Behind the Whistle: 20 Lessons From a Coaching Mentor & Former 'Boss' Coach


Noelle Brouillard was hired to coach Whitworth in May 2017.

This story initially appeared on Behind the Whistle, the official blog of the IWLCA, and is being republished with permission from the organization. Noelle Brouillard is the head coach at Whitworth University.

I won’t disclose the name of the coach that I learned all these valuable lessons from. My former coach is now a great coaching friend/mentor and is an incredibly humble and selfless person, so I know she would rather be anonymous than let me scream from the rooftops how amazing she was to work under.

To my now wonderful coaching friend: Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to work for you all those years ago, integrating me into the world of coaching, and continuing to be a mentor for me today, even across three time zones. The world of coaching needs more mentors like you to teach young coaches these lessons:

1. Your head coach needs you — not just for Costco food runs, but to be a shoulder to lean on, a fresh perspective and someone to help process ideas with.

2. Family is important. Take the week with your family for your annual summer vacation, shut off your phone for important holidays, go spend an OFF weekend celebrating your grandpa’s birthday.

3. Take breaks with coaches in your department — mid-morning coffee breaks before your full day of individual meetings, 1:00 p.m. student center candy time. Spend 20 minutes making up pranks to play with your fellow coaching office mates. These activities won’t help you plan practice sooner, but you’ll get a much-needed break in the day that will create more productivity later.

4. Dogs are awesome. They are an immediate bonding point for any coaching staff and team and sometimes the only person who can lick away those tears on a “ruff” day.

5. Give your players space to come in and chat — over nothing, everything or anything. It’s fun to hear about cool things they do off the field.

6. Always have a box of (soft) tissues in your office. It is inevitable that someone will need one to cry into.

7. Leadership matters. Having the right leaders in place will take your team far.

8. Sometimes, your head coach needs you and you have to change plans, stay later, or move around your social schedule. Do so without complaints. You’ll need the same thing done for you some day.

9. Share stories with each other. Learn about each other’s families, friends and hobbies outside of coaching.

10. Connect with other coaches — in the area, at convention, or on the recruiting trail. Coaching friends are the best friends (thanks for letting me into your amazing group of coaching friends!).

11. Be where your feet are.

12. Make time for YOU — adult leagues/clubs, hobbies, self-care, adventures etc.

13. Create a set of standards/core values for your team. These will bind your group together in both good and bad times.

14. Have a coaching friend/peer/former boss that you can call up on those rough days to do nothing more than reminisce and laugh with.

15. Learn from everyone you interact with. We were always soaking up information from other coaches on campus and in the lacrosse community, collaborating and growing together

16. Check and re-check food orders and don’t trust that they put them in correctly. (Order an extra one to be safe!)

17. Always keep diligent notes/records — for individual meetings, player conversations, recruit calls, etc. — so you’ll always have records about what was discussed.

18. Your program coordinator/SWA will be your biggest supporter and best friend. They are the wheel hub of the athletic office and deserve so much more credit and recognition than they often receive.

19. Have a go-to coaching snack on those long in-season days. (I still don’t have a candy stash in my office, but I do occasionally have some at home.)

20. A head coach and assistant bond can make a world of difference for the team. I’m very glad to have started my first coaching job under one of the best.

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