How do you do it? It was a question I heard a lot my first year as a head coach at Bloomsburg University. Now going in to my third season, and feeling a little bit more settled in, I look back on my first year and remember how nervous and challenging the transition was for me.
Lacrosse and sports have always played a big part in my life. I had the privilege to coach at two very successful programs following my college graduation. I was the full-time assistant at Lock Haven University, and then the graduate assistant coach at The Catholic University of America (CUA). While at CUA I became pregnant with my first son in May of 2013. Since my position was only a graduate assistantship, it made sense for me financially to step away from coaching and raise my son. Also, because I was focusing on my family, we decided to try for a second child, and my youngest son was born in May of 2014.
Although coaching was my passion, being a mother was always my number one ambition. My new job was being a stay at home mom with the boys. I had not planned to get back into coaching so quickly, however when my family got into a tight financial situation I started looking for work. I knew there was only one thing that I really wanted to do, and that was coach. The search began for a new position and I saw that Bloomsburg University was hiring a head coach. Although it felt like a long shot, I knew I wanted to try for the job. My husband and I discussed the pros and cons, and we decided I should apply, even though it could potentially relocate our family. We felt Bloomsburg would be a great fit for us and I was eager to go though the process and see what would happen.
I will never forget how excited I was to get the phone call from the Bloomsburg athletic director. I was offered the job in September and would start work October 1st. With the support from my husband, I accepted the job. So I moved up to Bloomsburg, PA with my two boys, who were 18 months and 6 months old at the time. My husband stayed in Maryland to finish out his contract and sell our house.
At the time, I don’t think my team knew it, because I did my best to hide it, but I was overwhelmed that year. This was my first time as head coach and I was nervous to take on the responsibilities of my own program while also raising two boys without physical help from my husband. If I was asked today how I survived my first year, I can say with all honestly, I survived because I asked for help. I asked for help from my parents, my colleagues, my team, and from my friends and mentors in the coaching world.
All of the lacrosse peers whom I befriended in my first six years of coaching really helped me during the transition. I will never forget sitting in on Missy Doherty’s break out session at the IWLCA Annual Meetings during my first year back. She was talking about “taking over an already existing program” and I soaked in every word she said. I took her advice to focus on nothing but the team and recruiting that first year, from a lacrosse standpoint. She reminded the group that it is difficult to take over a program and change a culture overnight. It is a process that takes time. It was exactly what I needed to hear after barely surviving my fall ball season.
I would not have survived my first year without the help of others. I think being able to ask for help and support is a lesson I will always carry forward, not only in my coaching career but in my life. In this day and age, where we are supposed to be strong independent women and no one wants to be seen as weak, we are afraid to ask for help. It is important to remember that just like being on a team, you can’t do everything on your own. Surrounding yourself with a positive support system filled with family, friends, and mentors who want you to be successful is extremely important. Even though I have a long way to go, I’m so thankful for everyone who has helped and supported me on my journey.