NEW HAVEN — One of the benefits of coaching at Yale is the ability to collaborate with the finest minds in the world.
So when Andy Shay was looking for a mechanism to help his lacrosse goalies improve reaction times, he and team strength coach Tom Newman brought an idea to the school's Center for Engineering Innovation and Design.
A small team of engineering undergraduates devised "The Lightboard," a four-by-five foot slab of wood festooned with circular flashing lights that players push as quickly as possible.
Athletes from lacrosse, hockey and soccer teams have incorporated it into their training routine. Jack Starr, the lacrosse team's sophomore goalie, holds the school record, only with an impressive twist.
"He's got the best score of all the athletes," Shay said. "But he uses only one hand. Every other athlete uses two. It's pretty crazy."
Starr, a Yale centerpiece as it begins the NCAA tournament on Saturday at Reese Stadium against Georgetown (2:30 p.m., ESPNU), isn't merely a quick thinker. He's also deep and measured in his thoughts.
Last month, in the wake of the nationwide college bribery scandal that included Yale, he authored an op-ed piece for the Yale Daily News defending the value of college athletics and recruiting.
"Because athletic recruiting exists, it provides many kids with a North Star, something to strive for, a beacon of hope," Starr wrote. "It models how to chase goals and dedicate yourself to a cause. Students who pursue passions with all their might are likely to transfer this force to accomplishing tough goals later in life. Students with driving passions, including athletics, are what make Yale, Yale."
HISTORY: Memorable championship moments
Starr came to Yale from St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., and quickly won the starting goalie job. One of his first obstacles was harnessing that cerebral nature. Shay said Starr tended to contemplate certain situations to excess, not uncommon for freshmen making the transition from high school to major college lacrosse.
"He and I have a relationship where he understands my questions and realizes he doesn't have to overthink what I'm saying," Shay said. "Early his freshman year was harder because maybe he was intimidated. Now he understands what's best for him is what's best for us."
Starr started all but one game last spring, becoming one of a handful of freshmen to start and win a national championship game. He's been in net for every game this season for a team no longer considered a novelty on the national level.
Yale long struggled to advance beyond the first round prior to its title run. In many ways, the Bulldogs remain the team to beat despite being ranked fifth overall in the upcoming tournament. After all, no one else has beaten top-seeded Penn State. And only two teams have enjoyed the upper hand on Yale this season, all narrow one-goal wins.
BRACKET TAKEAWAYS: Yale's path to defending its title won't be easy
If anything, the Bulldogs appreciate previous accomplishments and understand how difficult it is simply to make the NCAA field. The focus isn't on defending the title. It's on Georgetown.
"It's always a constant battle to stay in the present and not be wowed by certain circumstances," Starr said. "Experience may help with that. Most of the guys here have been there before. If experience only helps us be more comfortable, then it does help."
Starr's success comes from natural athleticism and a fearless attitude. The family has quite a history of athletic success.
His father, Dr. John Starr, an orthopedic surgeon, played ice hockey at Williams College. His mother, Judy Holland, an author and journalist who covered Capitol Hill for Hearst Newspapers, was a figure skater at Middlebury. His sister Lindsay won a national scholastic rowing championship.
Uncles Jim, Joe and Mike Holland are all two-time Winter Olympians with a combined 14 national titles in ski jumping and Nordic combined; Mike held the world record for ski jumping in 1985. Cousin Matt Anderson competed in two Summer Olympics and in 2016 captained the U.S. volleyball team to bronze in Rio.
Jack tried just about every sport -- he's even ski jumped -- before settling on lacrosse, where he transitioned from midfielder to goalie as a young player. Few are as well prepared. He's constantly looking to improve with extra work.
"He stays back after practice to see extra shots every day, I mean, to a fault," Shay said. "We tell him all the time "Stop." You can't stay out here all the time. It's not good for him to see too much rubber. There's a fine line between the right amount and too much. But his diligence is second to none. He really cares."
Starr's sophomore campaign has been solid, save for the Brown game on April 13, when he was removed late in the first half after allowing eight goals with only one save. Shay and Starr chalked it up to a bad day. A week later, he was back in net and back atop his game, stopping 68.8 percent of shots on goal at Albany, a season high.
Being a successful goaltender is as much about winning the mental battle as it is having the physical skills. Starr has a solid grasp of the concept.
"There's only one thing that really counts," Starr said. "I'm just really excited to see what I can do in the next game."
This article is written by Chip Malafronte from New Haven Register, Conn. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.