A basketball and soccer player in high school, Strougo never played lacrosse. But whatever he lacked in experience, he made up for in a passion for the team.
Strougo, who is the longest-tenured lacrosse coach in Cherokee County, has been at Etowah for five seasons. When he took the program’s reins, he read up on the sport, watched videos and got the most of his two trips to the U.S. Lacrosse National Convention in Baltimore.
“I’ve learned all I can,” Strougo said. “I am very familiar with soccer and basketball, and with girls lacrosse, when you are transitioning from one side of the field to the other, it’s got a very soccerish field as far as how to move the ball. And, as far as offense and defense goes, it’s a lot like basketball with two extra players.”
Over the years, Strougo said he has recruited a few basketball players to the lacrosse team, but he can’t pull from the soccer team since the seasons run concurrently.
“I think I’ve been lucky having knowledge in those two other sports,” he said. “I have been able to bring that knowledge, or sports I have watched and coached, and played and adapt it.”
Lacrosse differs from most sports in that the girls and boys versions of the sport differ so drastically. Strougo, who has only ever worked with girls team, said he likes who the girls rely more on finesse.
“Strength is very important in boys lacrosse because of checks you can do, but girls lacrosse is about skill and technique,” Strougo said. “You can make up for your lack of size with your skill.”
This season, Strougo led Etowah to a program-best 13 victories to become the 2013 Cherokee Tribune Girls Lacrosse Coach of the Year.
“To finish 13-5 is great,” he said. “We were thrown into a very tough (area), but we did great. The teams that we lost to were top-10 in the state.”
In his time at Etowah, Strougo has seen lacrosse grow in popularity. Cherokee, Creekview and River Ridge have all added programs since arrival, and student interest is at a high.
“We have a long way to go to catch up to the schools in east Cobb and (north Fulton), but this is a step in the right direction,” Strougo said. “With more teams, we have more opportunities.”
Strougo said there is plenty of lacrosse talent to go around. Cherokee Youth Lacrosse has served as the feeder program for most of the county, and now those young players have the opportunity to continue playing in high school.
“I think, with more teams opening up, there are more girls interested in it and going up to the high school level,” Strougo said. “Therefore, the program is growing. We still get the girls who were going to go to Etowah or Woodstock. It just means the girls that were going to Cherokee, Creekview or River Ridge now have an opportunity to keep playing when they didn’t before.”
Another change Strougo has witnessed is the increased popularity of travel teams. When he started at Etowah, he said it had just a player or two who played year-round. But with every season that passes, more players are signing up to play during the summer and fall.
“I just want them to do something,” Strougo said. “If they are playing basketball in the winter and then lacrosse, that’s fine. But, if they want to play lacrosse year-round, that is great-too.”