“So, what do you do when you’re not in season?”

By Jen Muston, Head Coach, York College of PA  @YCPWLacrosse

If you are a college coach of any sport, you have probably heard this question at some point in your past (if not, multiple times!). People mean well, they really do. But every now and then (or in my case-very frequently), you will engage in conversations when the inevitable question arises. Ranging from meeting new people, to meeting old friends, they usually start with “How’s the team?” or “What’s the upcoming season looking like?” As the conversation progresses, I can see it coming: “What do you do in the off-season? Do you still have to go into the office?”  Close friends, family, colleagues in the profession, or folks with an athletic background, they get it. They understand what we do and everything that goes into this profession year-round. They understand that coaching responsibilities in the off-season are just as important as in season. Acquaintances such as neighbors, family friends, doctors, or new friends are mostly unaware of everything this profession entails off the field. They sometimes even ask:

“Do you have another job?”

Photo courtesy of York College Athletics.

Although they mean well, this where I am happy to provide a glimpse into the world of a college coach.

No, I do not have another job. Yes, I go into the office in the off-season, and yes, my job is full time (it’s an actual career!). In my usual snappy way, I will sometimes respond by saying:

“Do you think Mike Krzyzewski of Duke Men’s Basketball just shows up to coach practice and then leaves, and that’s it?!”

I follow up by saying that although York Lacrosse is not a big-time Division I basketball program, the job responsibilities are virtually the same:

Recruiting: Recruiting is 365 days per year! It is never-ending and there’s never a break. There are constant emails, texts, and phone calls to make or return. My staff and I send mailings out to potential recruits, travel year-round to watch players in tournaments, and take notes and make lists and google docs, and then go back and edit those lists and docs regularly. We schedule and conduct campus visits and provide the same tour to every visitor (for 12 years) but treat each one like it’s the first.

The highs of the commitments and lows of the “thanks, but I chose another school” are some of the many aspects of our profession that I love because of the daily challenges they present. It’s exciting, frustrating, relieving, and stressful (sometimes all at the same time), extremely time consuming and often results in time away from our families. It requires an enormous amount of patience but in the end can be extremely rewarding. When the class that you’ve worked diligently to build for one to two years finally comes together, there is a sense of accomplishment and pride that is indescribable!

The Team: This part of our job is also 365! We are in charge of 25+ plus 18-22-year-olds and guiding them through this phase of their lives. We serve as their second parents and will interact with them and watch out for them on a daily basis for four years. They all have different personalities, needs, strengths, goals, and all deserve to be fully understood. For me and my staff, spending time truly getting to know and understand each player is constant as circumstances are ever changing. However, this is an extremely rewarding and gratifying part of the job and worth every second. To have an opportunity to interact, mentor, and create individual relationships with young females that will last for years to come is something I cherish. It gives me a great sense of pride to think back on all the young women that have come through this program, and to continue to watch them enter the different phases of life is immensely fulfilling.

Of course, there will be a few missteps along the way… players will endure situations that require a little extra attention, maybe a few meetings, or even some discipline! But it’s all a part of this process and we have to constantly be on our toes because it can change at any moment. One minute you are enjoying a nice dinner with your family and you’re reflecting on your productive day. The next minute you get a text:

“Coach, can you talk?”

Or,

“Coach, do you have any time to meet tomorrow?”

If you are at all like me, these texts cause my mind to race. I immediately think the worst, when most of the time what they need is so far from that!

“Yes, I can talk, and yes, I’m available to meet tomorrow but I need to know RIGHT NOW what we are meeting about!”

Most of the time it’s never about what my wandering mind thought, and it’s sometimes as minor as “can I switch my small practice shorts to a medium?” Ok, yes you can, but can you please just ask that?! No need for the “can we meet” text. These guys keep me and my staff on our toes and that’s what makes this job so exciting. You never know what’s next and as much as you plan or think you can anticipate the next steps, you can’t!

Planning: This entire profession is planning. We plan every practice down to the minute, and then struggle to stay within that timeframe when we are actually out on the field. We even plan out what time we are going to plan practice each day as a coaching staff! Planning practice takes anywhere from 1-2 hours and sometimes we are interrupted and have to come back to it later. And then there’s the game schedules… we plan these a year or two in advance, and then slightly panic and scramble at the last minute to fill that final game slot that no one else seems to have open, even though we’ve emailed about 25 coaches. We plan an entire season (four months) and fall ball (two months) worth of practice times day by day, then we change it three or four times around the team’s class schedules before we finally get it right. We plan everything months, or even years in advance and then adjust and adapt as circumstances change (and they do).

We plan (and fundraise for) our team’s spring break trip which also entails getting the whole crew to the airport, on the plane, and through the entire week of “spring break” when in reality it is everything but a break. As my players know, “it’s business, not a vacation!” We even plan our day, make lists and feel excited to tackle the day and be productive, only to get NOTHING done off of said list. Players will stop in and out all day to chat, someone needed to switch their practice gear size (remember, they texted to meet the night before?), other coaches in the department popped in to catch up or tell us that there’s donuts in the back for everyone (perk!). Admissions called about a recruit’s transcript who we are still waiting on and now we have to track her down, my assistant and I ended up going out for a quick lunch since we didn’t pack anything, and someone just picked up the team laundry but can’t find their practice pinnie. Before too long, it is 4:30 pm and we didn’t tackle anything on the list! Such is the life of a coach and what keeps us moving forward… the excitement of it all and the fact that things can change on a dime. Not to mention a number of us have secondary job responsibilities within the department as a part of our contracts and have to find time to complete those duties. Don’t even get me started on trying to explain secondary duties!

So, when someone asks me, “It’s December, what kinds of things are you doing in the office, do you even have to go in?”

This is my answer. By the time I’ve gotten through all of this, surely, they are completely tuned out! But it’s hard to sometimes put into words exactly what we do. Truthfully, we have the best job in the world. I wouldn’t trade this for anything and I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I love being a part of this ever-changing, beautiful game of ours and cherish the opportunity to play a role in the lives of these young women. They keep it interesting for sure and challenge me every day to be a better person, coach and second mom.

This is what I do when I am not in season. No, I do not have another job. This is my job, rather, this is my way of life and I absolutely love it!

2 thoughts on ““So, what do you do when you’re not in season?”

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