I am a 2015 graduate of the University of Connecticut who packed my bags and moved to Washington, DC last summer to be the Graduate Assistant Lacrosse Coach at The Catholic University of America. My first year of coaching has been full of new experiences, profound realizations and genuine appreciation. Now that I am on the other side of the game, I have come to value what it means to be a coach. The long nights of watching film and the hours spent cleaning out my email inbox has led me to want to share my fresh experience of transitioning from player to a coach. Here are five things I learned in my first year of coaching that I wish I knew as a player:
- Everything takes planning
Looking back at my college career, I thought that all of my time was consumed with lacrosse. I spent countless hours with my coaches and teammates between the practices, long away trips, study hall, lifting, etc. What I didn’t realize was that for all of these practices, trips and other activities, the coaches were not only participating in them, but also spending hours and hours to plan them. I quickly learned that it takes a lot of small details to ensure the experience of a student-athlete stays on the intended path.
- There is no off-season
As a player, you think of your off-season as team bonding, getting stronger, getting ahead on your academics or relaxing. For a coach, there is no off-season. You are always a coach, whether it is gathering young campers in the scorching heat of summer or ordering and organizing team gear. There is no off-season or normalcy. Each season brings something different but no one season is more important than the other (except maybe Spring!).
- There is a reason behind everything
As a naïve college student-athlete, I was under the impression that the world revolved around me and the other 32 people wearing UCONN on their chests on game day. Sometimes, it was hard to understand why things were they way they were. I can think of numerous accounts of my teammates and I pondering why we were doing such activity or why we couldn’t do such activity. Needless to say, I have come to realize that the world is a lot bigger than I originally thought it was. Student-athletes are lucky to have someone, like a coach, looking out for them during their college experience. College is a time full of change after high school and in this day in age, your future, as well as that of other people and the organization, can be affected by one player’s actions and decisions.
- For a player, it is an experience and for a coach, it is a career
The experience that you have and the hard work that you put into playing lacrosse will help you find your career and be successful no matter what you choose to do. Although, the experience that you have at your institution will come to an end when you walk across the stage and accept your diploma, what doesn’t end is your coaches’ careers and livelihoods.
- Coaches want success for you just as much as, if not more than, you want for yourself
Being a coach, sometimes I can be hard on my players, tell them things they don’t want to hear and make them do things they don’t want to do, but at the end of the day, that is my job. My job is to help them reach their maximum potential and be the best version of themselves that they can be. They have been hand-selected to represent our program and institution. A lot of coaches call their players their kids and I can see why. When your whole life revolves around a group of young women, they truly do become your family and you truly want what is best for them. There is nothing better than watching your players succeed. After my first year of coaching, I can easily say: it takes a special person to be a collegiate coach.
I would like to thank all of the coaches and mentors in my life including my youth soccer coach, Dan Sullivan, my high school soccer coach, David Sullivan, my college lacrosse coaches, Katie Woods, Chelsea Gamble, Lauren Gunning, Anne Harrington, Forrest Stillwell and Jane Karger, and my boss, Meghan McDonogh.