I spent last Saturday with one of my sons at a college lacrosse clinic, where he along with scores of other high school juniors were demonstrating their skills to a group of college coaches, with the hopes of being recruited for a college team. After the lunch break, the head coach of the host school stepped in front of the bleachers to talk to the players and their parents about the college recruitment process. I got ready to hear a series of deadlines and schedules. Instead, I heard a series of life lessons. 

The 6’5” coach stood in front of us all and announced in a booming voice: “We are here to talk about getting to the finish line. The finish line is NOT getting on a college team and becoming a lacrosse champion. The finish line is getting a great job, providing well for yourself and your family, having a great life.” While he did talk about schedules and recruitment processes, with each set of facts came words of wisdom, such as “Work as hard as you can so that you can be certain to eliminate regret. If you learn to do that, you will know how to deal with whatever adversity you encounter in life.” He encouraged the boys to make a college decision based upon the possibility of not playing with the team, to ask themselves if they weren’t playing, “Can you still be happy and succeed at the school?” His criteria for a recruitable player included “intangibles” which went far beyond the playing field. In addition to looking for players who were coachable and very competitive, he wanted young men who took good care of themselves and were respectful of their parents. He wanted team players, because “the secret to making yourself happy is to build other people up.” His message was clear: Succeeding in college, and having a productive, happy life were far more important goals than playing for a team or having a winning season. A far cry from Vince Lombardi, but quite effective. I heard a player say immediately after the coach was done, “That was one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard!”.

Hearing this coach’s inspirational words took me back to a lunch I attended this summer with a few educators and non-profit heads where we discussed how to bring the motivation and discipline that boys willingly accept and absorb from coaches into the classroom. An earlier GCP post, “What Teachers Can Learn From Coaches” (4/8/11) focused on this as well. Hearing this lacrosse coach’s talk reminded me that this is a critical path to pursue. Our boys, regardless of whether they have any athletic ability, can and should benefit from the discipline and motivational push that coaches instill in their players at every practice.

Carol Sutton Lewis