By: Jane Beall
Assistant Field Hockey Coach
When I was a young girl and people would ask, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I never responded “a field hockey coach at a highly-academic Division III institution.” Up until about six months ago, my honest response would have been a whale and dolphin trainer at Sea World, but here I am, in my second year of coaching at W&L and very happy. While coaching may not come up as an answer to that common question as often as teacher, doctor or astronaut, I would assert that it’s an equally satisfying and challenging choice of career.
During the summer of 2009, I worked as a summer associate for a big law firm in a big city. Before returning to school, I started plotting my next step with my aunt. The firm I worked for was great, and I loved D.C., but I went home every night that summer worrying that I had overlooked some critical case and that the memo I had just submitted to a partner was completely wrong. I spent all my daylight hours inside in a nice office with a view of a beautiful of a city I could only explore a couple of hours on the weekend. I wore suits that felt more like costumes. Butterflies of anxiety had taken up residence in my stomach for three straight months. I knew I couldn’t sustain the lifestyle, despite the fact that I liked the firm a lot and I really, really liked the paycheck. So, I sat down with my aunt and made a list of things I didn’t like about that job that were dealbreakers in my next one. This was my list:
1. I don’t want to do the same thing all day.
2. I don’t want to do the same thing all year.
3. I want to be able to go outside.
4. I don’t want anyone to lose any money if I make a mistake.
5. I want to be able to wear an elastic waistband to work.
Really, #5 should be higher on the list, because it was pretty important to me. Once in writing, it became pretty clear that coaching was the right fit. Wendy, my former head coach and my forever-mentor, welcomed me back to W&L and the past eighteen months have been a blast. We have a graduating student-athlete who is interested in going into coaching, and I can’t encourage her enough to pursue a career in athletics.
Wendy and I just got back from our National Field Hockey Coaches’ Association Convention, and it got me jazzed about what I do all over again. I have learned so much about how to motivate, persuade, and unite people by coaching. As far as I know, no one has suffered financially when I have messed up. No day since I have started has been the same as any other, and not only am I allowed to go outside a couple hours of day, it’s a job requirement.
So, I hope that I have, at least in part, proved my thesis that coaching can be satisfying and challenging. If anyone out there is considering coaching at any level, but feels like he or she has to yield to the expectations of others, I would say coach. While I do sometimes think about what it would have been like to swim with Shamu, I remember about how much I hate the smell of fish and feel contented again.