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After Hours—Jack Francis: For the love of lacrosse

For Jack Francis, a financial advisor with Waddell & Reed (www.jackfrancis.wrfa.com), lacrosse has been in his life since he was in the seventh grade. He went on to be an All-American at the University of Maryland and captain of the team until his 1984 graduation.

Jack Francis, his wife Julie, and one of his players from Nease's lacrosse program that went on to play at John’s Hopkins University.

“It’s a passion of mine, and, in fact, lacrosse changed my path in life,” says Francis, referring to his career on Wall Street. “A lot of guys from Long Island on our team went to work on Wall Street, and I didn’t even know what Wall Street was!”

From not knowing what Wall Street was turned into a 23-year career for Francis. He was in the institutional equity trading business and his last job on Wall Street was co-head of equity trading for UBS.

“In 2003, I decided to exit the business. People thought I was crazy because I had such a good job and a big job, but it dawned on me after 9/11 and a few other situations in life that  it wasn’t about going to work and making as much money as you can,” says Francis.

So he and his wife sold their home and moved their three children to the Jacksonville area with the thought that he would help his wife raise their children and he would do some coaching for various teams in the area—but what he found was a lack of lacrosse.

Making a difference

“The interest level was here, but on a smaller scale and I knew if we introduced them to what lacrosse really was that it would take off,” says Francis. The introduction came when he and his assistant coach at the time, Adam Silva, were able to have the first NCAA Division 1 regular season lacrosse game to ever be played in north Florida at Fletcher High School in 2008.

“It was to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, and we had 7,500 in attendance, a Navy flyover, and wounded warriors as honorary captains of each team—it really helped the sport take off,” says Francis.

Francis

Francis also had the time and the passion to help an already existing group grow lacrosse to where it would be a viable recruiting ground for college coaches—and he did that by being part of the group that helped lacrosse become a Florida High School Activities Association (FHSAA) sanctioned sport.

“My ambition was to turn it into a sport that was accepted as a mainstream sport like it is up north,” says Francis, who became the head coach of lacrosse at Nease High School in 2003 and coached until 2009. “In that time frame, lacrosse [in Jacksonville] went from just a club sport to where many players were going off to play college lacrosse and at some schools like Johns Hopkins University, Notre Dame, UPenn, the United States Naval Academy, the University of Maryland, and many more,” says Francis.

He says the toughest part of it all was finding coaches. “Up north, there are generations of lacrosse players, so there’s a million guys who can coach because they know it. But down here, you have to hope someone played in college and moved here and want to coach.”

Francis says that is starting to change as second generation players that have gone off to college and are home for the summer or graduated want to coach. He says it also helps that Matt Kerwick, head coach for Jacksonville University’s men’s lacrosse team, and his team go to all of the schools and programs and teach people how to coach lacrosse.

Current coaching

“While I am taking my 23-year Wall Street career and meshing it with my 8-year coaching career as a financial coach/financial advisor with Waddell & Reed, my after hours are devoted to coaching still,” says Francis. “But it’s really pre-hours because I am an assistant coach at Ponte Veda High School now and to accommodate the coaches and their careers, the players have agreed to wake up at 6:00 a.m. and be at practice at 6:30 a.m. before school starts. We really have to take off our hats to them.”

In his 35 years of being involved with lacrosse, he stills has a deep interest and a love for it, and he jokingly adds, “If I didn’t smell hamstring meat burning when I was getting on the field, I would probably get out and play—but I don’t want to hurt myself.”


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