I have been the Head Field Hockey Coach and Assistant Lacrosse Coach at Gettysburg College for the last 15 years. In the past few years, I have often been asked by coaches if I am going to give up one of the sports… I guess I look old because I am asked this question a lot! Although like any job, there are difficulties, I believe the benefits I have received from coaching two sports outweigh any challenges. I also believe that I have become a better head coach from being an assistant, and vice versa. I am very fortunate to have an administration that supports me, and I have a great assistant in field hockey who really steps up in the spring to make sure the field hockey program runs smoothly – that makes a big difference.
- I get to be outside most of the year – working with and spending time with almost 70 different student athletes, which I think we can all agree is one of the best things about being a coach.
- I get to know and form a different kind of relationship with the athletes as a head coach, and as an assistant coach.
- My main responsibility in lacrosse is pure coaching! I get to do all the fun stuff that we all love like practice and game planning, scouting, and team chemistry activities.
- Because I am not the “Big Cheese” in lacrosse, I rarely must deal with disgruntled players or parents. This one could be the biggest benefit!
- As a head coach, we spend most of our time looking at the “big” picture, which I do in the fall. But in the spring I can watch and give more feedback to individuals during drills and practices and I really enjoy this!
- My time is not my own, and for the first few years that took some getting used to.
- I have to give up control (which head coaches love to have) when I am the assistant – but I often think that this could be a benefit as well!
- Switching from one sport to another, it takes me awhile to get acclimated to the rules of the sport I am in. For example – I have to hold back from yelling at my field hockey players when they move on the whistle, or in lacrosse I am tempted to yell out a corner play instead of a defense. But maybe that goes back to the fact that I am getting old?
I also believe that by serving as an assistant coach I have become a better head coach.
And here’s why:
- I can relate better to my field hockey assistant and am more cognizant of her time and the demands I put on her.
- Every day as an assistant is like being in a classroom or attending a workshop. I learn how a head coach runs her program and I see different ways to handle situations with players, parents, administrators, and all the adversity that a season brings. I gain valuable knowledge that I can bring back to my field hockey team.
- I can “steal” all kinds of ideas, concepts, strategies, drills, and activities! This is huge because we are always trying to get better as coaches and improve our programs.
Being a head coach has also made me a better assistant coach. Here’s why:
- I know how a head coach likes a practice to run, so I spend a lot of my time at practice preparing for “what’s next” as the head coach is talking, so the practice can transition smoothly from one drill to the next.
- At times it is difficult for head coaches to let things go (uhh really? No duh). For instance; if a game doesn’t go well, or a player is struggling. Sometimes they just need someone to “listen” as they go around and around the scenario until they can find the solution. I completely understand where they are coming from! Listening is HUGE!
- I can empathize with the ups/downs and difficult decisions a head coach must make – I get it.
- I can suggest different drills and other activities from field hockey that we can “tweak” to fit for lacrosse.
As Division III coaches’ off-season responsibilities continue to grow and become more demanding, I am not sure how long I can continue to coach two sports (but again, since I’m old, maybe retirement will come before I have to stop doing both). But for now it works. I would recommend to anyone who is just starting out in this profession to give it a try for a year or two (or 15!) if you get the opportunity, though I realize that at some levels this would be impossible. Be sure to have the support! It is a great learning experience and, most importantly, it’s FUN!