Moving A Yellow Ball

By Steve Wagner, Head Coach, The College at Brockport, @Bportwlax

I move a yellow ball from one end of the field to the other. I am simply a cog in the wheel of the machine that is college athletics. Most colleges look at my position as women’s lacrosse coach simply as an extension of the admissions department, or an offset to football.

Photo courtesy of College at Brockport Athletic Communications
    Photo courtesy of College at Brockport Athletic Communications

If I was to get fired or I quit I will be replaced and forgotten about within a season. The only thing that matters in this business, is the relationships you have with other people. I think an outsider would be surprised to learn how little time we get with the X’s and O’s and how much time we spend on people. The minutia of team management can seem overwhelming, trivial daily problems begin to grind you down as the season wears on. You are responsible for the decisions of 18-22 year old people who sometimes lack the tools to see a bigger picture. It is our job to teach them those skills.

As a coach it’s important to keep everything in perspective even if it’s your team’s lack of perspective that’s the problem. Please understand I don’t claim to be the guru of calm because I battle everyday with the lizard part of my brain. I’m just saying that I have approached this team season differently and it’s turning out to be one of the best in Brockport’s history. Here are some tips:

You can’t get blood from a stone. If you want it more than your team does its time to step back and reevaluate your approach. No amount of yelling or cajoling is going to turn a sheep into a wolf, you have to be patient and play the long game on this one. Focus on skill improvement and fundamentals which will bring confidence down the road. You can then run competitive drills with consequences for the losing team. You need to create pressure situations where they are forced to figure it out on their own, and so they realize their decisions create the outcome. Remember it takes time to build a culture and that can only ultimately be done through recruiting.

Your personal self-worth is not tied up in winning and losing. This one is really hard for me to remember after losses. Nothing worse than seeing the clock hit 3:00 am as you replay everything you’ve ever done or said in preparation for a game. Understand that this is a process and without failure there is no growth. Focus on the day to day improvement and work hard towards that end.

Understand that people are going to be unhappy with some of the decisions that you make. Players, parents, other coaches and even the occasional stranger at some point in the season is going to take umbrage with you. The only thing you can do is make calm decisions based on what’s best for the team and stick by them. I work hard with the dissatisfied individuals so they understand the reasoning behind my decisions and explain how it’s best for the team. If it’s a lacrosse related decision, help your players understand through film. Do not just tell them they are not working hard on the ride, show them they are not working hard on the ride. Do not let the emotion of the situation dictate your decision. It’s much better to get a good night’s sleep and contemplate your decision rather than rushing your judgment.

Finally, you must leave your house and experience the world. Don’t stop doing things because you are tired or emotionally drained. You need to see that the world is still turning and your life is actually pretty amazing. Walk by an office building where some poor schlub is stuck in a cubicle for the majority of the day. Sure, you’re going to be outside getting hit in the face with all manner of precipitation and cold for two hours but it I’d rather do that than paperwork any day of the week. We move a yellow ball from one end of the field to the other and it’s pretty amazing.

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