MORGANTOWN — Have you ever loved something so much that you literally can’t get enough of it?
That’s the relationship Brian Houk has with lacrosse. He has taken advantage of as many opportunities possible as a student at WVU and coming from a lacrosse-crazed central Maryland, it’s in Houk’s blood.
Perhaps his biggest impact in the area is leading the University High boys’ team to back-to-back West Virginia Scholastic Lacrosse Association championships the last two seasons, the latest coming Saturday night on a 14-11 win, over George Washington. It was Houk’s third season with the Hawks, but this year was different than the previous two.
As a sophomore at WVU, Houk joined the Mountaineers’ club team and played through his senior year. As a junior and senior, he had double duty — playing at WVU and coaching at UHS.
After his college eligibility was up, Houk wanted to stay involved with the WVU program and approached faculty advisor Jim Mills and team president Carter Smith about the new opening for head coach.
“I was in the right place at the right time, and Dr. Mills and Carter offered me the job,” Houk said. “I knew it would be a lot of work coaching two teams, but I love it so I knew it would be worth it and I could do a great job with both teams.”
While working as a substitute teach in Monongalia County, Houk juggled the start of a career and coaching two different teams at the same time. The WVU season started in January and ended in April, while UHS’s began in March and ended in May. With two months of over-lapping schedules, it got hectic at times.
“I had to miss a few UHS practices due to traveling with the WVU team, but besides that, i was able to be at every practice and game for both teams,” he said. “WVU typically practiced from 7-9 or 9-11 (p.m.), so often times, I would drive directly from UHS practice to the rec center to coach WVU. Ultimately, it took a lot of caffeine, long nights and hours on hours of practice planning and breaking down film.”
An extra responsibility coaching WVU was the travel — playing in Virginia, New York, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas during the regular season. In the end, the Mountaineers finished 3-10, but having the opportunity to coach college lacrosse was a dream come true for Houk.
“I love having the opportunity to compete and I knew I was probably the only person in the country to be the head coach at a high school and college at the same time,” he said. “My appreciation for being in that position made me feel lucky, despite being physically exhausted at some points.”
Houk also used each position to learn more about lacrosse — coaching offense at WVU and defense with UHS. Coaching the college game slowed down the high school game, so it helped Houk see what needed changed and to make adjustments.
He wasn’t alone in the process, either. Assistant coaches Dave Ferraro and James Tierney joined Houk on both coaching staffs.
“It was a huge help having great assistant coaches who I could trust to work with either team and pick up the slack when I needed it most.”