I hosted the end of year lacrosse party on my back deck last night. 15 girls in masks. Pizza and Caesar salad, blondie bars and Spindrifts. After we ate, each player took the floor to share three things they admired about a teammate. They were jittery, sincere and full of gratitude. There was clapping and hooting. It was heaven but then, when my turn came to sum up the season, mortifying.
Oh my god, I’m crying.
I made fun of myself in their terms — uh this is awkward — and the team laughed but eyes were wide above masks. My big emotions over a middling JV lacrosse season must have been hard to interpret. Sorry guys.
It wasn’t about lacrosse and I don’t care about winning. It was, I don’t know — a lot, actually.
Coaching has always been sort of profound for me, watching growth from close up — witnessing incremental change in return for listening, having faith and trying in a new way, for adjusting and overriding bad habits, for humility and guts— or seeing teenagers be nice to each other, showing the new kid how to dodge, commenting on a heroic ground ball, claiming “my bad” when it wasn’t…repeatedly observing such easy, automatic generosity pass from an experienced player to a first timer will reassure anyone that things are gonna be okay.
This year, of all years, being outside five nights a week from 7pm — 9pm, in motion, under the lights, felt like the only possible corrective after 12 months hunched over a laptop reading about restrictions and deferrals, closures and cancellations, for them and for me. Leaving my house-cum-office with a thermos of hot tea to cheer these girls by name as they galloped across the field like race horses? Seeing their breath rise into the air in clouds of effort above their heads? Hearing them shout out each other — okay Orla, I see you Ruby, go ahead Janie? I call that victory. Action over stagnation, camaraderie over isolation.
That’s not the whole of it, though. How could ever I tell these girls, young enough to have never given a moment’s thought to mortality, that when I put on my dad’s Radnor Lacrosse jacket, I am recapturing something sublime, that in that giant coat, I am his kid again, that I saw what being a part of a team did for my dad’s health and I want that for me too, that he’s the real Coach Corrigan?
And then how can I explain that come August 20, both my kids will be a long plane ride away, that I am bracing myself for the transition from 80–90 hours of face time a week to 10–20 minutes of FaceTime a week, and coaching helps me imagine how I might make happy days for myself once the quiet, tidy years begin.
I tried my best to make sense of my emotions to the team, it was mostly useless. Eventually, we turned our attention to the slide show — look at that shot, oh my god my butt, that game sucked — and I took in the last of their coltish enthusiasm. Until next year.