A Male Coaching in Collegiate Women’s Lacrosse
“It’s supposed to be hard! If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great!” ~Jimmy Dugan (A League of Their Own)
I have to admit that I truly identify with the quote above, the movie it came from, and the fictional character who uttered it. Full disclosure, I LOVE what I do for a living! Being a women’s lacrosse coach, while difficult at times, is the best job I could ever ask for. I often joke with my friends and colleagues that it was never part of some master plan for me to become a college women’s lacrosse coach, it evolved over a great number of years. What started out as something that I enjoyed doing, coaching, became a great passion in my life.
I sometimes hear how unfair things are for men coaching in women’s lacrosse, but I TOTALLY DISAGREE. I believe that the folks who normally say these things are overly critical and don’t really respect the game of women’s lacrosse. They are just imposing their values on a game and career path they think should be easy for them. I wonder if they have ever debated the question why there aren’t more (or any?) women coaching collegiate men’s lacrosse, and how unfair it is to those women’s career opportunities!
I’ve never blamed anyone for what happened in my career as a lacrosse coach. It has always been my choice to follow a coaching career path and respect the process of becoming a women’s head coach as a man in the game. During this time, I had friends and family members tell me (early on) that I was crazy to pursue a career in women’s lacrosse. I’ve also had it said to my face by potential employers that I was not hirable for a position, not because of my knowledge or experience, but because I was not the correct gender. Throughout it all, I knew what I enjoyed about being a coach and what my goals were. It took me four years as a high school coach and another seven years working as a volunteer and part-time coach to get my first head coaching job! It was not the easiest road, but I value the experiences that I gained during those years.
Since I began my journey as a coach 22 seasons ago, I have a lot less hair, a few more pounds, and have learned quite a few things along the way! When I first began coaching, I found out very quickly how much I don’t know. I just closed my mouth and listened to whomever I could to better understand women’s lacrosse. As I learned the game, I became more involved within the lacrosse and coaching community, had a stint as a women’s lacrosse umpire, and worked on a few IWLCA committees along the way. It was definitely an educational process. I’d like to think that I’ve done it with professionalism while opening my mind to different points of view and appreciating the lessons presented to me.
The game of women’s lacrosse looks very different now than it did when I first picked up the clipboard and hung a whistle around my neck. When I first began coaching in the mid-1990s wooden sticks were still a part of the game, there were no boundaries, no restraining lines, no goggles, and certainly no thought of a shot clock. All of these things have changed women’s lacrosse, and I have enjoyed being part of the evolution of the game.
Through several coaching stops I’ve had the opportunity to make great friends with coaches from all over the country! I’ve found my way with the support of these exceptional people. I’ve put everything I had into the previous coaching positions I’ve held, and hopefully given a great experience to the many amazing women along the way who I’ve had the honor of coaching. I now find myself in the third season of building a new Division III program from the ground up in a growing area of the country for lacrosse, Texas. It definitely has been one of the toughest coaching challenges that I’ve ever taken on, but I WOULDN’T TRADE IT FOR ANYTHING!
My wife gave me a Charlie Brown figurine several years ago that has the following quote on it: “Happiness… is the start of a new season.” That quote sits on the desk in my office and perfectly sums up my feelings about being a coach. No matter how good or bad the previous season happened to be, as a coach we get to hit ‘RESET,’ and start fresh with our team each year! That just may be the greatest part of being a coach, and is one of the reasons that I’ve been coaching for so many years!
Has it been hard? Absolutely! As a man, I love and respect the game of women’s lacrosse because my journey was so hard. But the fact that it was hard is what makes it so great. If the journey hadn’t been hard, I would not have learned what I learned and grown to love the game of women’s lacrosse!