The self-acclaimed spiritual leader of Maryland's undefeated lacrosse team takes ballet, writes poetry, composes songs and enjoys sunbathing wearing nothing but his diamond earring.

That's in his left ear.

"I know I'm a major force exciting these guys," said defenseman George Miller. "I try to incite a lot of funk into the program."

There was a time when Coach Bud Beardmore did not consider funk an asset to Maryland lacrosse.

In fact, the slightest threat of funk made him break out in Woody Hayes-like soliloquys.

Beardmore discarded his fiery monologue as he felt his club slipping away from him, sensed they were afraid to talk to him last year.

"You have to learn to adjust to the times, and to the people you're working with, and this is what I'm trying to do," said Beardmore. "Last year, there was just a feeling I had that I was getting away from them and they were getting away from me. I sensed some of the players were unhappy. If they are afraid to step in my door, I've missed the boat.

"For the last couple of years, it had gotten to the point where there was not one way - MY way. And that's just not right.

During the fall I had several meetings with my four captains, and I told them I wanted to talk about anything and everything. After our talks this fall, I could tell that I had a different philosophy concerning me.

"I don't put quite as much pressure on myself to win, and to do everything exactly right. I don't want this to be pressure and drudgery. I want to make a good happy lacrosse played and still win the national championship.

"This has been a much different year, and I have enjoyed immensely."

So after eight winning seasons and two national titles, Beardmore has had to make the adjustment to diamond earrings and to dancing in the street, something his players did in single file outside their hotel in Raleigh. Onlookers applauded out their windows.

The Maryland lacrosse team, ranked second in the country behind Cornell, is that kind of group. It cheers you up. It sings, it dances, it romances, and then it gleefully knocks the fight out of you on the field.

The squad is composed almost entirely of former football players (nine were captains of their high school teams and other athletes who say they crave competition and a touch of violence within a loosely structured, depressured framework.

When Beardmore speaks of adjusting to the people he's working with, he's talking about a group of diverse individuals who want the time and the mental freedom to pursue other interest. Defenseman Jim Bell is an airplane pilot. Bob Holland makes and plays guitars. Drew Tyrie has been president of the Terrapin ski club. Captain Mark Sores has made the dean's list every semester with a 3.95 in civil engineering. As for Miller, there aren't many things he doesn't do.

Team captain Bob Ott was recruited out of Montclair (N.J.) high by Maryland in both lacrosse and football. And when football coach Jerry Claiborne told him workouts would start in August, Ott knew where his sentiments were heading.

"I go to Cape Cod and Nantucket during the summer," said Ott. "I still think about playinf football. And I think it's the greatest game on Saturday. But what they go through Sunday through Friday isn't worth it.'

"Football is a year-round thing. This is a half-year thing," said another team captain, Randy Ratliff, who turned down a football scholarship offer from William and Mary. "We have time to get into other things. I think we are definitely more well-rounded in terms of interests.

"I'm sure none of them would admit it but I get the feeling some of the football players wish they were playing lacrosse."

The Maryland lacrosse players speak of their sport in almost a cosmic sense.A conservation about Maryland lacrosse is likely to include talk of weather, women, music or just about anything.

Ott describes a recruiting visit he made with Miller, who also attended Montclair.

"We came one day in May," said Ott, "and everything was green and beautiful. The sun was shining, the women were talking around half-naked and Maryland beat Johns Hopkins. We said, 'Hey! We're going here."

For Miller, the choice meant parting with basketball. Captain of his team in high school, Miller loved the game but knew his in-between size (6-foot-3) and suspect ball-handling would put him in bench-sitters' limbo. Besides, says Miller, "in lacrosse, there are pro scouts hanging around to make you nervous, no big money, no professional overtones. I need that outlet of violence but I want to get out into other aspects of life. There are just too many good things in this world. I want to see them all. Lacrosse gives me time for that."

The team's leading scorer, Terry (26 goals) Kimball, had gained 1,000 yards as a running back in both his junior and senior years at St. Mary's high in Annapolis. He was recruited in football during his senior season by Penn State Coach Joe Paterno, but Beardmore had made his interest known for a few years. Perhaps the key factor was that Kimball had to make his decision during lacrosse season.

"Football, every play you hit and hit and hit," said Kimball. "Lacrosse is more wide open, requires more finesse. It's more carefree. You can relax and joke and work hard at the same time.

"When the ball goes to the other end of the field, you can check out all the different people in the stands, talk to the guy next to you. Especially on a nice, sunny day."

Ott defines lacrosse as "a jumble of all the games. I enjoy the violence, like football. There is free running, like soccer. The play around the goal is much like basketball and the stick makes it like hockey. All you're wearing, really, is T-shirts and underwear, besides your helmet. I enjoy the freeness of the body. Spring is in the air and the ladies love it."

The junior-senior nucleus of today's team, which is unbeaten in seven games, started playing in a much different atmosphere. The 1975 team that won the national championship boasted three first-team All-Americas, - Doug Radebaugh, Mike Farrell and Frank Ursop Urso, the revered, four-time All-America is the only Maryland lacrosse player to have his jersey retired.

Beardmore ran the talented squad with an iron hand and a crusty glare, and if you weren't an All-America, you were intimidated.

"The start sort of split the team a little," said Shores. "If you were on the lower side of the team, it wasn't like you could just walk up to a senior and start rapping with one of the best lacrosse players in the nation."

"In that period," said Ratliff, "there were superstars and the rest of the team."

"Sometimes," added Kimball, "big names can hurt you. The tendency in a game is to look to that person in a key situation, even if he's triple-covered or having an off game.

"Personnel-wise, this year's team may not be the best (in recent Maryland history). But as far as overall team spirit and team play, this is definitely the best. This year we have a lot of no-names. That's great."

"This is the most together team we've had," said Shores.

Miller says, "it's a love affair blossoming amongst the players. It's a delightful experience."

Seven players have scored 10 or more goals for the second-ranked Terps this year. Going into Saturday's game at third-ranked Johns Hopkins, sophomore Bob Boneillo leads in points with 40 on 16 goals and 24 assists. He is followed by John Lamon (18 goals and 17 assists), Kimball (26 and three), midfielder Pete Worstell (18 and 10), Rick Moyer (11 and 12), Barry Mitchell (4 and two) and Shores (10 and five).

Worstell was a second-team All-America last year, Ott and Ratliff made the third team and Boneillo earned honorable mention.

But they seem to prefer other methods of distinction, such as the team "Deak of the Week," award, given, for example, to Kevin McConnell to celebrate his shorts slipping off during a faceoff in the North Carolina game. It has also been given to Beardmore for losing his cool, to Kimball for hitting a pipe instead of the open goal, and to Worstell for drawing four penalties in the Duke game. The prestigious memento consists of a framed mirror, which the recipient can stare into while contemplating the inscription, "You're the deek of the week,' deek being loosely defined as buffoon, knucklehead, etc.

The unusual closeness the team feels this year has drawn players to the locker room daily as early as noon, where they will hang around, talk, run, work with weights and otherwise kill time until 3:30 practice. In other years, Beardmore required the players on certain days of the week to "make times," meaning they had to run three 300-yard sprints in a combined time of 120 seconds.

"You just kept running them until you made times," said Kimball. "I'd think about it all day. A lot of people were uptight about it. I used to not want to go to practice."

In keeping with Beardmore's concession to a less structured program, the players are now free to more or less schedule their own running.

Now, on any given day, when passers-by hear soul music blaring into Byrd Stadium from Byrd South dormitory, it can mean only one thing - the Lacrosse team is deep in preparation for its next game. The song Brickhouse by the Commodores became their theme song when its rhythmic bars inspired them to boogie off the team bus in Raleigh and continue dancing and clapping hands in the street.

"Singing and dancing seem to be the one thing they all do together," said Beardmore. "I don't know how much good it does, but it's fun and that's important. I don't care how they get ready as long as they play their best."

Brickhouse is now played in the locker room before every game, and dancing is mandatory.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has held national championships in Lacrosse since 1971. Since then, Carnell has won it three times (1971, '76, '77), Maryland twice (1973, '75) and one trophy each went to Virginia (1972) and Johns Hopkins (1974).

And what of 1978?

Maryland, Cornell, Johns Hopkins and Navy are rated as top contenders. But will Maryland boogie itself into a fog and be caught looking at halter tops at the wrong moment?

"I don't think so," said Beardmore. "I know these players better than I've known my other teams, and I know how they feel about this nations championship. They're willing to sacrifice for it.

"To wish for the title is one thing and to work for it is another. And they know the difference.

The dancing not withstanding. Lacrosse is not a picnic. For instance, Miller has had a broken ear drum, three concussions, a cracked rib and a bleeding lung.

There is also pressure to win the NCAA title. Shores said, "Last year was a great season but I felt like it was a failure. Everyone says the same thing."

"There is pressure," said Kimball, "but we don't notice it as much because of the nice atmosphere we have. I don't think that's going to hurt us. We've come too far, and worked too hard to get it this way. We finally got the program to be the way we want it and now it's up to us to maintain it.

"The change in coach has not made a little difference - it's a big difference. Before, we'd complain to each other and Buddy never heard it."

Beardmore has bridged the gap by making extensive use of his four captains. Everything from game plans to girlfriends is discussed, and players are now making uses of Beardmore's open office door. Beardmore points out that the situation "is not all that idealistic. Sometimes we veer, but we seem to get back. A lot of people might criticize what I've done, but I'm just doing what I think is right."