Things You Never Realized as a Player

By Alice Mercer, Assistant Coach, Niagara University  @NiagaraWLAX

Looking back on my first year as an assistant coach, I started to recall all of the “ah ha” moments I had throughout the year. Here are a few of my favorites:

Job description

              Photo courtesy of US Lacrosse

“What do you do all day?” Ahh, one of my favorites. Many people have the idea that coaches just go to practice (without a plan, obviously), go out to lunch, and then hang out all day in the office. I remember thinking that my coaches’ offices were so cool, I always imagined that they would just play trashcan basketball when they weren’t with us. What’s surprising about coaching is that it’s so much more than just what happens on the field. The job description should consist of coach, teacher, mentor, role model, therapist, mom/dad away from home, and the list goes on and on. The only way to really describe it is by saying that most days you’re in the office for a full day and when someone asks you what you did all day, you can’t even answer the question because you’re not even sure what you did. You just know you were busy from the time you walked into the office until the time you left. 

Practice plans

Umm… what’s that? What do you mean there’s a plan for practice? I was always under the impression that practice consisted of our favorite drills and then our coach’s favorite drills (which were obviously our least favorite drills) and then 7v7s, duh. When you’re a player, you never think about how things actually get planned for practice. The idea that coaches just show up to the field and wing it is crazy. Now I know how much thought goes into which specific drills are chosen for practice and how concepts can be broken down or built up as practice progresses.

How helpful 1v1s actually are

This makes me laugh because I’m a defender and I can appreciate dreading the phrase “1v1s.” They’re awful. It’s the only way to describe them. However, every year they got a little easier and you started to figure out how to make them end quicker. What’s funny is that if your team is struggling with 1v1 defense, then 1v1s are 100% on the practice plan. As a player, I remember showing up to practice after we had a great defensive game and thinking, “Yes! No 1v1s today.” Well, I found out that’s not always the case. If your team is doing well with 1v1s… I mean “why not? We got here doing something right.” So 1v1s are on the practice plan yet again. 


Every coach knows what I’m talking about – when you’re watching film of your team and thinking there are about one million drills we need to do between now and our next game (in two days) to be the best team we can be… that’s not happening. Having to make some drills a priority over others is difficult when there’s a hundred things to get done.

“Oh No!” moments

I remember thinking right before the season, “We covered this in the fall, right? Yeah, we definitely did… I think so.” It feels like there’s so many concepts to cover in such a short amount of time.

Full-field passing

This one’s for Lauri Kenis – now I know why watching the defenders do full-field passing used to give you so much anxiety. But, alas, it was a pregame practice tradition and sometimes as a coach, you have to sacrifice to keep your players’ superstitions in line.

Saying things your coaches used to say

“Why run slow when you can run fast?”— sorry Cathy Reese, I stole this from you.


Recruiting is easy, right? You just pick the best kid on the field and say you want them and they commit, right? Wrong. You quickly learn that you can’t make a decision based on one stellar, or not so stellar, play in a game… but instead you actually have to see these kids play on multiple occasions.

Ordering meals

This one’s for Caitlyn McFadden (Phipps) – remember when I would order whatever I wanted from a restaurant, even if it wasn’t on the menu? Caitlin: “Alice, they don’t have Chicken Alfredo, did you read the attached menu?” Me: “It’s a pasta place, they have to have Chicken Alfredo.” Now I know A) how annoying this is, and B) it’s not that hard to get your orders in on time. Just do it. Or else you’re getting a turkey sandwich with nothing on it.

So basically even if your hair’s on fire and the field might not be plowed before our game this afternoon, as far as your team knows, everything’s fine!!


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