Deerfield Academy attack Jimmy Bitter is no stranger to lacrosse success, as he is the youngest of six college lacrosse playing siblings. Jimmy’s older brother Billy is currently a two-time First Team All-American attack at North Carolina, where Jimmy will play next season. His eldest brother Matt played at Navy from 2006-09.
Bitter is the No. 2 ranked attack in the Class of 2011 by ESPN RISE, and No. 4 overall. The Manhasset, N.Y., native has been instrumental in Deerfield’s success, as they are currently ranked No. 6 in the country in the latest Under Armor/Inside Lacrosse poll.
ESPNBoston.com caught up with Jimmy recently, as Deerfield hits the home stretch in its season.
Q: Being undefeated (11-0) and a top-ranked team in the country, can you talk about expectations and goals for your team?
A: "As a team, our goal is to win each game, taking it one game at a time. We have to stay disciplined, focused and make sure we do not look ahead or past teams. We must play each game like it is our last game of the season."
Q: How was last season for you both personally, with the injury (Bitter missed six games with a broken thumb), and overall as a team?
A: Last season was a tough season for me. I got hurt early on in the season and missed a major chunk of the schedule because of this. Then when I returned, I was never able to fully play at 100 percent, which was also frustrating. As for the team, I thought we had a great season, with many of our young players stepping up when the team suffered injuries. If it was not for one loss to Salisbury, who played a great game, we would have won it all."
Q: Talk a little about your summer lacrosse experience? How does summer help with improving your game?
A: "Over the summer I played for FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), the Under Armour Long Island team, and in the Warrior 40 game. FCA is a great experience because we play top level lacrosse along with learning how to reach out to God along the way. It was quite an eye opener to learn how to feel comfortable talking about my faith with others.
"The Under Armour games and the Warrior 40 were both incredible experiences as well. In both events I was able to play with and compete against the best players in the country. This was very helpful in the development in my game because not only was I competing against great talent but because there was such a wide range of players from diverse places I was able to learn new styles of play and set higher goals for myself."
Q: Can you talk about your family and what kinds of advice you get about the game and what to look forward to in college next year?
A: "My brothers were all great players and I always looked up to them as I grew up and watched them play. I always tried to incorporate what they did into my game, and I'm still doing that today. As for advice, my family has always been supportive by coming to my games and driving me to all those youth practices and events. In many ways I was blessed to be the youngest, because each of my siblings has had input and enabled me to absorb something they did well. My oldest brother, Ward, was and still is one of the best runners I have ever seen. Matt went to Navy to play lacrosse, and has gone on further to become a Navy Seal. He taught me the meaning of toughness and true-grit. Billy is known for his bursts of speed and dodging. While growing up in Manhasset, I spent many days and nights with my brothers in our backyard. Sometimes I was shooting and often they had me all suited up and they shot on me. I think I am a better shooter today because of it. Also, if they saw anything I needed to work on they wouldn't hesitate to let me know."
Q: Can you talk a little about how the recruiting process went and the main factors that went in to the decision?
A: "The recruiting process was a very difficult one. My mind was not always set on UNC, I was considering schools such as Duke, Hopkins, Harvard, Virginia, Notre Dame, and Navy, however after discussing it with my family they and I both felt UNC was the best fit for me. I absolutely loved everything about the school from the town, the coaches, the players, the academics, etc. UNC also did very well by Billy and the entire UNC package is almost too good to be true. I can't wait to get to work down there."
Q: Can you talk about the major influences in your life that have shaped you on and off the field?
A: "The single greatest influence in my life is and has always been my family. As I mentioned earlier, we would play for hours in our backyard together. If I had to choose someone from my family, it would have to be my Dad. He had been my coach ever since I could remember. As a coach he was very knowledgeable about the game of lacrosse, he was an all-American at Boston College, so I was always listening to what he had to say. It's no different now either, he comes to many of my Deerfield games and gives me plays and pointers from the sidelines. He has taught me to plan ahead of games and think during the game about what is happening or how to counter the opponent’s efforts. Obviously off the field, my father was my mentor, but my Mom was the best care giver I could ask for. I think both my parents and my siblings are the reasons that I can be so confident about making sure I am making good, sound decisions in life. I also want to give credit to my uncle, Kevin Cook, as the other big coaching influence I can reflect upon."
Q: Can you talk about your overall experience at Deerfield Academy?
A: "Deerfield has been an amazing place to go to school. Deerfield was my number one choice of all boarding schools from the start. Personally, when deciding boarding schools I couldn't think of any negatives about Deerfield, it has great academics, a very friendly environment, and a top athletic program. Deerfield has been even better than I could have hoped. The school has taught me to push myself academically and grow as a lacrosse player. Coach [Chip] Davis and Coach [Jan] Flaska are very knowledgeable about the game of lacrosse and really make an effort to improve each player. Also, Deerfield promotes playing multiple sports as a way to develop other talents. I was able to play soccer and basketball, which for me were very beneficial to my lacrosse game."
Q: Who are the best long sticks that you have played or will play against this year with Deerfield?
A: "I would probably have to say the toughest defenders I play against are the ones I go against every day in practice. Will Swindell (Brown), Bobby Osgood (Dartmouth), and Mike Mueller (Dartmouth), are all tremendous players and know a lot of my tendencies making it very difficult to go against them."
Q: What other sports do you enjoy watching or playing?
A: "If there was sport I wish I could play better it would probably be soccer or skiing, both are great sports. I grew up watching my siblings excel at both of those sports but because of playing so much lacrosse I haven't had the time to ski as much as I would like to."
Q: What do you like doing in your spare time?
A: "In my spare time I'm mostly just hanging out with friends, maybe playing a pickup game of something of that nature."