Coaching Wisdom Learned the Hard Way

Been hanging around the playing fields a bit more this spring. Brings back a host of thoughts and memories. Here are a few bits and pieces about coaching that I have picked up over the years, a fair number of which were learned the hard way. In no particular order…

  1.  The essence of offense is unpredictability.
  2. You will have bad days on offense. But you never need have a bad day on defense.
  3. Scout strategy not talent. And assume that your upcoming opponent is having a bad day, no matter how the players perform when you are watching them.  And if you must bring your players with you — my advice = Don’t! — the myopia will only be magnified. (True Story: Many moons ago, I took my lacrosse team to Boston to watch a Harvard game. At halftime, one of my captains came up to me and said, “Coach, we could hang with these guys.”… Me = “Yeesh…”)
  4. “Coaching is about two things: Winning and Misery.” – Glenn Begly, longtime Hobart William Smith women’s basketball coach; father of former Hyde teacher/coach Corey Begly
  5. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. Trite but true.
  6. “Baby a loser… Beat on a winner.” – Gary Kent, legendary Hyde coach in 70s, 80s, and 90s. (Translation: When your team is on a losing streak, tell them you believe in them and assure them that the next win is just around the corner. If on a winning streak, tell them that they’ve been feasting on cream puffs and have yet to be pushed.)
  7. “There are three kinds of offensive players: 1) Initiators; 2) Reactors; 3) Watchers. Purge your team of #3s.” – Dick Garber, legendary lacrosse coach at UMass.
  8. In the lacrosse kingdom, think of the defense as bears, the middies as tigers, and the attack as water bugs (every once in a while, you might get a beautiful hummingbird). With goalies, things get more complicated…
  9. Great lacrosse goalies tend to fall into two camps. There’s the Thoreau camp: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” And then there’s the Randle McMurphy camp: flat out cray-cray.
  10. Sometimes if you can shut down your opponent’s best offensive player, you can checkmate the whole team’s confidence. If not, you know you’re up against a real TEAM.
  11. “Be an athlete!” – Mort LaPointe. Bowdoin College lacrosse coach from 1970 thru 1990. (218 Wins, 76 losses for a career percentage of 74%) One of the great mentors I have been fortunate to have in my life.
  12. G.B.W.G. (Ground Balls Win Games). My first lacrosse coach (Fessenden School, 1968) told me that. He was right.

Onward, Malcolm Gauld