WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - What Jim Berkman has accomplished in his 32 seasons coaching the men’s lacrosse program at Division 3 Salisbury is incredible.
The Watertown native and St. Lawrence graduate is the winningest coach in NCAA Men’s Lacrosse history with 553 victories and his teams have won 12 national titles.
Berkman’s success has been built on 2 key principles.
“I learned at a very young age that players are made, they’re not born. You know, and when you get to college, everybody’s good. But a lot of people are good because just of their natural ability, and when you get to college it’s not what you’ve done before you get there, its what you do when you get there, you know? And if you don’t learn that when you’re in school and our guys learn that because of the 2nd thing that I think I really picked up, which is the guiding principle of our program is what we call edging. And edging is the stuff you do outside 3 to 5,” said Berkman.
That hard work has paid big dividends for Berkman, his players, and his program.
Every player that has played for Salisbury the past 23 years has won at least 1 national championship, and along with 7 undefeated seasons, the Gulls hold the 3 longest win streaks in the history of 4 year college lacrosse programs as well.
“2003-2006 we won 69 games and that’s the all-time record, and then we lost in overtime to Cortland on a fluke goal and a really controversial ending game and we should have never lost and then we came back right after that in 2007 and 2009 and we won 55 in a row so there was a streak there. I don’t know what it was. 124 out of 125, something like that. In ’94, ‘5 and ‘6, we won 47 and we broke Cornell’s streak of 42,” said Berkman.
The Gulls have made 31 straight NCAA Tournament appearances and 27 NCAA Final 4 trips, something Berkman says is an experience like no other that continues to fuel the success the Gulls enjoy.
“Being there that weekend, and I always tell our guys it a kind of story that’s evolved every year when we get there is that, you know, the three greatest things that are ever gonna happen in your life, you know? The day you get married, and you’re hopefully only doing that once, right, you know- The day that first child’s born or your second child’s born is pretty important but you’re only gonna do that a couple times, you know? And you only get 4 chances to go to the Final 4, so once you get there and you got some eligibility left, man it’s just something in your system that drives you to want to go back,” said Berkman.
While the records mean a great deal to Berkman, he says one thing he takes pride in is that almost 200 of his former players are still involved with the game in some capacity.
”To have that many kids give back to the game that played for ya and are so proud of their experience, you know, that’s pretty exciting as a coach. You know, that’s your legacy that you’ve inspired other people to love the game and want to give back,” said Berkman.
Berkman has been named Division 3 National Coach of the Year 3 times and was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2013.
He says the incredible journey he’s been on the last 3 decades has flown by.
“When you sit back and reflect on it [...] the first thing you realize is that you are getting a little bit older. You know, but the 2nd thing just so you know is how it’s happened so fast you know and everything,” said Berkman.
Jim Berkman, a north country native who has become the greatest coach in men’s lacrosse history and continues to add to records that will be hard to be equaled.