Does It Make A Difference How You Got Here?

By Samantha Eustace, Head Coach, Mercer University  @MercerWLAX

I am someone who came to college coaching late. I didn’t even start off coaching when I graduated from UMass. My journey was different, as are many of yours. I had a plethora (good SAT word!) of other jobs before I even got into coaching at the high school level. I eventually began coaching field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse at a prep school in Boston. I worked in admissions, was a house parent, and also ran the Summer Programs. I loved the coaching part of my day. I began coaching club lacrosse and also coached National Schoolgirls (funny I played at it, coached at it for 3 different regions, and now I recruit at it). I eventually made the move to an Athletic Director position in Virginia and became an assistant coach in both field hockey and lacrosse and of course middle school basketball (which is an experience in itself!). Again, I really loved the coaching parts of my days. I was also coaching at a school with a legendary high school coach and the talent level was incredible.

       Photo courtesy of Mercer Athletics.

I switched schools to build a lacrosse program at a school in the same conference. We got to play my former team which included a lot of players who played club for me, twice a season. I did daily practice plans for 2 middle school teams, our JV team and the varsity team. I would coach the Middle school practice and then go to our varsity practice. With my regular job and coaching, I was often at school for twelve hours. I loved it. Could I make coaching full time a reality? I thought I brought a lot to the table. I had been coaching for quite a few years, and since I had been coaching club, I knew that world.

I had also selected and coached so many different teams. At those selections, you have 15 minutes to rate 25 players! I enjoy watching lacrosse and evaluating players, so recruiting is fun and interesting for me. As any former high school coaches know, you are the attack, defense, draw, and goalie coach all in one. I could coach any aspect of the game. It is hard to break into college coaching when you have not just graduated from college. Which is funny, because in the other world, outside of coaching, college graduates sometimes have a hard time getting jobs because they need experience. Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe, head coach at James Madison University, gave me my first chance to coach in college. I loved it. After three memorable years as a part of the JMU family, I have been the Head Coach at Mercer University, a Division I program in Georgia, for the past two and a half years.

Some of you jumped right into college coaching, others have taken a much different path to get where you are today. Don’t take it for granted. I hear a lot of coaches talking at tournaments about why they don’t like their job. There are always pros and cons to any job or career. Try a few other jobs out there and then see how it stacks up.

So maybe it’s because it is still new and exciting to me and because I can draw on all of my other jobs before this one. But I truly do love what I get to do every day and cherish my team and my assistants. On those tough days when your players are driving you crazy – just as we remind them why they started playing lacrosse – remember why you started coaching.

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