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11 Lacrosse Lessons From Cathy Reese

Cathy Reese (Head Coach at the University of Maryland Women’s Lacrosse) is, undeniably, one of the greatest coaches ever in women’s college lacrosse.

While her accolades and contributions to the lacrosse game are mind-blowing, she seems to be an even better person who truly cares about the sport as well as her players.

I’ve watched several of her presentations and I’m always looking to learn and develop as a coach.

It’s been my opinion for several years that coaching goes way beyond X’s and O’s.

Being a great coach is not just being a great tactical coach (knowing the game).

This is where Cathy Reese excels.

And it’s no wonder why she’s been so successful in all her years.

Frankly, she “gets it.”

Here are some of her greatest insights (my personal notes) from one of her presentations at Lax Con (an annual lacrosse conference).

As you read this, you might think these are obvious things that all coaches do.

They are not.

This is why I captured them here because this is what great coaching should be modeled after.


1-KEEP IT SIMPLE

At Maryland, we keep things simple.

We don’t overthink things. Keep drills and concepts simple, not complex.

Just as important as lacrosse – is team chemistry.

Lacrosse is fun – and it should be fun. It’s a simple concept.

Players will keep playing – if it’s fun.

Translate things into competition because it’s fun and the energy levels skyrocket.

2-BE CREATIVE

Try new drills, sometimes it will work and sometimes it won’t.

Bring out music and do different things.

Stick work and fundamentals are paramount.

You can’t scrimmage until you can throw and catch the ball, you have to be able to do the basics.

But be creative with what you do.

3-BE READY TO REACT AND CHANGE

Be flexible as coach.

Be willing to change during practices.

Observe what’s working and what’s not.

Adapt as you need to make it the best experience for your team.

4-BUILD RELATIONSHIPS

You’re going to remember your relationships.

Do the things that build your relationships.

We do “Terp Olympics” for fun and engagement, it’s amazing.

Do team dinners, and keep team stats (not individual). Build your team.

Do your best to grow and develop your girls so they want to play for you.

A favorite quote from Cathy…“Kids don’t care how much you know, they want to know how much you care.” 

I know we’re focused on being better lacrosse coaches, but the reality is that we need to remember we are building people.

Create an environment that kids enjoy.

5-COMMUNICATION

Everyone has to be on the same page.

It’s hard to teach with the parents on the sidelines – parents tell the players to do different things that what the coaches are teaching them. This doesn’t work.

Establish communication standards so everyone understands.

Learn from each other.

Empower each other and learn from everyone.

Recognize and respect your staff.

Everyone brings something to the table and communication on all fronts is critical.

6-IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT X’s AND O’s

It’s easy to lose sight – as a coach – about what is important.

We have the ability, as a coach, to teach players:

  • how to be happy
  • how to be confident
  • how to live with integrity
  • how to treat people with respect

The players need to enjoy the experience in a positive environment.

What do you want your players to say when they leave your program?

“I want them to make memories that will last.”

7-TREAT EVERY PLAYER EQUALLY

Everyone is valuable.

Everyone has a role.

Everyone has value on your team.

We are all in this together – we all do things together.

“As coaches, we set the example.”

Nothing is beneath you (as a coach), you must be able to contribute and assist as needed.

“Be aware of how your players are treating each other – to create a positive environment.”

“Watch how players and coaches communicate with each other. It can be very eye-opening.”

Support each other, no matter your role.

This is a team, one team, and everyone is important.

8-AS A COACH, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU

If we focus on the negatives, the kids are going to focus on the negatives.

Players will emulate their coach, so watch how you carry yourself.

As a coach, we have such ability to empower.

Words matter and what we do matters.

This game is not about the coach, it’s about the players.

Be positive in all aspects and be a role model to emulate good behavior for your players.

9-BUILD CONFIDENCE

We want to create an environment where they’re not afraid to make mistakes.

This is crucial.

Making them run or yanking them out of a game when they drop a ball isn’t going to develop a better athlete. In fact, it’s the opposite.

It’s very easy – as a coach – to focus on the bad things. It’s too easy to do that.

Instead, focus on the good to build their confidence.

Compliment players and don’t create negative energy.

Create environments where everyone encourages each other and focuses on the good.

Celebrate team successes.

A simple compliment in front of the entire team can go a long way.

10-CARE

Players want to know that their coaches truly care.

It’s not all about lacrosse, invest in your players fully as human beings.

It bears repeating…

Kids don’t care how much you know, they want to know how much you care.

(In my experience and observation, today’s great coaches “connect” with players. There are many great books out today about how coaches can better understand and connect with their athletes. Reach out to me here and I’ll send you my recommendations.)

11-FOCUS ON “THE PROCESS”

Enjoy the process and grow as a team.

Live in the moment and enjoy the people who are around you.

Everybody should have “buy in” on your team goal – and you work together toward achieving that.

At the end of the day, it’s about the lessons you learn, the relationships you build, and who you become.

Coach Scott

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