Around 6:30 a.m. on the frosted turf of the North University Field, you can find 40 young men from all over the country. They encourage each other throughout their two-hour practice; however, they don’t see themselves as a team but instead as more of a family.
BYU men’s lacrosse head coach Matt Schneck is up every morning getting to the field set up for practice. By holding practice in the morning, it allows his players to have jobs if they need to and for them to have a full day of school. His goal is not only to win championships every year but also to help these young men, who are living away from home, to become better people.
“I really feel it’s important for the guys on the team to realize there is more to this opportunity than playing lacrosse,” Schneck said.
After work, he comes home to his wife and three children, whose ages range from 9 to four months. He has no problem going from lacrosse and work mode, to a family man, who helps make dinner or helps his daughters with their homework or takes care of the baby.
Schneck has become a father figure or a backbone to his family and his team. One way he has done this is by bringing his family around the team. There isn’t a home game where you can’t find the Schneck family sitting on the front row.
“Matt, I can honestly say, has always put his responsibility as a husband and father first,” said Schneck’s wife, Heidi. “As his wife, I have always felt like the priority.”
The leader of the family is wearing his navy blue Y embroidered hat and his BYU sweater and pants. He blows his whistle throughout the practice. When he is not instructing the team, he takes the time to talk to his players individually making sure life, school and lacrosse are balanced.
Entering his third year as head coach, Schneck continually works with these young men on and off the field to help them build their future of becoming successful and having a family of their own. He has created a couple of traditions that have nothing to do with the field.
When the team travels, more often than not, his family will be with the team. Together his two daughters, Hanna age 9 and Siri age 7, are not only the No. 1 fan of their father but also of the team.
“His girls are so fun to be around,” said Ted Ferrin, a senior and three-time captain for the Cougars. “When we win there is nobody happier or more publicly proud to show it by singing the fight song and giving endless high fives. When we lose they’ll cry or have the biggest frown.”
Before his coaching days, Schneck played lacrosse and football at BYU. In his football-playing days, he had the opportunity to play for legendary coach LaVell Edwards. Playing for Edwards had a significant role in how Schneck coaches his players.
“Coach Edwards wasn’t only a master of the game,” Schneck said. “He was a smart enough guy that he surrounded himself with people that helped create the team on the field and off the field. For me he was a father figure.”
Schneck has also surrounded himself with a coaching staff of former players who are on the same page of understanding the game but more importantly understanding what the school and program stand for.
Every semester, the team participates in service projects that teach them they have a lot to be grateful for.
On every road trip, the team will host a fireside for a local stake or ward. Hosting a fireside gives the team an opportunity to share testimonies and experiences, with one another and members of the stake. It allows them to be good examples for not only the kids in the stakes but to each other as well.
Jordan Harris, who played for Schneck and is his assistant coach, believes firesides and service projects have set the tone for the team.
“It refocuses us on the things that are important,” he said. “Sometimes you need to take a step back and look at whats really important in life. I think being able to have firesides and being able to do service projects are one of those things that puts it in perspective for us. We lose a game on the road and everyone is down, you go to a fireside and realize that maybe it wasn’t as important as you made it out to be.”
Schneck took over as head coach in 2009, after being an assistant for eight years. When he took over the team, critics started writing off the program. In his second year, he lead the team to its fourth national championship.
A week after winning the title, Schneck and his wife added another trophy to the family: their third child and first boy, Matthew Jr., also known as “Champ.”
After BYU won its first round game at the national championships, the Cougars still had three games left to play. Heidi told Matt if they won the championship, then the baby could have the nickname “Champ”, not thinking they would win. Four months later it has stuck and he is known as baby Champ.
If all goes well and according to plan, the Schneck family will be celebrating two things in the month of May. The first birthday of Champ and a back-to-back national championship for the first time in BYU’s lacrosse history.