By Missy Foote, Former Head Coach, Middlebury College
Over 40 years ago as a young, wide-eyed coach of three varsity sports it didn’t take me long to realize that there was more to coaching than simply imparting my wisdom about skills and strategy to the team. I understood that I had a responsibility to create a collaborative and competitive environment in every practice, that I should expect our players to play their hardest and push their teammates to be their best and that it was my job to help each player see the best in themselves and in each other. But I soon began to recognize that it was also up to me to help our players develop other skills as well; things like how to relax and play in the zone even though expectations were high, how to be resilient in the face of set-back, how to be selfless, or how to value their teammates contributions. My personal “a-ha!” (sudden insight) moment came when I saw that these lessons were not just applicable to the playing field but also transferable to the broader game of life, and it was up to me as a coach to plant the seeds of this learning in all my players.
And so I developed my “coaching playbook.” The list of “lessons” I prioritized each season has changed over the years but the premise is the same; what qualities are necessary for this group of players to be successful in their present and future communities, families, and workplaces? The following are a few such lessons, with life interpretations:
- WE DON’T DO SPRINTS (only) FOR THE CONDITIONING
Hard experiences, when shared, are joyful and life affirming.
- ONE HEART, ONE MIND
The most important quality we can share within a team (community, family) is to value each others differences as much as our similarities.
- LIFE ISN’T ABOUT BEING UNDEFEATED, IT’S ABOUT HOW YOU RECOVER
Character is about how we respond to adversity and every set back is but a test of that character.
- ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES
“We either makes ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong, the amount of work is the same.” Carlos Castaneda
- YOU CAN DO ANYTHING FOR 20 SECONDS
Breaking big tasks down into small bites teaches us that our only limits are self imposed.
- LIVE LIFE PURPOSEFULLY
As on the playing field life makes no promises. Be adaptable, stay in the moment and you will thrive.
- THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS BAD WEATHER, JUST INAPPROPRIATE CLOTHING
Take “the small stuff” in stride and remember that “it’s all small stuff.”
In one way or another we talked about these adages at every practice, every bus ride, before and after every game. These maxims became our pride, our tradition, our lifeblood. They took on new meaning for older players as they taught the younger players what was important to them. The fruit of these lessons, however, is actually harvested beyond the cocoon of college and organized athletics. Alumnae, time and again, report that the lessons learned on the lacrosse field have been instrumental in meeting far more difficult challenges after college.
What informed my coaching more than anything else was the knowledge that we are ALL works in progress when it comes to taking responsibility for our personal development and that young adults need and seek encouragement in doing so. To help young women reflect on, interpret, and make meaning of their college lacrosse experiences was my privilege and honor.
“You learn more about a person in an hour of play than in a lifetime of conversation.” Plato