The Title of “Coach” And What It Actually Means

By Kirsten Smith, Assistant Coach, Wingate University @Wingate_WLax

I’ve only been in the coaching profession for a little over a year now and I have had the same conversation countless times about what I do for a living. It typically goes something like this:

Person: “What do you do for a living?”

Me: “I’m a college lacrosse coach!”

Person: “Oh, that’s great! What else do you do? Like, what’s your day job?”

Me: “Um… I coach.” (In my head I’m thinking, “Wow, if you only knew…”)

I try my best to hold my tongue because I know that some people just don’t get it.

Photo courtesy of the author
               Photo courtesy of the author

As a coach, we wear many different hats. Most of our job descriptions probably say the same general things, such as manage and lead the women’s lacrosse program, assist the head coach in all coaching duties, recruit future student-athletes, oversee team academic success, etc.

I’ve learned so far that we as coaches have three main roles.

The first role is listed in our job title, “lacrosse coach.” In my short time in this profession so far, I’ve noticed that this is the thing I spend the least amount of time doing. We spend some time on the field, teaching skills, making practice plans, writing scouting reports, running conditioning workouts, etc. Don’t get me wrong, all of this is a huge chunk of our daily duties, but out of all three of our major roles, this is the least of them.

The second role we have is the “manager” role. This is the time we spend doing paperwork, sending e-mails to recruits and other coaches, making schedules, managing our budget, making sure our gear is correct, etc. Again, this is a huge part of what we do, but it is not our biggest role.

Our biggest role as coaches is the “life coach” role. We spend a lot of our time talking to our players about their grades, because being a student-athlete means you are here to get an education first. Our players come to us about their relationship problems, issues with their parents, a sick family member, and their future jobs after they graduate. I could go on and on about everything that our players talk to us about.

I had the opportunity to interview a fellow IWLCA coach for a graduate school paper that I wrote. The main thing that I remember from our conversation was talking about the relationships a coach has with her players. She explained that even though our on-field relationships are super important, our off-field relationships are the most important because that is when we make our biggest impact.

Our biggest role as coaches is to positively impact the lives of our players by being the person that they can go to when they don’t feel like they have anyone else to talk to. Coaching is being the person that your players can trust will listen to them. It is being their “mom” to take them to the hospital when their mom is too far away to get there in time. It is being a “big sister” to someone who is struggling with a friendship problem. It is putting the lives of 25 quirky, funny, and weird college kids before your own, caring about all of them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and always worrying about what is best for them.

We coach to ask our players the tough questions and have the hard conversations with them.

We coach to motivate and push our players to the best of their ability off of the field as well as on the field.

We coach to be there for our players when they need it the most.

We coach to make a positive, life-long impact on the lives of every single player that crosses our path.

So the next time someone asks you what you do, proudly answer them, “I coach” and in the back of your head, think about all of the lives that you get to positively impact every single day that you are a “coach.”

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