More than a Feeling

Badass MUFH 2005 with Maeve, Annie, Bridget, and Allie

I try to soft boil eggs for me and Mike for breakfast. Fail. They’re more like hard-boiled eggs. So pissed. “It still tastes good.” Thanks, Mike. Still pissed.

We now have a 3-drawer dresser to put together tonight. This thing is even worse than the microwave cart – at least those parts were labeled with a letter or number. This thing has no labels on anything. I start to help Mike but take a break to make dinner. I really can’t stick with these things for too long. Mike seems like he has it figured out and it’s all together – all he has to do is put the drawers in. They don’t fit. I try. Nothing. So stupid. We look at the pictures, trying to figure out where it went wrong. Maybe it’s backwards. “You think we have to take it apart?” Yes. This time Mike looks like he wants to throw this whole thing through the window. I take over, breaking this stupid, stupid thing back down again. We put it back together and still can’t get the drawers in. I don’t get it. We finally realize that the drawers wouldn’t fit just because they’re a piece of crap. We have to finagle it and finally, they’re in. I hate this thing. We still have a 5-drawer dresser coming in and a night stand. Curse them both.

Rich is away for work so Tara asks us to stay over tonight. Gladly! Even though I’m more scared to be in her house than she is. I hear a noise and make Mike check the bathroom before I go in there. We watch the documentary Undefeated (it’s been nominated for the Oscars). Mike already saw it and loved it. I’m excited. It’s about a high school football coach and all the obstacles he and his team have to overcome.

When it’s over I’m pumped. It just makes me want to coach like, right now. When I moved to New York I searched all the high schools close by and emailed all the athletic directors who had field hockey programs. Only one school got back to me – The Spence School. They needed an assistant coach. I met with the AD, Coni, and we clicked immediately. It was her first year. She previously coached college field hockey and we were very like-minded in our coaching tactics. The head coach, Sarah, was in England, so I didn’t meet her until the first day of preseason. She had had a different assistant coach every year, and usually someone who didn’t know much about the sport. I was super pumped and eager to be there, and we got along immediately. She had my back on every thing and always referred to me as her co-coach. My second year I was much more comfortable. I knew the girls by now, and Sarah and I had become good friends.

Coaching at Spence was nothing like coaching at West Deptford. To be plain, the Spence girls didn’t compare to the skill level of WD. Not really their fault. There’s no feeder program, so we have to teach most of them how to play field hockey in ninth grade. I’m back at West Deptford, first day of preseason, trying to coach the freshmen, give up quickly, and make my life easier with Varsity. Maybe I should have stuck with the freshmen. It would have probably made me a better coach, and definitely better prepared for Spence. Usually, girls are more intimidated by the head coach and go to the assistant when they’re upset about something. Sarah and I flipped roles in that respect. The girls were scared of me. Somewhat.

Spence wins! October 2011

My third year, Sarah got an awesome promotion and became the AD at one of the neighboring schools. The head position fell into my lap. I grabbed on and didn’t let go. As the assistant, I could miss a practice here and there; I could leave early or come late. As the head coach, I had to give up working at the bar during the week. My bosses were awesome about it so I only worked weekends. Coaching doesn’t pay nearly enough for the amount of work and time that goes into it. I was completely consumed by field hockey. Don’t misunderstand. I loved every second of it, even when the girls frustrated the hell out of me, even though we only won one game all season, even though I didn’t have an assistant and had to do everything on my own. I loved it.

There’s nothing like the high from coaching. The biggest compliment I got all season was when the ref came up to me after a game. “You tell your kids to do something and they listen to you.” She was impressed at how far they had come from the start of the season. Sounds simple. You talk, they listen, but they need to trust you if they’re going to listen to you. My favorite days were when a girl did something on the field she had learned in practice, without even thinking. It’s such a feeling of pride to know that you helped her get there.

I never understood it growing up as an athlete. My coaches sometimes seemed more nervous than me before a game. That doesn’t make sense. You’re not even playing. It’s on us, not you. But it’s not. Everything comes back to the coach. Everything that happens on the field is the result of a decision a coach made or the way the team has been taught up until this point. At least, that’s what it feels like. I was more nervous coaching a high school field hockey team – a team that struggled to win a single game – than I was playing on competitive teams in high school and college. It’s weird. I always thought coaching is what you do when you’re not good enough to play anymore (well, that’s true, too), but it’s molding young people into players and teaching them skills for the field and for life. I’m in love with coaching field hockey.

*Boston

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