What Coaching Means


By: Neil Cunningham
Head Women’s Soccer Coach

As coaches we have the opportunity to mould young lives in a unique environment. We spend many hours a week with a group of students in a variety of situations during the course of the school year. Practice, long bus rides, meetings in the office, game day. We see our athletes on their best day and even their worst.

We congratulate them on a great goal scored, or hitting the winning basket and we also console them on the death of a loved one or a season-ending injury. It’s an unbelievable experience and teaches you so much about yourself and your team members. It is truly a rollercoaster ride and I love it.

We understand as coaches that we are trying to teach more than just playing the game and we hope that some of our lectures and life lessons actually resonate with our players.  It’s easy to get caught up with such things as winning and losing, records and championships, but at the end of the day it’s about people.

This summer was quite remarkable for me as a coach and it had nothing to do with getting a top recruit, or winning a game. Former players have been in contact about wedding invitations, engagement news and new jobs. It brings it all home to know that you are still part of the lives of the students long after they are gone. I received the following e-mail this summer also and I read it often and I feel like its worthwhile sharing. Coaches, you do make a difference and I know that our current and former athletes really appreciate their time spent on a team here at Washington and Lee and would come back tomorrow to do it all again…..right?

Hi Coach,

I just wanted to write and say thank you for everything that you do. I am now a couple of months into my third year of med school, and I am reminded everyday of small lessons that I have learned from you and W&L.

Several attendings have complimented me on my confidence, composure, and ability to think on my feet.  They have also noted that I both willingly seek and accept feedback and criticism on my performance with grace and ease.  I owe  a great deal of my ability to do these things to my time with with the team and the life lessons you teach both on and off the field.  You both expect your players to demonstrate these skills and foster them throughout the four years.

The individual meetings that I’ve had with you over the years have especially prepared me for discussing my performance with attending physicians.  I just wanted to express my absolute thanks for everything that you have done for me and to let you know that what I’ve learned from you hasn’t been forgotten.

If you are an alum reading this BLOG, reach out to your coach today. I guarantee it will make their day.


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