As a coach we find ourselves immersed in teaching our athletes, guiding them and very often becoming more of an influence on that time we spend with them then we even realize. There’s no question that coaches have a great responsibility as we impact lives – in good or in bad ways.
But what I cherish the most from coaching, what I want players and parents to know, is that the impact the players make in a coaches life can be far greater than any wisdom we ever imparted onto them. There’s a reason we see coaches return despite some difficult situations, year after year to keep going. There’s certainly a reason that coaches across the world who face mountainous medical challenges, family and job challenges, some even battling cancer, continue to coach through the trials they are facing. That reason, my awesome lacrosse players and families, is YOU.
Fellow US Lacrosse Coaches Education Trainer, Tom Messmer, has a wonderful tradition with his lacrosse team. It’s a top ten list of things that his team has taught to him throughout the season. Ever write down all the lessons you learned from that group of players? Every season is a new adventure, this kind of memory treasure can make even the most difficult of seasons remind us that there are those priceless moments that popped up and kept us going.
Below is by Tom Messmer:
Coach Toms Top Ten From the 2015 Lacrosse Team
Everyday I asked you what went well today, what did you learn, what do we need to work on, but you never asked me what I learned. Today you should.
10. You taught me to never judge a book by its cover. Not everyone here looks fast, has years of lacrosse experience, or has even played years of team sports, but everyone here became a better lacrosse player every day we were together. You were “happy surprises”
9. You reinforced my firm belief that setting high expectations is the only way to achieve real results.
8. You taught me that when you least expect it, kids will surprise you.
7. You taught me that perception covers a broad spectrum, when at beginning of practice someone said “lacrosse is more intense than I expected”….. And that same day a freshman says, “Coach Tom, you’re really passionate about the game”.
6. You taught me the value of riding the bus, because If you really wanna know what’s important to your kids, listen to what they talk about on the bus
5. You taught me how hard it is to learn 30 names because you all have “Ellie” t-shirts, but only one of you is named Ellie.
4. You taught me how a team can really be led entirely by underclassman, and it’s not JUST a good practice to groom new captains as Juniors. Three Juniors OWNED this team, and led by example. We always say that our lacrosse programs are meant to develop strong empowered young women, and your captains showed this, especially in the way the approached me over the last few games.
3. You’ve taught me patience in more ways than I can count. I’m a different coach, a better coach, because of my time with you this year.
2. I learned that no matter how “hard” I can seem to you, all it takes to bring tears to my eyes is one kid trying to give me back my stick after she played with it for two seasons. I loved that stick, and yeah, you won’t be back next season, but that’s your stick. It’s connected to your memories, to our collective memories. You reminded me how hard it is to say goodbye to a team.
1. You helped me learn to really understand my coaching philosophy by making me live it every day for a full season. For many years I’ve preached to my teams that “some days you will play poorly and win and other days you will play well and lose, but we strive to play well regardless, because this is what we will remember long after the memory of the score fades”. The truth is, I started to preach this to 17-2 teams, when it was easy to coach to this philosophy…….because the scoreboard generally showed us winning. There’s no test there. You made me learn to live this every day, by seeing the progress, even in the losses, and by recognizing your individual accomplishments and skills progress, even when it didn’t always translate to success on the scoreboard. You tested me, every day for 12 weeks, by making me dig deep to really internalize that if we play our best, improve day to day, and leave it all on the field, we may be behind on the scoreboard at the end of the game, but we cannot be defeated.
This is a powerful list, and I plan to use Tom’s idea next year with my own teams. Thank you players, for enriching our lives, teaching us, and giving back to us in so many ways while we worked to teach and lead you.