Tom Schreiber and Chris Bates Chasing Elusive Championship Together
It had been mere days since Chris Bates was hired as the new head coach of Princeton men’s lacrosse. But there he was, in high school junior and Princeton commit Tom Schreiber’s living room, diagramming X’s and O’s with the Schreiber family’s salt and pepper shakers. The family had been on a trip to the Outer Banks on July 1st, when coaches could visit players in their homes for the first time in the summer recruiting cycle. But that didn’t stop the current Head Coach and General Manager of Archers Lacrosse Club from meeting with Schreiber as soon as realistically possible.
“I’m not sure I met them at the door when they were unpacking from [the trip to] North Carolina, but I was there soon thereafter,” recalls Bates with a chuckle. He continues, noting that “For me, [re-recruiting Schreiber] was job number one,” after becoming Princeton’s newest head coach. “Knowing Tom as a player, even talking to Coach Tierney… this was a unique talent and any time there’s a coaching change, the sharks are in the water.”
“It meant a lot to me,” says Schreiber of Bates’ visit that day in July of 2010. “After that meeting, any reservations or concerns around what was going to happen were gone.”
While Schreiber was originally a commit to Bill Tierney’s Princeton Tigers, he quickly became Chris Bates’ first Princeton recruit. From there, the relationship that started that hot summer day carried through four record-breaking years at Princeton and has been rekindled as player and coach once again in the PLL with the Archers over the past four seasons.
For Schreiber, everything about that initial meeting provided a foundation for their relationship over the last 13 years. “That really set the stage for who he is as a coach and as a human being,” he says. “That initial impression never waivered. That’s just been him since we first met; somebody who’s going to go out of their way to make sure everything is all good. He’s just a very authentic person. He’s got great ideas on the lacrosse field. But that authenticity, that’s something that sticks out to me and something I’ve learned from him and tried to apply as I’ve started working with kids and the next generation of lacrosse players.”
For Bates, similar traits about Schreiber have stuck out since day one. “When you interact with Tom, you quickly realize how genuine of a human being he is,” he comments. In fact, to this day, Bates is still good friends with Schreiber’s parents while Bates’ parents hold the Schreiber family in similar regard.
Beyond the personal element of their first interaction, what stood out for both after that first meeting was a common goal for their time together at Princeton: Win at the highest level.
Schreiber and Bates’ Time at Princeton
When Schreiber arrived on campus at Princeton in Bates’ second year, he immediately challenged the staff’s blank slate, seniors on top of the depth chart policy to open every season. Bates specifically remembers that “after day one, as a staff we kind of looked at each other and went ‘Hm, we can’t keep him down with the freshman very long.’”
Following Schreiber’s first shift in his college debut, when he split right to left and stuck the ball past the keeper with his off hand off a dodge, it was obvious there would be little to no adjustment period for the Long Island native.
That first year, Schreiber was the Ivy League’s Rookie of the Year, a first team All-Ivy selection, and a third team All-American with 29 points. The next year was more of the same with the first of three first team All-American selections. His junior season in 2013 saw Schreiber win the MacLaughlin Award as the top midfielder in the country, and he finished his career as the program’s leading scorer from the midfield with 200 points.
But, despite all his individual success at Princeton, Schreiber and Bates made the NCAA Tournament just once, losing to Virginia in the first round of the 2012 tournament.
“Candidly, we didn’t meet all of our goals there,” said Bates of the four years with Schreiber at Princeton.
Of course, Bates’ time in Princeton saw him endure tragedy with the passing of his wife, and Schreiber was there for it to see his coach and mentor battle through that and the pressure of following the legendary Bill Tierney. “He saw real life,” comments Bates. “We went to war for four years in some tough times and we didn’t have as much success as we would’ve liked. He saw real life unfold in front of him.”
A Second Chance with the Archers
But, with the founding of the PLL, Bates and Schreiber eyed a second chance for winning together. In fact, while Schreiber was one of the first group of players to start molding the league, he reached out to his former coach to pick his brain on the idea of the new league. And, little did Bates know at the time, that conversation later led to him interviewing and being hired as the first Head Coach of Archers Lacrosse Club, the very team Schreiber joined as well.
For the both of them, this second go at it has been a special experience. Schreiber notes that “not many people get the opportunity to play for someone as a kid and then continue to play for them as an adult.” He adds that “it is a different relationship. It’s different from being that kid away from home, living in a dorm room, and still growing up, to someone who’s a little bit more experienced and able to build a team together.”
For Bates, watching Schreiber’s progression through life has been special. “To see him now as a leader of men rather than boys, to see him evolve beyond college, now being married, just seeing the joy around a video of [his daughter] Lily… that’s what a coaching life is about,” he says. “I count it as a blessing for me to be able to continue to walk the path with him and to see him develop in every way, in all the right ways.”
Of course, while their relationship on a personal level has been nothing but fulfilling, Bates and Schreiber are still left hunting that elusive championship on the field together.
“I never shied away from wanting to win in college,” says Schreiber. “The driving force behind going to a school was to win, and that’s what I dreamt of doing as a kid. The relationship I had with Coach, I wanted to win with him. And we came up short. Came up real short. To have an opportunity to pair up with him at the professional level, I get another shot at that.”
There’s obviously plenty of different motivations for wanting to win, and that’s not lost on player or coach. Yet, still, the unfinished business from the four years at Princeton and the first four in the PLL, where the Archers have never made it beyond the semifinals, is top of mind for the both of them.
Schreiber, of course, has won a professional championship with the MLL back in 2017 and won gold with Team USA in 2018 off his game-winning goal in overtime. But, still, a ring with Bates is a major motivation for him.
“When I picture it, when I’m visualizing trying to win, I see him holding that trophy and it means something to me,” Schreiber emphasizes. “It’s something I’m consciously aware of and it’s a driving force for me. I want it for him because I think he deserves it.”
Bates adds that “to do it specifically with him would be something pretty special. That’s what you dream about. That’s what gets you up in the morning. To be able to share that and hoist that with him would be something that has pretty deep meaning for me.”
A New Era for Archers Lacrosse Club
In this continued quest to be champions, the Archers Lacrosse Club has undergone a significant roster transformation this offseason. Defensive stalwarts and all time greats Dominique Alexander and Scott Ratliff have retired, while veteran goalie Adam Ghitelman left in free agency along with two of the greatest scorers in professional lacrosse history, Marcus Holman and Will Manny. There is still undoubtedly incredible talent littered throughout the club’s roster. But the departures of those five guys does leave a notable leadership gap simply because of what legends all five of those players are.
Schreiber himself admits that this year is the start of “a new era for the Archers,” and is well aware that “every single one of those guys are leaders. They all are ten year pros, at a minimum. Those guys all bring something to the table with who they are as people and who they are as leaders.”
As a result, the two-time MVP knows that “I’m going to have to do more of that, which I’m happy to do.”
Bates is confident in Schreiber, the only returning captain on the team, to do just that. “This is Tom’s team, I don’t think there is any doubt,” he says. “This has been Tom’s team, but even more so now. His fire still burns as strongly as ever. You can feel his role really evolve. He recognizes his responsibility, he recognizes this opportunity, and he’s raring to put his finger prints on the next era of our organization. It’s another chapter of his development and you can see him grabbing hold of it.”
So far in training camp, Schreiber has executed his role as the leader of the Archers well. Bates notes that “He’s just been a steady presence and voice, and everyone has taken to his leadership really well.”
Beyond the rah-rah speeches and the vocal leadership that Schreiber has growing experience with, another focus for him has been encouraging others around him to step into similar leadership roles. With countless players on the roster who were captains in college and who know how to lead a team, he’s confident that other voices will emerge alongside his.
“I think our team has leaders all over the place,” he says. “I’m confident that we’ll have the sort of culture where everybody can be a leader, and that comes down to trust and authenticity. I just want to put everybody in a position where they can contribute to that. That will happen in time, but, for now, I’m doing the bulk of the talking which is fine by me. But we’ll get some more voices as time goes on.”
This new era for Archers LC and the pieces that have joined the roster probably have the club in its best position yet for hoisting a championship trophy. Clearly, the players around Schreiber on the Archers will be critical in providing that additional leadership presence in developing and maintaining culture. But, the heart of the club’s culture remains centered around the authentic relationship between a player and a coach that began that afternoon in July of 2010 and the still unsatisfied desire that they have to win together.