This One’s For the Coaches

On the eve of the IWLCA Annual Meetings, and just a few months away from LaxCon 2020, we’ve been thinking about the importance of continuing education for coaches, the value of community within the sport, and the role our peers can play, as colleagues, mentors, sounding boards, and friends. We reached out to several coaches from across the women’s collegiate game to ask them to share their thoughts on the topic. This is what they said:


On Attending Coaches Clinics

                          Photo by Jaclyn Borowski.

“It’s important to stay up with current trends in the game, learn new drills, verbiage or language to use, to learn new teaching techniques or simply to reaffirm what you are currently doing. Additionally, attending coaches’ clinics can also help with scouting.” Head Coach, Big East (Division I)

“I think it’s always important to be a student of the game. Keeping up with a sport that is ever- changing is difficult but critical for the development of our programs. It’s also important to keep things new and fresh for your team. The last thing we want, as coaches, is to do the same thing year after year and expect a better result. The tricky part about this is to let go of our egos a bit, bite the bullet, and try something new!” Maureen Spellman, Head Coach, Endicott College (Division III)

“Attending coaches’ clinics keeps one fresh, engaged, and you can never stop learning. Be open minded as you continue developing as a coach. Value your own and others’ time, be efficient, have fun, and be a good person.” Assistant Coach, American Athletic Conference (Division I)

“Clinics are a great opportunity to expand your networking circle, generate ideas and build relationships. I think the really cool thing about our sport in particular is that even though we’ve grown considerably we still have a small feel and it seems like everyone talks and values everyone’s opinion.” Paula Habel, Assistant Coach, Bowdoin College (Division III)

“The game is constantly evolving and continues to get faster and more creative each year. By attending coaching clinics regularly, it shows your commitment to the game, growth as a coach, and adaptation alongside the growth of the game. I constantly learn new drills, concepts and ideas from other coaches at clinics that I implement in practice.” Assistant Coach, American Athletic Conference (Division I)

“The best thing about attending the Annual Meeting (or Lax Con, or a local coaching convention, etc.) is that it’s a time to reconnect with peers and get excited for all that’s to come in the season ahead. On top of that, we have an awesome opportunity to develop further as a coach and to make new connections. Each of these things is so important to our overall growth, development and success as coaches.” Head Coach, North Coast Athletic Conference (Division III)


On Networking within the Lacrosse Community

“One of the most valuable resources that you can use to continue to develop professionally are the relationships formed with fellow coaches. Whether it’s the coach of a different sport in your office or one of the hundreds of coaches at the IWLCA Annual Meetings, one of the most amazing attributes about the coaching field that I have learned in 19 years of coaching is the inherent willingness of fellow coaches to share everything from drills to similar experiences. Use your friends; let them help you through tricky situations, scheduling problems or personnel decisions. In turn, help them; be an ear when they need to vent, share your stories, help to grow each other.” Laura Field, Head Coach, Fairfield University (Division I)

“Networking is super valuable on both a personal and professional level. It’s always great to hear from other coaches about the things that work well for them, and the things they’ve tried and learned from. More importantly, it’s great to share stories about the impact we have on young women beyond the field. Sharing our successes and failures, learning to laugh about things that may have kept us up at night, and just hearing “what an impact you made on her,” makes the job worth doing. On a professional level I would say you never know when you’re going to need to reach out to someone. This is a dangerous job we have, and one slip up, or one powerful and angry parent can make or break our careers. It’s always great to have people in your corner, vouching for you when you feel like the world is crashing down around you.” Maureen Spellman, Head Coach, Endicott College (Division III)

“The importance of networking within the lacrosse community is that you have someone to chat with when you need a new drill/idea, have a question, etc., or networking can potentially land you a job – whether that be a GA, full time, or a spot at someone’s camp. I was once told by a mentor that people hire people they know, so it is important to build your personal brand and meet other coaches. You never know what may happen, or what opportunity may present itself down the road.” Assistant Coach, GLIAC (Division II)

“The significance of networking in the women’s lacrosse community is invaluable… we have amazing coaches throughout our coaching body and what is so unique is the willingness so many have to share. Not only can we learn so much about lacrosse and our profession through networking, but we can end up making really great friends who can help and support us through the many highs and lows both in lacrosse and life.” Head Coach, Landmark Conference (Division III)

“As women’s lacrosse coaches we are privileged to be part of a community that supports, respects, and encourages each other to reach our max potential. Our convention is a prime example of how no matter the level or years you have coached you can still learn from those around you. It is amazing to see the packed rooms of presentations, from first year coaches to all-time greats taking in new drills, concepts, and philosophies. It shows the importance of the coaching community and how we can all continue to develop and grow from those around us every year.” Assistant Coach, NESCAC (Division III)

“I would encourage coaches to realize that professionalism does not just mean how successful you are. It is important to respond to others who reach out to you, to help others in the lacrosse community, to make yourself available. It is also necessary to stay up to date on the game itself, rules, tactics etc. Finally, it is important to give back to the game and not just take from it – Volunteer your time on a committee locally, with the IWLCA, NCAA or USL.” Head Coach, Big East (Division I)


Advice for Other Coaches to Help Them Grow

“Lacrosse is a small world and paths will cross again when you least expect it. You should reach outside the lacrosse community too. Go to other sports practices on your campus and get involved with WeCOACH.” Sue Behme, Head Coach, University of Rochester (Division III)

“It’s important to do a lot of self-reflection and learn about who you really are. This helps to build two components to emotional intelligence: self-awareness and self-regulation. Self-awareness gives you the ability to understand your emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals, and recognize their impact on others. Self-regulation involves the ability to control or redirect your disruptive emotions and impulses and adapt to changing circumstances. Building these skills will improve both your personal life and professional role as a leader.” Dennis Short, Head Coach, Rollins College (Division II)

“My advice would be to not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and meet new people within your coaching body. Whether it’s introducing yourself to a coach you don’t know, sitting next to coaches outside your friend group, conference or division, or connecting with an experienced (or brand new) coach at our annual meetings; making connections with a diverse mix of peoples within our coaching body is very important for your personal and professional growth. You can always take away something new to bring to your program by just simply making a new connection with someone.” Kate Robinson, Head Coach, University of Chicago (Division III)

“Seek professional development in your daily life. Set aside 30 minutes a day to read, maybe attend another team’s practice on campus, listen to a podcast while you are at the gym or on your commute. Give yourself the time to develop your skill and mindset and don’t be afraid to try new things.” Amanda Magee, Head Coach, Benedictine College (NAIA)

“I love that we, as college women’s lacrosse coaches, take our profession seriously enough to attend our convention annually. Simply put – it is cool to attend our convention! We should be proud of that culture. Come with an open mind and you will learn something new every time! I love learning from the amazing lacrosse minds within the IWLCA. We are a very social sport and group of people… celebrate that by showing up at a social! Come with a smile and meet someone new. I know I do! See you around!” Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe, James Madison University, Head Coach (Division I)

“The best advice I can give is to research and reach out about scholarships, professional development funds, and more. There are lots of ways to help you get your development assisted and it just takes asking around. Lots of places have small funds that they can allocate to some events that you may be able to attend under that umbrella. Ask experienced coaches how they did it!” Lucy Gerrity, Assistant Coach, Colorado College (Division III)


On Having Mentors

“I learned from my mentors how to think outside of my comfort zone. I have stayed true to who I am and what I believe in, but I am able to understand and think in a fuller way that allows me to see the bigger picture.” Head Coach, Atlantic Coast Conference (Division I)

“The longer I have been coaching, the more I have come to value the colleagues and friends within our coaching community. Our fellow coaches know the ups and downs, successes and frustrations that we experience in our professional lives better than anyone. They are there to guide, advise, commiserate and comfort us in a way that our non-coaching friends and family can’t really do. I’m thankful for my coaching colleagues and the support they have provided in every stage of my career and I’m hopeful to pay it forward to others in the future.” Brooke O’Brien, Head Coach, Washington and Lee University (Division III)

“Over many years of attending the clinics, I have learned stickwork drills from Kelly Amonte Hiller, defensive schemes from Bonnie Rosen, a motion offense from Gary Gait, competitive drills from Missy Foote, a full-field ride from Ricky Fried, goal keeping techniques from Stuey, and countless other techniques and strategies that have made me a better coach throughout my career. But without a doubt, the most important lesson I learned is the value of freely sharing your knowledge and insight in order to grow the game. I am humbled, grateful and amazed by the willingness of so many colleagues to do this.” Head Coach, Little East Conference (Division III)

“We have some of the best and brightest women in the country at our fingertips…use them! Ask questions, and don’t be shy about expressing concerns. Challenge yourself just like your coach challenged you. How can you ask your athletes to work harder, work smarter, or use their resources if we don’t hold ourselves to that same standard?” Maureen Spellman, Head Coach, Endicott College (Division III)


Editor’s Note

This blog entry was compiled using IWLCA member coaches’ responses to questions posed to them. Some of the contributors have asked to remain anonymous – we respect their wishes and have identified them only by their Title, Division, and/or Conference.

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