Behind the Whistle: Thank You to My Mentor


This story initially appeared on Behind the Whistle, the official blog of the IWLCA, and is being republished with permission from the organization. Kristen Stuckel is the head coach at Muhlenburg College.

When you hear the words “Gettysburg College,” they may conjure up thoughts of a battlefield, a tremendous college, an intense battle on the athletic field, which could be good or bad memories!

I have all those thoughts, but mostly amazing images, especially because of my mentor Carol Cantele. During my college years, Carol started at Gettysburg as the field hockey and lacrosse coach, for which I played both. The solid foundation that Gettysburg gave Carol was an opportunity she took and excelled in.

A community has formed in Carol’s athletic programs that she has been building for almost 30 years. It’s been created through hard work and doing the little things that matter to athletes. She has cultivated a Gettysburg family from the traditions and love she grew up with from her own parents, siblings and immediate family. Athletes are inspired to take on challenges, knowing that on the other side of fear is usually a great opportunity. She has shown the athletes that they matter through time spent getting to know each athlete, knowing what’s important and motivating to them.

Carol uses sports as a platform to teach and inspire young athletes to not just speak about “how to live a life that makes the minutes count,” but to put it into action. The teams have been united to work harder for each other and the team through goal setting, long runs, silly fun games, team initiatives and meaning behind their season. I was fortunate to be along for part of the journey.

A few years after my college graduation, Carol called me after working at my pharmaceutical job and said to come back to Gettysburg, coach and get my master’s degree! How did she know that the best part of my day was volunteering with my alma mater high school lacrosse and field hockey programs? Most in my life thought I was a bit crazy to leave a great salary, a brand new business car and a 401k, (except maybe my dad), but I followed my gut and dove into a whole new career. And it turned out pretty great!

When I think of my time working with Carol, a quote from Benjamin Franklin comes to mind: “Tell me, and I forget, teach me, and I may remember, involve me, and I learn.”  

And involve me Carol did.

Her hard work, ability to try new things, involve the players in personal and athletic growth and opportunity to have fun made it a fantastic experience because she involved me! And we had a lot of laughs along the way!

She taught me to care about the players — push them, hold them accountable. After an end of season banquet, I remember leaving and wondering why the athletes didn’t seem more appreciative of all Carol’s hard work and attention to detail. It was a time before technology allowed us to make easy end of season highlight videos, but Carol put the time in to create an impactful season highlight video. I will spare you the details, but let’s just say we had to use still shot pictures. The countless hours and devotion put into the season seemed missed by the athletes. But Coach said, “It takes time. Your impact as a coach my not be recognized at all or not for many years, but you are making a positive impact.”

Carol continues to be a motivator. I see a mentor as someone who doesn’t give you the answers but helps you find your own answers. She will listen, support and inspire through her words and actions. Of course, it is better to win as Carol does, but she has also taught me that the experience coaches guide players through is valuable, meaningful, fulfilling and with purpose.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,” Winston Churchill said. And I thank Carol for all that she has given to me and to the world of lacrosse; you continue to make the moments count! Perhaps you have a mentor who has done the same and would love to know their impact.

Congrats to the IWLCA 2021 Hall of Fame Inductees: Carol Cantele, Jane Smith and Sue Stahl!

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