Behind the Whistle: For the Love of the Game


Photo by Jonas Powell, courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics

This story initially appeared on Behind the Whistle, the official blog of the IWLCA, and is being republished with permission from the organization.

Although Valentine’s Day has long been a celebration of romantic love, we decided to use the holiday as an excuse to celebrate our love of women’s lacrosse. We asked our members to share insight on what they love about lacrosse and coaching this amazing sport.

Meredith Black, Marquette University

What I love most about lacrosse is being a part of a team and building amazing relationships with my players! I also love seeing success with either a player or your team after she or they have been working on something for a long time. Watching my player overcome a challenge on the field is one of the best feelings! Of course, I also love competing and being able to be on the field as my full-time job!

Rebecca Sheinfeld, Methodist University 

This year has shown me even more reasons why I love coaching and being part of this beautiful game. I love the feeling when you walk out onto the field for practice, get the speaker bumping with warmup jams and watch the team get in the mindset needed to perform. I love where this sport has taken me and the friends I’ve met because of it. I love the laughter I’ve had from the hilarious comments my players make. Lastly, I LOVE that we just get to play! The sound of a shot hitting the back of a net, our players cheers or sticks hitting on a (legal) stick check. Nothing can be better than that!

Liz Grote, Bowdoin College

What do I love about lacrosse??? EVERYTHING! I love seeing our team members grow as people and realize all the potential they have while here at Bowdoin and beyond. When we set a goal, we accomplish it TOGETHER as one. The young women that come out of this program are prepared to face anything and find success in any field they head into. Lacrosse itself — the fastest game on two feet! I love the flow and unpredictability of the game. Game day butterflies! I love making the game simple and watching our team execute, react and solve.

I love the people lacrosse has connected me to — my best friends, fellow coaches, current and past players.

Dijone’ Scurry, William Peace University

Even though many of us love lacrosse, we all love it in a different and unique way that is all our own. It is not just a sport we love dearly; it has become part of our identity, whether that is as a player, coach, official, etc. The culture of the game of lacrosse is undeniably an important aspect of my love for the game. Anyone that has been involved in any aspect knows what is meant by the culture of lacrosse. It is family! As a player, I remember having butterflies before the first game, eagerly anticipating the opening draw. I look back on the team dinners, bus rides and time spent with my teammates that became my family with joy, laughter and love. As I moved into coaching, this was the beginning of my purpose — not to give back, but to pay it forward. To use the game of lacrosse that has given me so much from building character and allotting me opportunities, it is imperative that I provide other young ladies those opportunities and more.

Kevin Cooke, Mercyhurst University

What I love the most about coaching at the college level is watching the development of the player from their freshman year to their graduation. The on- and off-field player grows so much during the time we have to spend with them. It is great when you see the final product from a player that you knew was inside of them all along.

Jen Fox Sargent, Roger Williams University

The best job in the entire world is being a coach. I’ve realized it’s the most rewarding job out there. It’s not the easiest job, but it sure does make me happy. It takes way more time, sacrifice, patience, energy, preparation, film, tough conversations, pep talks, parents, emails, phone calls, texts and gas than you ever imagined. As a coach, you recruit but you never really know what kind of team you’re going to be dealt on day one. Are they going to have talent? Chemistry? Hustle? Heart? You never really know. But to me, that is the ultimate challenge, and I freaking LOVE it! I love the challenge of creating culture through the game of lacrosse. It’s what drives me every single day. To me, the greatest part about being a coach is when you have those moments (and coaches, you know what I’m talking about!). Those moments when you see progress made when you thought it may never come. You see that you have moved that needle, and you have in fact impacted an individual or an entire group of young women. Although these moments may not come as often as one would like, they sure do keep you coming back for more! I am so lucky to be able to coach. To all coaches out there, keep going! Keep digging for those moments because they will come! And they will be worth it! I promise.

Riley Smith, Wesleyan University

My love for lacrosse and coaching is so much more than just the practices and games or the wins and losses. It’s the late nights in the office watching film, the joy when your team loves a drill as much as you do and the relief when everything in the food order is correct. I love lacrosse for the opportunities it has presented for me to grow, the relationships it has allowed me to foster and the lessons it has taught me. Lacrosse is ingrained in every aspect of my life, and I would not want it any other way.

Anne Versprille, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

At MIT, we love acronyms! In true MIT fashion, here is an acronym sharing what I love about lacrosse.

Leadership — the opportunity to grow as a person and leader while helping young women do the same.
Accountability — on the field and in life, our lacrosse community holds everyone to high standards personally and professionally.
Coaches — the ability to learn from amazing coaches in the lacrosse community as well as our DAPER community at MIT. [Shoutout to Coach Mullady of Springfield College; I would not be who or where I am without her!]
Relationships — the people I have met through the sport have changed my life and continue to do so every day!
Oasis — on the most challenging days, the field is the best place to be (even if it is the challenge).
Squads — the women I have coached are committed to personal growth, helping others and having fun, all while giving 100 percent on the field to make themselves, their team and our program better.
Sunsets — I love sunrises, but during lacrosse season, there is nothing better than the sun setting over practice or a game!
Everything — so what is there not to love?

Lindsay Teeters, American University

What I love the most about lacrosse is the community and family it’s created for me. I certainly thought I loved lacrosse before college, but it was my coaches at Boston University, Liza and Liz, who taught me to love the game and showed me that with hard work, passion and dedication, that the game would love you back. The lacrosse community gave me my best friends, introduced me to my husband (shoutout Kunkle-Maryland Lax), provided me a living with a beautiful life and continuously gives me so much more than I could have ever imagined! I’ve never loved the game and lacrosse community more than I do at this moment.

Suzette Soboti, University of Redlands

What I love about coaching women’s lacrosse: Family. I wasn’t able to have my own children, so the connection with the women I coach is more than just coaching/mentoring … they become part of my family. I could be having the worst personal or work day ever, but when I get to the field and I see the enjoyment the student-athletes are having together, I am able to forget even the most terrible of situations and escape into the beautiful game and their enthusiasm. Now not every day is perfect, and there are times of adversity, but it is these opportunities to teach a life lesson, forgive and move on which also gives me fulfillment. When my student-athletes feel so comfortable to come to me with small and big life challenges for advice, it grows our connections beyond the Xs/Os or the wins and losses. To feel as though I am able to make a difference in the development of strong women, many of whom continue to give back as a coach on some level (and will rule the world someday!), is where the true love is for me.

Kelly Buikus, University of the Cumberlands

I love that I’m able to make a living doing what I love. While this has been a challenging year to say the least, how lucky are we as coaches to have a profession that we invest so much of ourselves in? I love that we as coaches are challenged each and every day and that it is NEVER boring. Lastly, I love my team and the relationships, traditions and culture that we continue to build. 

B.J. Johnson, Kean University

The thing that I love most about lacrosse is that it has been the one constant for most of my life. It started when I was 10 years old and 30 years later, lacrosse is still with me. It was there in the awkward middle school days and again in high school. In college and in all the places I have lived, lacrosse came with me. At my wedding and after having kids, lacrosse is still a part of me. The sticks aren’t wood anymore and this girl has grown up, but lacrosse is still by my side.

Taylor Paige, Shenandoah University

I enjoy coaching lacrosse because of the opportunities it has provided me with, whether that be meeting new people or traveling to new locations. We are very fortunate as coaches to be able to give back to the sport and mentor women who are at a fun age. As cliche as it sounds, lacrosse does provide people with lifelong friends and connections.

Samantha Hurley, Young Harris College 

Some may get butterflies on the first date. I get butterflies with every practice. There’s just something about walking out to your field, seeing your girls walking up together, laughing, just as excited as you (except on running test day maybe). Each year we get to watch the team chemistry grow, watch the connections flourish and witness a group of girls become a team. And we get to be part of that. We are the ‘match makers.’ Love the process because they are relationships and memories that will last a life time.

Kelsey Howard, Colby College

I think my smile says it all when it comes to my love for the game. My parents and a couple of my close friends used to tell me that I would run down the field with a smile on my face, something I was not consciously meaning to do. Not the kind of smile where my teeth are showing, and I am beaming ear to ear. They say it was just subtle enough that only those who knew me well enough could tell. Now mind you, I am very competitive, but for some reason, it didn’t matter if we were losing by a goal or winning by 10. That smile remained. I think that smile says it all, and Mia Hamm said it best, “… a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back …” No matter what was or is going on in my life or in the world, when I step onto the field, all is forgotten. It is just me, my teammates (now players) and the game. I love the competition, how a three-point lead can quickly change to behind by four. I love the creativity allowed and how just when you think it’s all been done, something new is introduced. I love that foes on opposite teams become quick friends when you realize you made up all those things about them in your head just because you were competing for the same hardware at the season's end. And today, I love seeing when my players are reminded of why they play the game. It’s the smile that slowly starts to form on their face that brings that same smile back to mine that my family and friends told me about those 15 years ago.

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