From the time I knew coaching lacrosse was the only career I could imagine myself doing, I knew that I wanted to do it in a way that is a little different. I found myself at practice saying “When I’m in the driver’s seat, I’ll do it like this,” and “I love when Coach gets on us about this, it really works for me,” or, “I will never react like that when I’m in that spot.”
I’m sure all coaches have found themselves emulating their own favorite coaches or taking bits and pieces from coaches they may not have liked so much. The one thing I’ve learned from all my favorite coaches is the power of passion, and what it can do in shaping young minds.
When I was in sixth grade, I had a basketball coach who taught me to love a sport I wasn’t so thrilled about. Like most in my career, I’m incredibly competitive, and being the best at something is an absolute MUST. Simply put, basketball was not my sport. I will never forget how much I loved my middle school basketball career, however, and it was all because of my coach.
It was never easy, and I was probably in the best shape of my life, but Coach Breakell had a passion for the sport and it was evident in everything that she did. I’ll always remember how loud, positive, and downright crazy she was on the sideline, and how much that subconsciously made me play my heart out. My first foul shot in a big game – TOTAL air ball. Dead quiet in the tiny gym and then Coach said: “Mo that would have been PERFECT if the hoop was two feet closer, you got the next one!!”
I smiled on the line, laughed a little at myself, and nailed the next one. Coach knew I needed to relax and there is nothing that settles me down more than something to laugh about.
Fast forward six or seven years to finishing up my high school career, long after I ripped my mom’s heart out and hung up my basketball shoes, donned my soccer goalie jersey for the last time, and decided to pursue a sport that left most parents bewildered and frustrated on the sidelines. It was lacrosse for me and the next four years at New Haven, a school I knew little about, only that I wanted to play for Coach Fallon. Passion had a hold on me there too.
I learned more about myself and what I wanted to do with my life when I was on the field, traveling with the team, or in Coach’s office than I did in any classroom. I learned about hard decisions, prioritizing “we not me,” and what it really means to be a good leader. One memory that sticks out vividly in my mind is a breakdown I had in Coach’s office after telling her something I thought she needed to know. I thought I was being a good and loyal captain, sticking up for my teammates, and being honest. I’ll never forget what Coach said at the end of a conversation that did not go the way I had planned. “Mo, you’ll understand one day when you’re in my shoes.”
Coach was a lot like my mom – she was ALWAYS right, and it was so annoying! I’ve had multiple conversations just like the one I had with her so many years ago, and it jolts me every time. Team impact over individual success, always.
I was named head coach at my first job when I was 23, and let’s be honest, I knew NOTHING except that I was passionate about this sport. I knew that I was lucky to be where I was, and the best thing that I can do for these 18-year old kids would be to give them the best possible experience for four years. I sought all kinds of advice from anyone and everyone, but the best advice I received was to just be me and trust my gut. I built up my entire coaching philosophy on the blocks of passion and honesty, and always being the most positive person in the room. After four or five years of tweaking that philosophy, those truths remain.
Now I’m in my second head coaching position, and I know that passion is what got me here too. Change is hard for me, and transitions are tough for everyone involved. I knew I was taking over a very successful program, and I felt that intense pressure to win for the first time in my career. I also knew that being myself and letting that passion for the sport pour out of me in everything we did was the only way I knew how to run a program. So I stuck to it.
At practice you can find my assistants and I out on the field before everyone, getting the music on, practicing our stick tricks, and greeting everyone with a “WELCOME TO GBT!!!!” (get better time). We are loud always, angry only sometimes, and happy to be there all the time. We bring a ton of energy to practice, foster an incredibly competitive environment, and encourage chatter in drills. Don’t get me wrong, we can still snap if someone is talking while we try to explain a concept, but overall, we want our practices to be as intense, competitive, and high energy as our games.
Anyone who saw us this year knows that energy and passion does not stop at practice. As I’ve heard a few say, “We live for the celly game!!” I’ll never forget what one of my freshmen said to me before our first game. “Coach, how do you feel about sideline cellies?” My response, “Shannon, as long as it’s organized, creative, and we do it the best, I’m good with it.” Boy did they rise to that challenge! https://www.instagram.com/p/Bg3yJ3HAYTe/?hl=en&taken-by=uslacrossemag
Being passionate about your career is not something everyone gets to call a truth. I feel incredibly lucky every single day that my passion pays my bills, lets me travel, and introduces me to amazing people. At the end of the day, it’s my overarching goal to watch kids become young women, help them overcome struggles, and prepare them for the real world. As much arguing, crying, and grudge holding it takes on their end, it’s always worth it.
I want them to find their own passion in the world, and never let go of it. Whatever makes you happy, whoever makes you a better person, and whenever you have the opportunity to grow, seize it all! And whatever you decide to do with your life, do it with passion, or it’s not worth it.