Behind the Whistle: Lessons Learned


Kelly Nangle is the head coach at Liberty University.

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

As all of our seasons are starting to come to a close, I can’t help but reflect on this past year and all the lessons we learned.

While it was probably the most challenging season any of us have ever had to lead through, I think it could also end up being one of the greatest seasons of growth that we’ll ever experience as leaders. I think it all depends on our perspective and what we choose to take from it.

This past season has forced us to think outside the box, be more creative and be the most flexible we have ever been. I wanted to share with you all a few lessons we learned that we will carry with us into the future.


This is a statement we have all probably heard by now, either in conversations or in a book we’ve read, but what does it actually mean? How can we do this?

We are the literal designers of our student-athletes’ schedules; we can carve out time for anything we want (within the NCAA rules of course). Something I learned this year is that it is OK to give up an hour or two of practice time for something more important. Sometimes spending time with your team to have difficult conversations or even just having conversations about anything other than lacrosse is more important than practice time.

For the first time in my career, I created space (time in our schedule) devoted to non-lacrosse activities. We watched some documentaries about real stuff going on in our world today and had some great conversations that we never would have had without the space to do it. I am looking forward to continuing to create that space for our team to grow even when we aren’t navigating through a pandemic.


Here is another statement that gets thrown around a lot. It sounds great in theory, but up until this year, I don’t think I actually carried this out. How many times as coaches this season did we follow something up with, “At least we are out here getting to play the sport we love?”

I think the fact that we didn’t lose sight of how precious these opportunities are made this season even more enjoyable. We couldn’t help but be reminded every day of the uncertainty, whether it was COVID testing, false positives or contact tracing, we all had a sense of appreciation for the simple things more than we’ve probably ever had.

I hope we keep this going. I hope after experiencing a season like this, we don’t just celebrate the big moments but the small ones and even the medium, average moments because when we do, we create a sense of joy and appreciation that our students-athletes won’t ever forget and hopefully they carry that with them into life after college.


Another new thing for us this year is having to wait until June 1 to recruit. Like most of you, we usually hit the road right when the season ends to get to as many high school games as possible. It is a lot easier to just dive into the next thing than it is to wrap up a 10-month journey that ends in a loss (unless you are winning a national championship — good for you, you probably don’t even have to go to high school games!).

I can’t even describe how much I have learned by taking the time to meet with our student-athletes and HEAR their feedback and have the space (created by the opening in my schedule) to work on applying the feedback for next year. We have always just breezed past this “ending” portion without really giving ourselves room to grow.

I think, as college coaches, we put all this pressure on ourselves to be busy. There’s always an opportunity to get an edge on someone else who isn’t recruiting. We tell ourselves these things, but really those of us that take the time needed at the end of the season to rest, relax and reflect have had it right all along!

I may make my own “no recruiting until June 1” rule after this year because as we’ve all learned, we can’t grow without space.

Here’s to rolling into this next season of life better than we were before! See you all on the recruiting trail! Go Flames!

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