Jamie Enos, Associate Director of Communications, West Point Association. 

Jamie: Hi coach. Thanks for being on the WPAOG podcast today. It's great to have you here.

Michelle: Thank you so much. I'm excited to be here.

Jamie: You have an impressive resume as both a coach and a player. Can you walk us through some of those highlights? 

Michelle: [00:01:00] Of course. Thank you for that. I believe I'm, I became a coach because of my experience as a player. I fell in love with the sport of lacrosse at the age of 14, which is actually later than most.

I started playing the sport this summer going into my freshman year of high school. I played soccer, basketball, all of their sports before that. And then our town got a lacrosse team. So I'm forever grateful for the people that put that in front of myself and other people that, it took them to new heights in college and whatnot with the sport.

But yeah, so 14 years old, I fell in love with it. I had a great. Coach in high school who helped transcend my career and give me an opportunity to go to college and played on a great club team as well. And then went to Syracuse and had four incredible years with some of the best teammates and coaches I could have ever asked for.

So once that kind of was over. I was like, this can't be it. I can't be done now. And so I wanted to become a coach. And I was grateful to get an opportunity to do that with the Florida Gators down in [00:02:00] Gainesville in 2013. So my coaching career started there and just really grateful for those people that have given me the opportunity to play the sport and coach the sport.

My coaching career started in 2013 and now I think it's, been 10 years since that started and grateful to be now being the black and gold as a Minuto family head coach for Army West Point. 

Jamie: You're coming off a historic season here at West Point. You finished with a 15 4 record, you had a win against Navy, which in Army sports is maybe the most important thing sometimes.

You had a plebe, Allison, she got that game winner for you. The team ended up at 15th ranked in the NCAA lacrosse's RPI poll, but let's flash back a little bit, right? The first NCAA season for women's lacrosse at West Point was in 2016. And prior to that, the team was not a varsity sport. It was under the DCA club sport program, which was supported by AOG gift funds.

But this program has been just built on shoulders of giants. You've [00:03:00] got general Diana Holland, class of 1980, who played most recently you've had the 2023 graduate, Margaret Williams. She was a Rhodes scholar. Can you just tell us more about that and the evolution of the program and how that's really changed for women's sports at West Point?

Michelle: Yeah, I think it's incredible. And one of the most favorite parts of my job the past two years has been meeting the women that came before team, one through eight. And it's been a really great experience to learn who they are and their experiences and their stories. I just love to hear it and to hear the evolution of the sport.

I was talking to actually Donna Brazile, I think that's how you say her last name. I met her. She's with the Thayer Group and she was like, yep, I was running towards the train tracks and the ball just kept going and you just had to pick it up wherever you found it because there was no boundaries.

So I never played the sport when it was like that. So to hear from you. Stories like that always makes me laugh because it's like, who invents a sport like that anyway? But now about, the evolution and now that we have a shot clock and we have, [00:04:00] four quarters and it's just changed. The evolution of it has been incredible, even from stick technology to uniforms and, just all those things highlight reels, all that stuff.

It's incredible. If you're an alumni of women's lacrosse here at West Point, Thank you. If you're listening to this, thank you for creating such an amazing environment for young women to be a part of. And I feel grateful to be the leader of that now. And if I haven't met you, I can't wait to meet you and hear your story of how you became a West Point lacrosse player and whatnot.

So it makes me feel so proud to be the leader of this program and to just continue to meet some own grads out there that have played women's lacrosse. Yeah, and the responsibilities, right?

Jamie: They're not just athletes at a college. They have this duty, this honor, and then service to country afterwards, so it's a little bit bigger.

And that's a different student athlete than you've had previously. You've been here now, you're going into your third season here at West Point. How do you work with that as a student athlete with all those extra add ons that they have to their [00:05:00] schedule and their lifestyles?

Michelle: Yeah, it's truly remarkable.

I think about my college experience at Syracuse and it doesn't touch anything around this. Obviously, we had a very good lacrosse program, but that was really what I was focused on, for these young women to be focused on academics and it's not easy academics, right? And then their military obligations and then to be a D1 athlete on top of that and a successful team.

It just makes me feel so honored to call them my players to be able to lead them and learn from them. Obviously they're all becoming leaders and. They're constantly learning in every single day as they lead and as they get older and have more responsibilities. It's been an honor of a lifetime for the past few years.

I think I've learned the past few years how to become a better leader as well. So for myself to be a leader of these young women, to also learn from them and then have success on the field has been so fun and exciting and rewarding. And I see that. It's not a roadblock, right? It just makes things a little bit harder.

It's not a [00:06:00] negative thing. It just makes things, our time together more valuable. So I commend them. I'm so proud of them. And, they chose this path. So it's pretty remarkable to see them come out on the other side. So successful on the lacrosse field as well. 

Jamie: Yeah, I totally agree with that.

It really is incredible how they balance everything. Sometimes you really got to give credit to our scholar athletes here at West Point. One of the hardest things in sports is building a team. You've got athlete, you've got academic stars here, you've got leadership stars here. You've been the Noto family head coach here at West Point for two seasons, going into your third.

Can you walk us through your philosophy on that building that team, on building the team culture and the team environment, and how do you get everything to just get on the same train and keep moving forward? 

Michelle: Yeah, you got to set your standards right away, right? And the biggest thing for myself when I got this job was to connect.

I want my players to know me. I want my players to know our staff. I don't want there to be a line that they're scared [00:07:00] to cross, like in a good way, right? That line is We're a family, right? And obviously you're, I'm your coach. I'm your mentor. I'm this person that's going to lead you through these things, but I'm also your family member.

I'm here to help you through everything, a hard day, a great day. I want to be that person to guide you in the right direction. Obviously I'm also your lacrosse coach. So I want you to feel that you are getting coached to the best of your ability. So my biggest thing is the locker room is a safe place.

Once you walk through those doors. These are your sisters, these are your family members and I want you to feel safe in a culture and you have to build that, because there's things that get in the way sometimes and sometimes people have a bad day. So creating that safe space was number one for me.

Creating that relationship and those connections with my players was number one. When the freshmen come in, I automatically put them with upperclassmen and then in a little group and it's called their families. So they have buddy groups, they have family groups. So they're already.

Establishing relationships from day one, when they say they're committed here and they're about to go into beast. [00:08:00] That relationship is already established. So then when they get out of Beast, they have that family member to lean on. And then they have me and our staff. So you know, you just set those standards right away.

My three standards are be a great teammate, not just good one, be a great teammate. It also aligns with, the soup here as well. It's just what it is. You gotta be a great teammate. That's how you become successful. And that's in the locker room. That's behind closed doors. That's when the things are hard.

Also to give your best. It's not do your best. It's just to give. Sometimes you can just give and doing your best is hard some days. If you can just give your best in that moment, you're going to be successful as well. And then lead with heart and passion. If you're leading with heart and passion, things are going to go your way and you're going to go in the right direction.

And if we're doing those things every single day, The results will come. Obviously, you got to be a great lacrosse player and know certain lacrosse IQ things and how to run a great successful defense. But if we don't have those three standards right away, then we're not going to be successful. So I've found success in those things and building relationships.

And I'm grateful that our team [00:09:00] also really aligns with those things as well, because they see the results on the other side. Being a great teammate is the standard. And so when you go out on that field and Number one and number 38 has it my back. We're going to be, we're going to be great on the playing field.

So I've stuck to those standards. I've stuck to being authentically myself. And I felt like that has helped, build those great relationships. 

Jamie: Yeah, definitely. So three years, right? We have a whole set of jargon and terms here at West Point. I don't think you had any experience with that coming in.

So you were a little bit really fresh, right? So you've been here. What's been the hardest thing to get acclimated into that West Point environment? 

Michelle: I like answering this because it shows that I'm still learning. Like two years, I'm still, I think just I've got the time management thing. Like obviously that like when they're at academics and the military, they're academics and military.

I think really just learning the other side of it. What does it look like after you graduate from here? And how do I express that in my recruiting pitch? I want [00:10:00] players to commit to your knowing everything about this place. Obviously, they're not going to know everything, right? That would take a long time, but just continuing to learn what it looks like to serve after your four years of academic commitment here and then just continue and learn.

Yeah, all the acronyms. I have some cheat sheets here and there and just continuing to look at those cheat sheets and not acting like I know everything. Yeah, it's a foreign language. 

Jamie: You gotta, it takes, I think the science is like seven years until you're fluent in like a foreign language. So you've got to give yourself a little grace to get around that. It sounds like you've got picked up. I've heard beast and plebes and you've got all that kind of, comms hour, deans hour and everything else. You have some new staff members coming on board for the upcoming season. Can you tell us a little bit about them and how they'll be impacting the team?

Michelle: I had an incredible staff before. I'm so grateful to have had them for two years. One of them being one of my very best friends that I will highlight here. And she got that Brown head coaching job. So excited for her, obviously with success. In a season, people want your assistant coaches [00:11:00] and people want, your success to be spread.

So excited for Katrina. And then Ella's just moving on in a different direction, but want to thank them first before I go on. But it's so excited to announce our associate head coach, offensive coordinator, Sammy Cermak is coming from nine years at Lehigh. And before then, she played at Johns Hopkins and was a.

Standout player for them. I also got to play pro league with her for one year, know her very well, but also just wanted to bring great people in here. And I know Sammy is one of those people that are going to better our cadet athletes in the best of her ability. So grateful for Sammy coming on board and our defensive coordinator is Charlotte Sofiel.

Also was a standout player back in her day. Graduated in 2019, so a little bit on the younger side. She had won a national championship at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 2016. She won that championship and she was just prior at Holy Cross. and stole her from another Patriot League. So really excited to bring those two on.

They bring a wealth of [00:12:00] knowledge. They bring energy, excitement, just like organization piece that I'm so excited to bring in and just really excited for new ideas and new faces and just excited for them to also feel the greatness of West Point. I think they've already felt it in their first few weeks and months here and excited to have them alongside me on my staff.

Jamie: Yeah, it's always nice to grow, right? And a little bit of change is always good too, but you do have to say goodbye to who helped you build the program and as they go on to their own careers and their own things. It's been announced that you'll be the assistant coach for the women's U20 team, which will be playing in Hong Kong in the summer of 2024.

Congratulations on that. We had two players that were announced. to try out and correct me if I'm wrong, but they're like in the practice squad before the cuts are made for the final team. 

Michelle: Yep. Yeah. It's like the training squad. Yep. 

Jamie: So they're on the training squad going for that. So can you tell us about that experience and how you, that's a first for West Point getting those two [00:13:00] women onto that team. So what a great opportunity for them to further develop as well. 

Michelle: Yeah, first, I'm just really honored that I was selected to be an assistant coach by Kelly Amonte Hiller who I've looked up to for my whole entire lacrosse career. I was actually recruited by her back in the day and in high school. So to be named to her staff has been just an honor.

She also just is coming off a national championship at Northwestern, her eighth championship. So just to be around excellence. I'm around it here at West Point. Now I'm going to be around it on the U20 team. Just truly honored and to work alongside Anne Elliott and Tim McCormick as well. I'm really excited.

So yeah, obviously when you become a coach for such a prestigious team like that, you want to give your players confidence. to try out. My coach at Syracuse did that for me. I never thought I would make a US team. So I wanted to pay that forward to my players and say, Hey, I think you can make this team.

Let's get you to try out. And they did incredible. Obviously I kept my bias out of it and just said, Hey, you guys select, I'll give [00:14:00] my opinions on other players, but obviously I want to keep my bias out of it. So the other coaches love them and they just did a really good job and they deserve to be on the team.

So really excited and just continuing to get better, throughout the weeks that they have with us. And then as they go and have the few weekends they do have with the U. S. team, just giving them the confidence to go out there and give their best. To also express what they go through at West Point and, actually getting their feedback about the last weekend that they were at, they were like, yeah, the girls were just grilling me with questions.

They wanted to learn more about what West Point is about. And it's cool to hear them share what they do at West Point and to share their leadership and what they learned through the Academy. I think everyone can learn from it too, and they've done that and excited to see what they bring from the U 20 team to our team.

So just really proud of them and really excited for their futures as well, just to see how they do pan out with it all. So excited for it. USA! 

Jamie: 2028, we have an Olympic sport, lacrosse. How exciting is this? I [00:15:00] know I have two little girls. I know that there are thousands across America, boys and girls playing lacrosse, waiting for this moment of lacrosse in the Olympics.

It is coming, 2028. We are excited to watch it. How does that make you feel? You were the backbone 

Michelle: of this. There's so many like amazing feelings and so much joy and I can't wait. I can't wait to watch it. I can't wait to turn them on. But also there's so many people that also came before me.

I think about all the people that I looked up to that were the USA Jersey that I wanted to emulate and to think that I'm actually in that mix is, it's surreal. If you would ask my You know, my little self, this question, I wouldn't know that in 20, 28, we're playing in the Olympics. It's truly remarkable.

I'm grateful to know some of the people that have been a part of the committees and all that stuff. They put their heart and soul into it. So thank you to them. And I can't wait. It's incredible. Putting one of the best sports out on the world stages is awesome. So it gives more opportunity for people.

And I can't wait to be the biggest fan for [00:16:00] all countries, especially the USA. Yeah, what a 

Jamie: great opportunity to further grow the game for everybody across the globe and just watch it develop a little bit more. It'll be really cool. We're watching closely and we'll see what happens, that's for sure.

Alright, we know you can't play the game with only two players. Last year you did have two standout plebes though. You had Patriot League, Rookie of the Year and First Team Selection, Bridget Duffy who was all over the field, racking up stats. And she led the conference with what, 50 goals? And you had Alison Riley right behind her leading the way.

What do you got coming in? What's the season look like? What's 

Michelle: the plan? Yeah. Listen, when plebes show up like that, it's incredible. You never know. And especially because I wasn't here and part of their recruiting process. So to see them step up in that way was amazing. I think it showed our team there's no ceiling, right?

The sky's the limit for us. You can play as a freshman, you can have this standout season as a senior like Julia Franzoni did incredible. So as much talent that we still have on the team, [00:17:00] obviously we are losing some great players as, Kathleen Sullivan, who now holds our all time points record.

Losing Julia Franzoni, who was a key player for us on the draw circle, on the draw, and also on the offensive end. We're actually graduating our whole entire defense. So we have a lot of people that have been waiting in the wings to get their chance. So really excited to see who steps up on that end.

We return incredible goalies in Lindsey Serfini and Lacey Bartholomew. And then we have, a group behind them that is also chomping at the bit. We have Julia Gorayek on offense still returning. We have Carly Armstrong, Madeline Lankhart in the midfield. We have players, we have 38 incredible players that are ready to give their all.

And we added seven plebs and excited to see where they go with their talents. We have players from New Jersey. We have players from California, players from Virginia that all have. Played in, some of the highest levels in high school and across the board in club lacrosse. So I'm excited, I'm excited to see with also our [00:18:00] new leadership on our staff and what they can do on the offensive and defensive end.

But I know for sure we're going to be the grittiest team that's going to be on that field. So that's our M. O. That's what we teach. Any ground ball that's a 50 50 ground ball has to be ours. And then obviously offensive. We're going to be creative. We're going to play together, seven threats at all times.

And defensively, we're going to be fundamentally sound and we're going to be, a team that doesn't foul a lot because we're fundamentally sound and there's new rules coming this year that are going to be penalized for that. So we're going to be just smart team that also is going to beat you on the ground when the ball is in that 50 50 spot.

Yeah, I'm excited. I'm a big energy type of coach and I'm going to continue to give that to our team and I, hopefully, they continue to be that way because they've been incredible on, and on the sideline and on the field. I always believe that we have the most hype bench and most energetic field players, just excited to continue that and continue to, just be that team on campus that people are excited about. I think lacrosse is, again, people come in here and don't [00:19:00] really know about, and I'm excited to spread that across the Corps and just USMA in general.

Jamie:  Yeah, definitely the height bench. I was there in the spring, in the game, in the snow, and it was just non stop, and it's not that cheerleading it's more that like It's gritty.

It's get in your face. And the accountability that the girls had for each other was a great reflection of what you're doing with the program and bringing everybody together. So maybe not the season ending last year, how you wanted it to go, but with that comes growth and we only wish you the best in 2024.

Michelle: Thank you so much, Jaime, I appreciate it and really grateful for all the people that do support us that come to the games that I may not see and so thank you to everyone and all of our alumni too. If you're listening to this, again, please come to a game, reach out to me. I'm excited to continue our relationship and our network.

Jamie: You'll find the Army Women's Lacrosse. schedule on GoArmyWestPoint. com. You can see up to date stats of how the [00:20:00] team is doing and follow them along on social media as well. Thanks again, coach, 

Michelle: for being on. Really appreciate it. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Go Army, beat Navy. Beat Navy. 

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