WINDERMERE — Just days after his graduation from Syracuse University, JoJo Marasco began his career as a coach for the Windermere Prep boys lacrosse team.
Not too long after, he began his career as a professional lacrosse player.
Marasco, a midfielder for the New York Lizards of Major League Lacrosse, joined the Lakers (4-1) a little more than a year ago and has been busy building the program up toward its full potential while balancing his obligations as a professional athlete.
“I had an opportunity to get out of the cold weather from New York, and this is a great school here and we’re trying to build a big program here, so it’s a good start,” Marasco said.
The Lakers went 7-6 in Marasco’s first season at the helm and are off to a promising start this spring. Despite his impressive credentials as a player, Marasco was met with big shoes to fill in taking the coaching job at Windermere Prep.
Previously coaching for the Lakers were brothers Jake and Jesse Bernhardt. The duo was a dynamic pair of coaches who are part of a family that has made a significant impact on the sport in Central Florida, as both players and coaches.
As the Bernhardts decided to move on to other opportunities, they approached Windermere Prep Athletic Director Danny Haney with a number of lacrosse players they thought would be a good fit to lead the program going forward.
“When I brought them in, I said, ‘Guys, it’s just like replacing Michael Jordan in basketball, losing you two,’” Haney said. “They were special, just really good-natured kids.”
Haney said he wasn’t confident about many of his options for a replacement until the Bernhardts approached him with one last name: Marasco.
As the Bernhardts told Haney — if he could get Marasco, he would soon forget all about them.
“Sometimes you don’t get this lucky in this game, you really don’t,” Haney said. “I always believe anyone is replaceable, but man, I didn’t know if I could do this.”
Once Marasco arrived, Windermere Prep never looked back. His dedication to the program, as well as balancing his professional career, has impressed both the athletic staff and players.
“It’s a lot of work; you have to put the hours in and be motivated and work extra hours,” Marasco said. “The toughest thing is just traveling that much and still realizing you have a team.”
While learning to juggle everything, Marasco strives to avoid falling behind and makes the most of downtime.
“In his planning periods, he’s not sitting in the office drinking coffee; he’s up on our lacrosse wall training,” Haney said. “And it’s good for our kids to see that, (to) see a pro athlete who’s out there — a teacher/mentor — out there training the way he trains.”
Being only 24 years old, Marasco has been able to connect with his team in a way that many other coaches cannot.
“What makes JoJo special is that he’s like one of us,” senior attack Jay Hunter said. “Having a guy that young that can really connect with the players — it helps us as players to understand what he’s trying to say to us, and it helps us build a better relationship with our coach.”