Franklin Zirkle is the founder of Hilltopper Lacrosse. He is no stranger to the North Carolina lacrosse scene. In the early 80's Franklin was a member of three straight Tri-State Championship teams at Guilford College. He played several positions on nationally ranked Quaker Lacrosse Teams, finishing his career as a long stick midfielder. Upon graduation from Guilford, he was hired as an Assistant Director of Admissions and the Head Coach of the Guilford College women's lacrosse team. In his second year at Guilford, he was promoted to Assistant Coach of the nationally ranked men's team. During his stint as a coach at Guilford, his teams toppled opponents like Lynchburg, Duke University, Dartmouth University, and other noted programs. He played for Guilford College's Hall of Fame Coach Geoff Miller, currently the Athletic Director at Goucher College in Towson, Maryland. He was also responsible for recruiting in traditional lacrosse hotbeds such as Long Island, Maryland, Upstate New York, and even South Florida, which was becoming a strong area for the sport. He attended the U.S. Lacrosse Conventions and networked with other coaches while learning more about coaching from top coaches.
After several years away from the sport while his wife, Kimberly, was attending East Carolina, Franklin moved back to Durham where he ran into several officials and former Duke University Head Coach Tony Cullen. Franklin was asked to officiate in the Triangle area by Cullen, and it was an offer he was unable to refuse. For nearly a decade, Franklin officiated all levels of lacrosse and during the final three years of his officiating, he was chosen to referee the NC State 4A Lacrosse Championships. In his third and final championship he was on the field during East Chapel Hill's first state championship. In 2005, Zirkle was hired at the Head men's coach at East Chapel Hill High School, where he took over a team that had won a state championship; however, it had lost 18 seniors including two All Americans. Zirkle was hired in October and was able to assemble a talented coaching staff. His first squad at East improbably returned to the State Championship game and lost to a very talented Apex squad. During that summer, Zirkle took a team to Washington and Lee University that competed for the War for the South Championship.
The additional work with the team during that summer provided great dividends the following season, where the Wildcats returned to the State Championship and won in a convincing romp over the cross town Chapel Hill Tigers. It was during this summer experience that Zirkle realized how the landscape of college recruiting was changing, and the importance of having players attend top camps and play at a very high level. Zirkle would take East back to the State Championship game in 2011, after narrowly missing the final game in the preceding three years, where the Wildcats ended successful seasons in the semi-final game. Perhaps one of Zirkle's most memorable victories took place in 2008, when his Wildcats took to the field against Long Island's traditional power, Cold Spring Harbor. The lightly regarded Cats rose to the occasion and upset this New York stalwart 7-4 and raised some eyebrows nationally with the victory, the first of it's kind by a North Carolina public school. Zirkle's teams were known for challenging themselves against nationally ranked teams like McDonough, Floral Park, The Hun School, and Northern Allegheny. At East, Zirkle produced numerous High School All Americans, Conference Players of the Year, and numerous young men who went on to enjoy successful college careers. He was also fortunate to coach several Academic All Americans at East Chapel Hill.
During the summer months, Zirkle has worked many top camps in an effort to learn more about teaching the game. He has worked on the staff at three of the four ACC summer camps. As a lacrosse dad, he traveled with his sons to many tournaments up and down the East Coast. It was during these experiences that he realized the tremendous need for an organized travel team that works tirelessly on behalf of its players. He noticed the preponderance of college coaches at these events, realizing that these venues are what ultimately launches the careers of budding high school lacrosse talent. He also noted the success of established programs that dedicate themselves to year round work that ultimately leads to more polished and developed players. He also took the time to interview club travel team coaches and directors, in an attempt to learn what makes these teams successful. He also spoke with numerous college coaches to glean from them what they look for in players on and off the field. Utilizing his past college admission's experience, he is capable of helping young men adopt a realistic plan for selecting colleges that are good fits both academically and athletically.
Zirkle has set the bar high for Hilltopper Lacrosse, hoping to utilize his vast fund of knowledge gained over the past decades. He brings an exceptional track record of success and passion to this venture.