Behind the Whistle: The Keys to Success


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

As colleges across the country are marking the start of a new academic year, we decided to ask some of our members to share their advice for the Class of 2025. This year’s freshmen class has endured a tumultuous transition from high school to college that will likely continue to be a rocky road. We hope the insight and guidance provided by these coaches can help them weather the storm and prepare to crush their first years as collegiate student-athletes.


The best advice I can give is to stay present. It is so easy to get caught up in what happened yesterday or what is going to happen tomorrow, but when you do that, you miss all that is happening that day. I wish that I could go back and relive my first semester of freshman year because I missed out on so many opportunities being focused on the future, or things that had gone wrong the day before, or even things that were just out of my control. I wish I had just lived in the moment and enjoyed all the little things. There were so many new, exciting things happening during that time. All the new friends that I was making, being able to live on my own with friends just down the hall, new teammates who were going to push me to be better than I was yesterday, getting to still play the sport I love, and so much more. Find the little things each day that make that day great and stay present in that moment. At least until the next day, and then do it all over again!


Embrace the change! Your first year in college will be the best year and most challenging year all at the same time. You will be meeting people from all areas, balancing a packed schedule and learning how to live on your own, play a collegiate sport for the first time while maintaining time for coursework, friends, family, and the list goes on. Step out of your comfort zone and try that new food item in the dining hall, hold the door for the stranger behind you, pass with someone different each day at practice, and sit next to someone new in your English class. This year will be a year you remember for the rest of your life; breathe, roll with the punches. There will be ups and downs along the way, but try to enjoy every minute of it!


Congratulations for embarking on such a momentous season in your life. Being a student-athlete is a time of excitement, adventure, and challenge. I encourage you to find great friends, at least one mentor, and three reasons to stick it out through the hard times. When you feel overwhelmed and want to quit, lean on those things to help you push through. You’ve got this. I have every confidence in each and every one of you. The coaching staff at Pacific University wish you the best and are always available if you ever want to reach out. 


Be where your feet are! The greatest gift of advice I’ve received when approaching a new chapter, and in general, is to live in the present. Practicing greater mindfulness in staying in the present moment is key. This means focusing on giving your best effort and intention, one task at a time. It can easily become overwhelming thinking about “what’s next,” rather than staying in the now, because time management is one of the greatest challenges of being a student-athlete. While living in the present, you can further cultivate meaningful and genuine relationships around you. You will be encouraged throughout this process. Enjoy this new journey while staying in the present moment! 


Communicate with your coaches! We can only support you when we know what’s going on. There are a lot of big emotions heading into freshman year, new spaces to figure out and the best way to find your role, set goals, and know expectations is to communicate with your coaches. It can seem intimidating at times, but it will help form your individual relationship with your coach and gain their perspective of how they view you as a player, which can alleviate a lot of anxiety outside of lacrosse. If there is a question, don’t be afraid to ask!


Everything in your first semester/year is new. Have patience with yourself as you learn and adjust. You must work harder than you probably have up to this point, but you can do it — a lot of people believe in you. There will be hard days, but you will get back up and become stronger. Lean on your teammates! They are more than the person you pass to on the field. Use your resources … You have more than you may think, so ASK! You are where you are for a reason. You have proven yourself to be at the next level athletically and academically so don’t take it for granted or wait for tomorrow. Four years is not a long time as you just experienced with high school. Be grateful … make every opportunity a chance to get better and better yourself. Enjoy the team and the sport while you can, and if you do, you’ll never lose it.


Give your team your best effort, energy, and enthusiasm each day, pay attention to the details, and learn from EVERYONE around you … Enjoy every moment!


Honestly, and I know you don’t believe it now, but before you know it you will be entering your senior year wondering where the time went.  Enjoy the little moments, like decorating your dorm room for the first time, meeting your teammates who will ultimately become your best friends long after you are handed that diploma, and dreaming of your future. These moments will fly by, so always remember to take time for yourself and support each other (always). 


Congratulations! You made it and you deserve to be here. Your journey through college won’t be easy and it might look a little different than you planned. You are in a space to learn, grow, take risks, and fail. Push yourself to try new things, meet new people and step beyond what you thought you were capable of. It’s important to stay flexible when unexpected things come your way because this will build overall resiliency. Your coaches, athletic department, professors, and campus staff are all here to help you with the transition to college. There are important resources to help you develop strategies to thrive during your time as a student-athlete. Take the time to listen, learn and ASK for help when needed. Most people want you to succeed and just need to know what you require. If you don’t know what you need, but you feel off, that’s OK — speak up and someone will point you in the right direction. Think about your vision for how you want your freshman year to go and put that vision into action. Enjoy the journey and work hard.


These are going to be the best four years of your life. It might’ve been a different journey than you expected, but it will be an even better result than expected. These years aren’t given, they are granted to those who dedicate, sacrifice, and persevere. The expectations of college you have in your mind won’t even come close to reality. You will gain a family that you’ll have for life. But, remember that family got you to this point. Your parents, siblings, teammates, and coaches have also dedicated, sacrificed, and persevered … for you. You’re worth it. This journey was worth it. Make these next four years worth it. 


Bring your light and don’t be afraid to shine! Being true to your core values and bringing yourSELF to your team will enrich your own experience, as well as that of your new teammates and coaches. This is an opportunity that you have earned. Continue to work hard, embrace new challenges, and allow yourself to fail forward. It should be FUN. Lacrosse is a gift, given to you to enjoy. You get to play a beautiful game, make the most of it and enjoy the ride! 


What a journey you’ve taken to get to this point. Hard work, sacrifices, joy, and uncertainties. But here you are. You made it, ready to write the next chapter in your book. Know that this journey will be more challenging and more rewarding than anything you’ve experienced yet. Know that you will make mistakes (quite a few of them), and IT’S OK! Learn from them and move forward. Know that you will have hard days. Lean on your circle — teammates, friends, advisors, coaches. Know that you will find some of the highest highs with those same people. Soak them all in, and don’t take a single one of them for granted. And, although it may not feel like it right now, as you sit in your dorm room, overwhelmed and missing home, trying to figure out how in the world you’re going to attend all your classes, finish your homework that’s due tomorrow, go to practice and lift, and still have time to eat and sleep … Know that you will find your way.


One of the best, most memorable years in your college experience is your first one. It is a whirlwind of new faces, finding balance, managing your time, but within the chaos, it is a lot of fun. To maximize your first semester, figure out your flow. Explore what daily routine makes you feel your best. What environment do you study best in? What makes you feel most productive? Set yourself up for success by getting organized. Write down academic assignments, due dates, and be present in your classes by taking good notes throughout. Prioritize yourself! Get outside, get good sleep, and make time to exercise. Choose to be all in and embrace this time as a freshman. Be an active participant on campus, put yourself out there by attending social events and introducing yourself. Growth comes from stretching yourself and navigating challenges. Choose to be where your feet are and make this special time a great experience! 


Get involved! Each university is filled with diverse people with different interests and skills. Get outside and experience your WHOLE campus. Staying in your team or athletic department bubble is easy. Your school offers so much more than just athletics … get out there and see EVERYTHING your school has to offer!

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