Behind the Whistle: All in the Family


This story initially appeared on Behind the Whistle, the official blog of the IWLCA, and is being republished with permission from the organization. Carly Randall is the assistant coach at Wesleyan University.

Growing up as a coach’s daughter
Coming from a “lacrosse family”

I can’t imagine not growning up in and around a college campus. Nazareth was our family’s second home and jungle gym … playing tag underneath the bleachers as my dad managed the basketball games.

Hide and seek through the dark, hot tunnels that travel underground between the campus buildings. The tunnels were as much a luxury for us as kids as they were for the college students who could walk to class with shorts and a T-shirt instead of trudging through the torturous western New York snow in the winter.

Riding the elevator in the stadium up to the roof and back down over and over. We’d sneak to the microphones in the press box, repeating, “Testing, testing, 1-2-3,” out over the empty field until a campus safety officer would come escort us back to my dad’s office.

My dad would hand me his ring of keys, pointing out the one key that would give me access to the gym storage unit. Somehow on my trip up the stairs, down the hall and across the gym, I’d lose my grip on that one key and have to try them all in order to open the door. Once opened, I’d get to shoot hoops or take a scooter out and ride it around the recently sealed gym floors, to only, once again, be escorted back to my dad’s office by campus safety.

Nazareth lacrosse tailgates were my favorite. Only second to eating mini purple and yellow frosted cupcakes each weekend was listening to my dad give his postgame speech while standing on a picnic table to ensure his visibility to all his players and family members that filled the outdoor pavilion. These speeches sometimes became emotional after a big win or toned with anger and frustration after a “big loss.” Either way, my dad would address any adversity the team faced throughout the game, highlight the positive moments in their performance and ALWAYS thank the Nazareth alumni, family and friends who came to support the team that day. He emphasized that without them, Naz wouldn’t have the team culture, the support and the love that translates so much to on-the-field play.

My dad has always stressed the importance of love and family with his team and recruits. He practiced what he preached. My Grampie (my dad’s father) would travel to almost every game with Naz after my Grammie passed away. He had his own designated seat on the bus and space on the sideline. These moments allowed him to support many of the players as if they were his own grandsons.

Like my Grampie, my brother and I also had our seats on the bus. We would travel to games, participate in Nazareth Lacrosse Camp every July and chase each other around the office during recruit visits. Families were able to get a very authentic view of what being a part of the Naz Lax family would be like. My aunt and uncle get the full Naz Lax experience these days, as my cousin is currently a defenseman on the team. This family-oriented team environment is valuable to me in so many ways, and it was a “gold standard” of mine as I navigated my own lacrosse recruiting process.

How it shaped my own college experience
Entering a “lacrosse family”

A few years after I graduated from college, I was home for the holidays, and my dad had an evening recruiting event to attend in the Syracuse area. Naturally, my mom and I tagged along for the ride. We were sitting in a small restaurant in Skaneateles as she told me how nervous she had been when I left my “home” friends to head off for college. I had a really close-knit group in high school, and she wasn’t sure how I’d adjust without them.

This was so interesting for me to hear because this was never something that even crossed my mind as I transitioned from Brighton High School to Syracuse University. I had an instant family within my lacrosse team. My coach’s daughters were both my teammates for most of my career at SU. Another teammate and I clicked instantly during our freshman year because her dad is also a college lacrosse coach. She’s one of my best friends to this day, and we often reminisce on our very similar childhoods. It was so wonderful to enter an environment at ‘Cuse where I had teammates who had similar upbringings and could easily relate to the experiences that I had.

To have a coaching dad on speed dial during my college years was especially helpful when I needed to navigate situations that I wasn’t too proficient in. The circumstances I would share were not new to him, and the conversations would often end with reminders like, “Be a great leader and teammate,” or, “Control what you can control,” or “Just keep working your butt off.” Each time I’d hear those words on the phone, I would, and still do, flash back to being in my dad’s office as a kid, eavesdropping on individual meetings where he’d repeat those same phrases to his own student-athletes. Even as an 8-year-old, scribbling on printer paper with sharpies pretending not to listen, those words thrilled me.

“Be a great leader and teammate.”

“Control what you can control.”

“Just keep working your butt off.”

It all seemed so easy to do through my high school years when I was a top player and a team captain. My playing ability allowed me to work my butt off, without actually working my butt off, and it allowed me to more easily control the mental aspect of my game. Being a team captain gave me leadership by default.

As I transitioned to ‘Cuse, my role changed. I went from being “high on the totem pole,” to “bottom of the barrel,” and if I wanted to be successful, I had to adjust. I could control my work ethic, I could control the energy I brought to practice and games and I could control how I treated everyone on my team. These “controllables” allowed for me to gain a sense of leadership that was different than the way I led in high school.

Why I decided to follow my Dad’s path
Creating a “lacrosse family”

That new sense of leadership was addicting. The understanding of trust and family that those “controllables” created were powerful. It provided me a high that I didn’t want to come down from.

I crave the ability to instill into current players that same sense of family, leadership and energy that my dad instilled in me. Accomplishing goals with a team, working harder than you thought you could and training your brain to become mentally stronger in times of adversity are extremely gratifying and lead to success both on and off the field.

I know that I want to create that environment for others. I know that the lessons learned and relationships made will impact the rest of their lives.

Every coach has a coach that inspired them to become a coach.

For me, that coach is my dad.

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