Watching sports has helped to shape me into who I am today. I’m a college coach, so this doesn’t just include watching film, but I am talking about the plain old activity of watching a game on your TV, IPad, IPhone and whatever else you might have. This love that I have for watching sports first started for me as a high school freshman on the basketball court. Basketball was my first love and opened me to completely committing myself to a game that I truly loved. Countless lunch periods of my high school years were spent in a tiny classroom near our gymnasium where our coach would show us film of our upcoming opponents, breaking down their strengths and weaknesses. I watched carefully focusing on the words from my coach, while at the same time, truly entertained by the game that we were watching.
In spare moments at night or on the weekends I would flip on the television and watch an NBA game, awestruck by such amazing players as Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin. Even more special were the opportunities to attend a New Jersey Nets game and catch the action live, in person. Observing these professional athletes – the creativity and intensity with which they played, their agility and deception, their technique and form – left me star struck and in awe of their talent. Their love for the game and ability to perform at the highest level filled me with inspiration to play with intensity and fire every time I stepped onto the court.
As I progressed through high school, lacrosse took on a larger role in my life and it was the summer prior to my senior year that I committed to Long Island University Post (formerly known as C.W. Post) for lacrosse.
My coaches at Post, Karen MacCrate Henning and Meghan McNamara, quickly came to represent the lacrosse versions of my NBA idols. Both are graduates of the University of Maryland. The two won a combined six national championships during their playing careers as Terrapins. During our practices at Post they would frequently jump into practice and join the players in drills. I was instantly amazed at their abilities and driven to want to play like them. How could I learn more, how could I get better? How could I play the way they played?
When I was in college, it wasn’t easy to access film of other teams like it is today. We didn’t have WatchESPN or the Big Ten Network, or the live streaming that most schools do today. However, this didn’t change the fact that I wanted to watch the top teams play, and during my sophomore year, I was able to find a way. I subscribed to the ACC Network, which from what I remember, for a flat fee would give you access to all of the ACC games. I can still vividly remember sitting in my small bedroom in the suite I shared with seven of my teammates, watching countless hours of lacrosse. As a defender, I was amazed at how physical they were, at their ability to dictate their opponents’ movement, and by their ability to shut down an attacker with solid, footwork, crisp checks and smart anticipation. I wanted to play like they did and each day I demanded of myself the level of play I witnessed at the top tier. It was this year that I saw my greatest improvement as a player and felt like I gained a love for the game that would change my life.
Now as a college coach, the opportunities to watch film are endless. We watch hours of film each day, both of our teams and of our opponents. But for me, it doesn’t stop there. I can’t help but turn on WatchESPN or the Big Ten Network on my iPad each and every night before I fall asleep. On a Sunday off, after the scout is done and our film is broken down, immediately I go right to the game list and choose between a live game or a big game from the week before. Sometimes I find myself replaying great games from earlier in the season. I have always felt a sort of magnetic draw to watching a sport at its highest level.
So, the question is why?
Learning – Watching film allows us to see many different styles of the game. It allows us to see different types of shots, how different offenses are run, how different defenses can control a game or slow down opponents. It shows us different ways to take the draw, different clear patterns and rides that can antagonize a defense on the clear. It shows us endless ways to play the game.
Raising the Bar – Watching the best teams and players allows us to continually raise the bar for ourselves and our teams. Watching great players ripping shots outside the 8-meter or taking perfectly timed behind-the-back shots with ease, or one-handed controlled checks when you least expect it, inspires us all to reach for greater heights in our own games or within our own programs. It shows us how we can continue to be creative with skills and schemes and how much more we have in us to give to our game.
Motivation – Watching some of the greatest coaches in the country – and some of the greatest coaches of all time – inspires me to be better every day. I watch their offenses and defenses and feel empowered to study them to teach them to my team. I observe their decision-making during the most stressful moments of a close game and take note of how they handle the pressure of the moment. I watch every game as both a fan and a student, and use it as motivation to make myself a better coach so I can give more to my players.
Grow the Game – I say to my players all the time, “Before we can expect fans to come watch our games, we have to take every opportunity to be fans ourselves and watch OUR sport being played at the highest level.” It’s been great to see my team take these words and put them into action. I have players send me pictures of themselves watching games on WatchESPN and the Big Ten Network on their days off. We need to support our sport. We need to have more viewers so we can eventually have more games on TV. I am passionate about lacrosse and spreading this message to all those who will listen. Please watch our sport. It is such an amazing game and it continues to get more exciting each year.
Entertainment – Probably the most important reason why I feel so strongly about watching film is that I simply love watching these games. The pace is fast, the athletes are exceptional and the final product is filled with impressive performances on all sides of the ball.
So, to the young players out there reading this, please watch your sport! Put in the extra time to fine-tune your trade. If you want to improve yourself to reach your full potential, if you want to grow the game in the best way possible, if you want to show your support to women’s lacrosse, then tune into a game on in your free time. I promise you will be entertained, and hopefully inspired, as a result.
Special thank you to those that have worked hard to get these women’s lacrosse games on TV. I can’t wait until the day that the United Women’s League is on ESPN. I will be watching.