Preparing for a Career in Coaching

By Caitlin Fifield, Assistant Coach, Marquette University @MarquetteWLax

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.

After graduating college and watching my friends search for jobs, some in fields they did not even enjoy, I felt, and still feel, incredibly lucky to have known what I wanted to do from a young age. A quick recap of the 21 years in which lacrosse has been the center of my life: I grew up on Long Island, my dad was a collegiate National Champion, both my brothers played lacrosse, and my parents ran the youth lacrosse league in my town for ten years… AKA I always had a stick in my hand. As soon as I finished playing in our town youth league, I started coaching in that same league. At age 13, I fell in love with coaching and helping young kids find that same excitement and joy the sport gave me. I knew I wanted to coach lacrosse for the rest of my life, and as I grew older, I knew I wanted to coach at the highest level. Even though I knew early on where I hoped my career would take me, I have a lot of friends and family who took very different paths to end up in their dream job of coaching collegiate lacrosse. Here are some things that helped me and my friends along the way:

  1. Get a taste for coaching early on, at any level
    • For high schoolers, get involved with your local youth or recreational league. If you have passion and knowledge for the game, there are always kids who are ready and excited to learn from you. Get involved in, and coach, other sports you enjoy (basketball, soccer, field hockey). Coaching is coaching, no matter the sport.
    • For college players, get involved with a local club team. This will expose you to high-level lacrosse, the recruiting process, and of course the travel involved. Be sure to be open-minded and learn from the other coaches and directors of the club.
    • For high schoolers and college players, give private lessons on the side. This is an awesome way to learn how to cater to a specific player’s needs and see first-hand the excitement of watching a player get better under your coaching.
  2. Work camps and engage counselors and coaches at camp
    • For high school players, check to see if there are any youth day camps in your area that are looking for coaches. Sometimes these are lacrosse specific and sometimes they are true all-around summer camps looking for a lacrosse-focused session/day.
    • For college players, reach out to major lacrosse universities who host multiple, large camps. Chances are these universities need college players to work and this is a great place to start networking. I approached summer camps as a sort of internship. Along with coaching for the Yellow Jackets, I worked about 5-6 major university camps up and down the East Coast. This also gave me insight into what a college coach’s summer schedule may look like.
    • Talk to players and coaches at other schools and when the time comes, share your interest in coaching collegiate lacrosse. Chances are you’ll hit it off and make new friends along the way!
  3. Be friendly and approachable
    • Talk to fellow lacrosse players and coaches wherever you are, whether that be a camp, a recruiting event, in an airport, or in your hometown. So much of coaching comes down to networking and it is never too early to start building your circle.
    • All coaches have a different story and a different path on how they got to where they are today—take the time to listen to their stories.
    • Follow up and continue to say hi to those players and coaches you do meet, even when just passing by!
  4. Share your career goals with your coaching staff early on
    • As coaches, we know exactly the advice we wanted and would have appreciated as college players. Your coaches can answer questions you may have as well as show you more of what their day to day activities in the office might look like. Who knows, maybe they’ll even have you help cut film or design some gear!
  5. Talk with different administrators and staff at your current school
    • Set up some meetings with your strength staff, academic staff, sports information director, and even sports administrator. Ask them about their positions and what exactly they do for the lacrosse program and for the school. Ask your sport administrator what they look for in new coaching candidates and how you can make yourself marketable.
  6. Build your resume
    • Your resume may look a little different since you need to market yourself as a lacrosse player/coach. Be sure to add any lacrosse awards, important statistics, and any camps/clinics you work on your resume.
    • Remember, networking is super important. As you start to build your network, start to figure out who your mentors are and which people in the lacrosse world know you the best. This is where you’ll start to find your references (Be sure to ask first!).
  7. Start to put together a list or spreadsheet of schools/areas and positions that interest you
    • There are a lot of different spots available in college lacrosse and each has a little bit of a different role. Start to learn the differences between a Head Coach, Full-time/Part-time Assistant Coaches, Graduate Assistant Coach, Volunteer Coach, Director of Operations, and then investigate which positions seem most appealing to you.
    • Looking at current staffs can help give you an idea of what positions schools tend to support.
    • Start to think about if you want to coach at a powerhouse, a new program, in a non-traditional area, close to home, etc.
  8. Start to think about your philosophy and what is important to you as a coach
    • Keep a lax journal—best thing I’ve ever done! This is a place where you can write down all your thoughts about the sport, on and off the field.
    • I was lucky enough to have three head coaches during college and I learned a lot about what I love and didn’t love about their different coaching styles—having this written down was incredibly helpful when I started to put together my own coaching philosophy. I still write in it today.
  9. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help
    • The lacrosse community is an awesome place full of loving, caring people who want to see you succeed. I have learned from and leaned on lots of fellow coaches along the way for various reasons and I have never been disappointed! Start to build that network so you have even more people in your corner.

For all those players looking to get into coaching, best of luck and keep your head high! Our sport is lucky to have your passion and drive—thank you for continuing to grow our sport!

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