Remembering Our Why

By Jenna Handshoe, Head Coach, Presbyterian College  @PCWomensLax

It is another year and another IWLCA Annual Meeting has come and gone. Every year, we find ourselves sitting through the various coaches’ presentations, business sessions, and professional development presentations. Every year we have that one take away that we sit and ponder on, then next thing you know season is starting and we are off to the races. This year, I find myself reminiscing on one point driven home: “remember your why.” I am sure that I am not the only coach that has found themselves wondering if this is the right career for them or when is it time to step away? Then something small happens and reminds me why I wanted to be a coach to begin with.

     Photo courtesy of Presbyterian Athletics.

We won’t talk about what year it was (and yes, I know I’m not really that old). However, I can still remember that day in seventh grade when my basketball coach asked me about camp. Coach Rogers happened to be my math teacher as well, therefore, this conversation happened during class. Keep in mind, she was the one teacher in the entire school you never wanted to make mad or draw too much attention to yourself around her. We had just moved for the umpteenth time and I told her I wouldn’t be going to North Side the next year. Her response was “do you still want to go to camp?” Of course, in my seventh-grade embarrassment I had to say my mom couldn’t afford to send me to camp, and anyone that knows me knows I can turn a brilliant color of red when I get embarrassed.

While that may seem like a boring story of seventh grade Jenna, I will say that was possibly one of the most profound moments of my young life. While the embarrassment of having to admit that I could not afford to go to basketball camp, it was nothing in comparison to the appreciation I still feel for that coach for helping me to attend. Fast forward about ten years, I finally make my way back to my hometown in Elkhart, Indiana. I decided to surprise my aunt who works at the middle school in the library. During that trip, I remember being able to sneak upstairs to see Coach Rogers, who at the time was still teaching in the same classroom as that dreaded seventh grade math class. I was greeted with the biggest hug and coach was in tears at how much I had grown up. I remember standing in her classroom that day and bringing up that basketball camp, just thanking her for the opportunity she had given me. That camp was so much more than just a basketball camp, there is no amount of thank yous or trying to pay coach back for that camp. That camp got me out of a terrible home life situation even if it was just for a few days.

To this day, I keep in touch with Coach Rogers via text messages, those casual breakfasts at Stacks Pancake House, and our love for Notre Dame women’s basketball.  While I am still embarrassed by the story (occupational hazard of being me), I’ll never forget that basketball camp. Now the real reason behind this story is not to reminisce on my basketball days, rather to remember my why.

I love my job, I love the teams that I have been privileged to lead over the years, I love that I get to still be involved in the game of lacrosse. But there are still those days that I find myself wondering if it is time to hang up the whistle and if this is really for me. Lacrosse has literally saved my life and I feel that I owe so much to this game. Lacrosse, like Coach Rogers, is something that I hold very close to my heart and I will always want to be involved in the game in some way, shape, or form.

When I start to think about why I coach there are many things that come to mind. The biggest is that we have the power to impact others’ lives in a positive way. I do not pretend to understand or know everything going on in my student-athlete’s lives, however, I hope that I can make a small impact in a positive way like Coach Rogers did for me. I hope that 20 or 30 years down the road those that I have coached don’t remember the games we won or lost but rather the moments they shared with their teammates on the bus or in a locker room. Or even just coming into the office to tell dad jokes back and forth. When remembering my why, it is more than just a game. Yes, we all want to win, but at the end of the day I hope they have the best four years of their lives, while making lifelong friends, before embarking in the real world. If I can impact one athlete’s life in a meaningful way, then all these years of coaching have been worth it.

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