May 6, 2013
How do you measure success? The easy way is in wins and losses, but while our record may not blow anyone away, no one can say this team hasn't been successful. I am truly proud of my team and players for the progress we made this year. We just missed hitting that 10-win mark but those who followed us this season can attest to this team's transformation. Led by an incredible group of seniors, this team and its mindset is light years from the team it was when we first got together in September.
Way back in September, we as coaches questioned this team's commitment and desire and whether they were willing to "walk the walk." Our players responded to the challenge and it became clear that we, as a team, weren't satisfied with being just average, so we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. It didn't happen overnight, but somewhere along the way this team banded together to prove that they were not only committed but willing to make sacrifices to see success. It took a lot of sweat but we began to take huge strides as a team and as a program. I saw our team as a whole work harder than it ever has and support each other more than I've ever seen it. As a result of all that hard work we became even closer as a team than we were before. That's what I really admire - they did it together. It wasn't any one person but rather all of us rising as one tide - together.
I saw a lot of kindness, like taking a freshman under your wing even though you two are competing for the same starting spot. I saw a lot of selflessness, like working hard in a new role that perhaps has less glory but helps the team win. I saw a lot players work incredibly hard to improve every facet of their game and not just settle for bringing the one thing they do well to the table. I saw a lot of people give and take constructive criticism that we once used to shy away from. I saw players put in the extra time and be willing to try new things (like Lauren tying them up in string!). And when individuals struggled, they were always there to pick each other up.
And that's the way it should be on a team - you win together and you lose together. We set our sights high and with that always comes the potential for disappointment. Ultimately, there's only one team that ends their season with a win, so at some point this incredible journey was going to come to end, undoubtedly too soon.
So perhaps we were not as successful as we may have wanted in terms of wins and losses, but no one can argue the success we enjoyed this year in terms of hearts and minds. While I'm saddened that this season has come to an abrupt close, I have truly enjoyed the journey this year has taken us on. Personally I've had some of the most fun I've ever had on a team and have numerous memories from this season that I know I will never forget. I consider that the biggest win of all.
April 30, 2013
I have been a part of and coached many painful losses. I'll admit that usually following a close or disappointing loss I am not much fun to be around. A lot of times I can't even bear to rewatch the film. Saturday's game against Stanford, however was different.
While it would be easy to be overwrought about Saturday's loss, I've watched the film several times, and even though I know how it ends, I somehow find myself senselessly rooting for us on every possession. I get excited when we score and find myself right back to being on that sideline during the game. I can't tell you how fun that game was to coach and I can only imagine how much fun it must have been to play. There were so many high-fives, hugs, fist pumps and jumping up and down that they deserve their own stat sheet. We did some incredible things and made some incredible plays that I am incredibly proud of.
As a coach, part of my job is to figure out "what went wrong" but when I look back at the game it's hard to ignore all the amazing moments we had. I can't help but remember the moments of joy and sheer happiness in every goal like seeing Mel hoist her teammates into the air. The incredible triumphs with every caused turnover, save or defensive stop. Like a true coach, I even got excited watching us connect the field seamlessly (really who gets excited about transitions?! I do!) I'll even admit to replaying our celebrations more than once and cheering out loud when I rewatched Ana Cyr's amazing assist.
Losing is never fun. Sometimes it flat out stinks - especially when you play well and come just shy of the W. But as with all things, life must go on (a wise friend told me that). Chalk it up to another epic battle in the Cal-Stanford rivalry. Thankfully, we still have lacrosse left to play and will get another chance to beat Stanford on Thursday in the conference semifinals. I'm not sad, angry, frustrated or discouraged. I'm just excited and grateful for the chance to get out there and do it again...and hopefully this time WE'RE the team rushing the field after the final whistle.
April 22, 2013
You win some and you lose some. That's generally how it goes in any given season. There's not much solace in playing pretty well and still coming up short, but Denver showed us clearly where the bar is. The good news for us is that it's within reach. We know we can go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the country and, with a few adjustments, perhaps change the outcome.
So this morning is not about rainbows and butterflies and "look how far we've come." This morning it's about getting back to work. Today it's about getting back to improving in the areas that still need improving. Playing well against a good team is encouraging but no one gives out trophies for coming close. Our goal has never been to come close.
Now we move forward with a new team in the cross hairs and another opportunity to sharpen our postseason teeth this Saturday. Sure a win over Denver would have been nice, but our mission is still the same and we'll get there by continuing what got us to this point - working hard and working together. This weekend we'll play Stanford in a game that shouldn't need much hype. The Cal-Stanford rivalry speaks for itself and, being Senior Day, there should be extra incentive to finish the regular season with a victory.
It's crazy to think the regular season is coming to a close this weekend but I'm happy about still having one more game to play and a shot at a 10-win season which hasn't happened since 2005. I believe in these Bears and know that we have just the right mix of talent, heart, unity and desire to make it happen in 2013!
Come out and support the Bears for Senior Day against Stanford this Saturday at Memorial Stadium at 1 p.m., which we're dubbing the "Lacrosse the Bay Rivalry." Stanford may have won the past eight meetings, including a one goal heartbreaker last year, but this 2013 team ain't your grandma's Golden Bears. So buckle up! This season's just starting to get very interesting! Go Bears!
April 18, 2013
"Give it everything you have!"
"Leave it all out on the field!"
Most folks that have played a sport have heard these expressions from a coach at one point or another. It's awful easy to say but pretty tough to actually do. Goodness knows I've said it a few dozen times and rarely does it actually happen. Rarely do you see your players really pushing the envelope and pushing beyond their mental limits to accomplish what you know they have hidden deep down within them.
Many teams will do crazy workouts to test those limits in a practice setting. But even those teams that have pushed the envelope before find it challenging to do so in a game scenario. It's not just about mental toughness but also will. You have to have the WILL to find a way to get the job done. Often times the magnitude of the challenge diminishes a player's will and prevents them from breaking through that perceived ceiling.
That's why I give my team a lot of credit. This past weekend, we had to break that ceiling twice against USC and San Diego State in just 72 hours. Both teams gave us strong battles and kept the game close. They tested our endurance, but also our will and our heart.
When USC tied the game at six, we could have panicked. We hadn't scored for 20 minutes and no one would have blamed our defense for being tired. But we didn't. We got big stops down the stretch and we hung in there and responded just 40 seconds later to gain a lead that we would maintain for the rest of the game. Our resolve and fortitude showed up as our entire team stuck together, supported each other, made plays and hung on for the win.
Similarly against a fast and scrappy San Diego State team, we could have crumbled when they were able to not only narrow the margin, but get the go-ahead goal with just 10 minutes left to play, making the score 9-8. Instead, our players refused to back down. They stepped up the challenge and found ways to win possessions and eventually score and pull away. Those goals didn't come easy, and SDSU had their chances, but I couldn't have been more proud to see our players dig deep and find a way to win.
We had some serious gut-check moments this past weekend and I'm happy to say that when the going got tough, our Bears showed up and took care of business. They laid it all on the line. They went all out for loose balls, chased down attackers, defended like crazy in the midfield and did whatever it took to get the ball back when we needed it most. We were clutch when we needed to be and we got timely big plays that you just don't see every day. It was fun to watch, and I know it must have been fun to play.
We continue to play with tremendous heart and emotion, which has very much been the difference maker for us. Anyone that's seen us play this month knows that this is a team on a mission. We've taken our lumps along the way this season and have become a tougher, stronger and more resolute team because of it. I'm glad we've faced the adversity we have this season as it has only helped shape us into the team we are today. I am very proud of the team the team we've become and you better believe that when we take the field, we're not holding anything back. Go Bears!
April 9, 2013
We always hear about playing with "heart" in athletics. Heart, like momentum, is one of those grey areas of sports that never shows up on a stat sheet but is often the difference maker in a game. But what does it really mean? Is it playing with passion? Is it digging deep to find that hidden well of energy late in a game? Is it getting excited for your teammate's success? Is it playing with new-found toughness and grit?
For us on Sunday, it was all of these things. Against Oregon, we found our heart. Not only did we execute the game plan and make smart decisions, but we played with heart for 60 minutes. Even as Oregon mounted a late comeback, I know our team wasn't satisfied with letting them narrow the margin. We fought for every little advantage out there and, best of all I know, we had fun doing it by the smiles on our players' faces at every stoppage of play as the waning minutes ticked down.
Before the game, we spoke of desire and motivation. It was great to see our entire team take it to heart and step up in a big way. For many, step up did not necessarily mean cause more turnovers or score more goals but rather - working hard in transition, being tough and unafraid of groundball scrums, supporting the ball when a teammate is being doubled and the patience to wait for great opportunities over good ones. I can't say definitively what exactly "heart" is, but I know when we play with it we are a darn tough team to beat.
We are certainly still learning and growing as a team, but this weekend we discovered how to tap into our "heart" and that is a considerable turning point. We will need to replicate that enthusiasm and passion with every game we have left on the schedule.
This weekend, we face off against two formidable foes and I have no doubt that the results this weekend will fuel budding rivalries in the conference as both SDSU and USC have developed into true contenders in the conference. I love the parity in the conference right now and can't wait for the next game to go out there and do it again! I hope you can follow us along on our SoCal roadtrip (@Calwlacrose). Go Bears!
April 1, 2013
It's that time in the season where weeks are just flying by and every time I look up, it's another game day (like today!) After a long road trip to the East Coast, we are back in Memorial Stadium to take on Stetson today.
The road trip, despite the loss to Yale, was actually a lot of fun. Easter egg hunts, Four Square games, fun team dinners and flying Virgin almost makes the six-hour flight not so bad! It was great to see so many families and friends out supporting the team for both games. I think our fan section may have outnumbered our opponents!
I've said before how fortunate we are to be able to coach such a great group of players, but seeing the support of our friends and families on the road is particularly heart warming. Sitting under the Gasparino big top (i.e. the tent that hosted our tailgate at the Gasparino's home in Connecticut), I was humbled by how extraordinary our Cal lacrosse family is. The tent was teeming with family members (many of whom traveled fairly far to come out and support us), alumni, incoming freshmen fresh off acceptance letters, alumni parents, you name it! I've always said how special our family is and that includes our extended family.
Despite losing a tough game to Yale earlier in the day, it was great to see so many familiar faces join us for dinner and to remind us of what ultimately really matters. I'm as competitive as they come, but in 10 years, I know my players (and maybe me) will likely forget the score of Cal v. Yale in 2013, but they'll remember the Easter egg hunt where Mikey found 9 eggs or refusing to give in to rain to finish playing Four Square in the hotel parking lot. It was a great road trip and the journey made all the better to be in great company.
It's hard to believe that April is here already. Our play is coming together and hopefully we can hit our stride at the right time to make some postseason noise. Lots of work and lax to still be had! Until next week, Go Bears!
March 25, 2013
Things have been very busy since I last blogged! We hosted Iona and Virginia Tech at home and went on the road to Fresno for a night. We sit now at the halfway point of our season at 4-3 and about to hit the road once again for Spring Break. We are taking some nice momentum into this road trip and hope to continue to build on our recent success.
Our best game, despite the loss, came against Virginia Tech. We played well as a team and were able to create a number of nice opportunities on both ends of the field. There is much to build on but we are certainly a team moving in the right direction.
This is that time of year, however, that the season seems long and we have be cognizant of our attitudes every day at practice. It's easy to go through the motions, but that won't make us a better team. As a coach, you consider ways to keep practices fun but still competitive and intense. Now is not the time to get comfortable. Now is the time to dig in and start getting ready for April and the bulk of our conference matchups! This long road trip will be well welcomed, an opportunity to have some down time, fun on the road between games and, hopefully, a break to the monotony that can creep into one's every day routine. Should be a fun trip with the Bears!
We look forward to seeing many of our East Coast families and alums in Connecticut. Go Bears!
March 11, 2013
Sometimes you win pretty. Sometimes you win ugly. Garnering our first two wins of the season last week, we saw a little bit of both. Against St. Mary's, our team came out fired up and we put together a great total team effort. We were able to break our five-goal scoring ceiling, looked good in transition and got defensive stops and turnovers. I am happy to say we were able to play at a consistently high level for 60 minutes.
Against UC Davis, it was a different story. We came out flat for the first time this year and found ourselves in an early 4-1 hole. UC Davis caught us on our heels and capitalized with great effect. After a timeout, we were able to rebound and climb back in the game. Momentum shifted back and forth for the remainder of the first half but our level of play had markedly improved. We were able to score five straight goals to gain a two-goal margin going into halftime, and eventually were able to pull away after the break. It was a much more physical game and there were times where our players definitely lost their cool a little bit.
In physical contests, there is always a possibility for this and we knew going in that Davis was going to come out scrappy and hungry for their second win of the season. Despite talking about poise and composure prior to the game, our feathers got a little ruffled as the game wore on. We did, however, find a way to let our game do most of the talking. Despite winning the game, accumulating six yellow cards is completely unacceptable. We didn't do a good enough job adjusting to the officiating and we let Davis get under our skin at times. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard. It's uncharacteristic of our typical play. Frankly, it's just not who we are and certainly not the reputation I want our team to have. Keep it classy California!
We will get back to playing disciplined Cal lacrosse this week. At the end of the day, I'll take the win and will have to continue to reinforce good habits in our practices. With two more exciting contests this week it will be another full week for the Bears! The season is in full swing now. Keep up if you can! Go Bears!
Feb. 26, 2013
So we certainly didn't open up our 2103 season as I had envisioned it. Despite our shortcomings, I'm not hitting the panic button. Two losses are hard to swallow, but we did several things well that we can build upon. While we struggled in some areas, I know with better practices and focus we can repair our shortcomings. Our attention to detail was lacking and, despite playing with strong effort, we did not play with the requisite amount of execution it takes to win close games.
This is prime time for frustration to fester amongst a team. I don't doubt for one second that we all want to win (that's a good thing). But when you're not winning, it becomes easy to point the finger and get snippy with each other- especially with our emphasis on accountability this year. It's a fine line between calling a teammate out to perform better and encouraging them to perform at their best.
This is the time that we must rely on our bond as team to get us through. We need to have thick skin when teammates call us out, but we must also "know our personnel" in terms of feedback and criticism. Not everyone responds the same way and, ultimately, our goal is to get everyone performing at their best. We must utilize what we know of each other and how close we are in order to figure out, "how do I need to talk to teammate `X' to get her to be her best?" Is it getting in her face or is it pulling her aside and offering encouragement?
We must also look in the mirror first and identify where we are each falling short individually. Everyone has room for improvement and we must evaluate what each and every one of us can do better to help this team be as successful as it can be.
I love the passion and the fight I saw at the end of games from my team. I love the determination to never give up and fight to very last whistle. I know that we have the heart. We just need to play smarter and more effectively. We must make our opportunities count. Most of all, we can't take another game, play or possession for granted. We have thirteen more games to go and we need to make sure that we are in the driver's seat for every single one we have left.
Back to work this week! We open up at home vs. St Mary's next Tuesday and take on UC Davis that Sunday - two big conference games! Lots to do before then!
Feb. 19, 2013
Hello Bear fans! Recently it's been more like Tuesdays with Ginger as busy as we've been! We are getting ready to hit the road tomorrow for the East Coast. I know this is a welcomed trip for many reasons. After a long preseason I know the players are itching to get the season underway. I am confident that the shifts in mentality this year will pay great dividends and I am excited for my players to experience that reward for their hard work. As we get ready for our first road trip here's what I think:
Road trips are...
AWESOME: As a player, I loved road trips. This was always a great time to bond with teammates. I was always excited for a new roommate and to learn more about them. We often put younger players with older players which is a great way to break the intimidating senior phenomenon. Once you've seen someone in their PJs, they're a lot less intimidating.
STRESSFUL: Coordinating transportation, meals, practices and putting together scouting reports, film and pregame materials on the road is no easy task! Sometimes it means late nights and going back East means EARLY mornings for the staff.
EXCITING: We get to see parts of the country that, many times, several of our players have never been to. On this trip we are fortunate enough to take a tour of the White House! For a handful of our kids, this will be their first visit to DC. It doesn't get more exciting than that!
TIRING: Usually by the end of a trip I'm complete tuckered out and can't wait to slump down on my couch and decompress!
FUN: This is when we often get a chance to really get to know the personalities on our team as we kill time in airports and inject ourselves into dinner conversations. One of the things I appreciate about being at Cal is that I can guarantee stimulating conversation and a lot of laughs on this team.
Can't wait to hit the road! Wish us luck as we kick off the season on Thursday against JMU! Buckle up, folks! The season is here! Go Bears!
Feb. 12, 2013
So you know how I said we were having great practices so far? Ironically, the Bears hit their "wall" last week just after that blog post went up. It was inevitable, I suppose. I'm not sure if it was burn out from just playing each other for so long and craving a real opponent. It could have been the couple of cold, rainy practices to start the week. Perhaps we just lost our focus. For whatever reason, the first few practices last week were uncharacteristically sloppy and we just seemed to be out of sync.
While we were able to make some needed adjustments throughout the course of our practices, the inconsistency crept into our playday this past Sunday. The playday was a MUCH NEEDED opportunity to play some outside competition and really measure where we are at this point in our preseason. For our players, I hope it was an eye-opening weekend.
With how well we've been practicing, perhaps a little complacency crept in last week and it was very evident this weekend that we still have work to do. The bar is much higher than perhaps we've been setting it for ourselves, and we have to continue to practice at a high level and push each other as hard as we are going to be pushed by our opponents every single day.
We weren't always at our best and failed to execute on several occasions. Our disposition was tested at times. Sometimes we responded well, and other times, we did not. I am hopeful the players felt as unsatisfied with the weekend as I did and are ready to roll their sleeves up this week as we get ready for our season opener.
Before we know it, we will be on the road to James Madison next week and there is much to do before then! I can't believe how fast this preseason has flown by! The season will be here before you know it, Bear fans!
Feb. 4, 2013
I love good practices! That would seem obvious given my occupation as a coach, but inevitably, not all practices can be good ones. As much as we plan and prepare, sometimes the drill doesn't work like you wanted. Sometimes the team lacks energy. Sometimes it's like all your players decided to have the same "off" day. For whatever reason, bad practices are inevitable. The good teams figure out how to minimize the number of these and the great teams figure out how to still get something out of a potentially poor practice.
I am happy to say that we have been fortunate to have very few poor practices so far this spring. One of the things we have discussed in our "Team Times" is the constant need to make adjustments- whether that is on a daily basis, drill-by-drill basis or in-game scenario basis. Responding to adversity and making adjustments is something we are working on every day. We talk often about regrouping after a bad drill or a spotty warm up. We stress not bringing the failures of one drill into the next. If we come off of a bad warm up, how will we turn the next drill around? The point of emphasis is to not to let one bad drill snowball into a bad practice. It requires a conscious effort to change attitude and momentum on a minute-by-minute basis. Regardless of what just happened, how do we make sure what happens next has a positive result?
The real in-game applications are obvious. In any given game, the opponent is bound to do something right- no matter how well we're playing! Shutouts in lacrosse are very rare. The question is how will this team respond in those moments of adversity? How will we react when another team scores a few back-to-back goals or gets a few lucky bounces or calls in their favor from the ref? How will we regain that momentum? Hopefully we can take the lessons from our practices and respond with the appropriate determination and fervor these critical moments demand this spring.
Games are won and lost on momentum and the timing of that momentum. In a tight game, the team with momentum in the final minutes usually wins. I saw this first-hand at our exciting men's basketball game this past Saturday against Oregon. Despite trailing most of the game, the Bears got timely defensive stops and big crowd-pleasing plays on offense. They hung in there with No. 10 Oregon all game long and with Hass Pavilion on their feet, the Bears were able to ride the momentum in the waning minutes of the game to victory. That momentum didn't just fall in their laps. They had to make plays. Every time Oregon did something special, the Bears were able to respond right back. It was an inspiring win!
Our hope is that our players are learning how to consciously change momentum at any time. After all, momentum, although not tangible, is incredibly important. It is purely mental and yet players, coaches and fans alike can feel the shifts during any game. Our players may not realize it but the mental training is just as important as the physical training and we sneak it in any way we can.
Looking forward to another great week of practices with a chance to test our mettle this Sunday at the Stanford Playday! Tune in next week to see if we were able to master the momentum!
Stanford Playday: Sunday February 10th
Jan. 29, 2013
The Bears are back! We have finished up with our first week of practices which, like most teams, included a good bit of conditioning and fundamentals. Day one included a team meeting with sports psychologist Dr. Troesh. We had a lengthy discussion on who were are as a team and how that will shape our core values for the year. We were able to craft five core values that will drive everything that we do all season long which include: discipline, respect, courage, connectedness and passion. We had a great open discussion and these core values tell me that our minds are certainly in the right place!
With these values in mind we have already put one very good week of practice behind us. This week we'll be looking to build on last week's foundation. The true test of this team's commitment; however, will be today with our fitness test. We'll know after today whose commitment stayed strong over the break and who gave in to too many holiday cookies. The holiday break is a trying time for most spring sport coaches as they hold their breaths to see just how in shape (or out of shape) their athletes will return.
The holiday break is often what separates good teams and great teams. The challenge for the student-athletes is to work just as hard and to be just as dedicated without coaches over their shoulders with stop watches or teammates around to cheer them on. It's not just a challenge but also an opportunity. This opportunity is one far too many teams let waste away. I am hopeful that this year's team is able to wow us with their commitment and that this year's team will realize its full potential. It all starts with passing the fitness test. Will we have three more weeks of conditioning just to get everyone back in shape, or will we be able to learn and perfect some new concepts before the season begins?
Stay tuned! Go Bears!
Dec. 3, 2012
Following a busy fall, I am very much looking forward to an opportunity to catch my breath this winter. This week is dead week, which is a welcomed reprieve for our student-athletes. No practice. No school. Just time to catch up on any neglected schoolwork or sleep and a week to study for finals. We're wrapping up the end of fall meetings doling out both accolades and winter to-do lists. The recurring theme this fall, I'm happy to say, has been "KEEP IT UP!" Our progress has been significant, but we're hardly there yet.
Hopefully distance will make the heart grow fonder and our players will return hungry to hit our practices hard this spring. As our players shuffle off to their hometowns, I will be taking a small vacation from blogging. I wish you all very merry holiday seasons and promise many fun blogs this spring as we hope to pick up right where we left off this fall! Our 2012 schedule will be posted this January and we hope to see you at a game this spring! Go Bears!
Nov. 12, 2012
Hello again, Bear fans! Another Monday and I am reflecting on how very fortunate our team is. I've written blogs like this before, but this is the month of giving thanks and there's no such thing as too much gratitude if you ask me. With all the tragedy and destruction in the wake of hurricanes and nor'easters raging the East Coast, I am even more grateful for our wonderful sunshine and the gorgeous fall we're having here in Berkeley.
Moreover, following our alumni game, I am grateful to be a part of such a strong lacrosse family here at Cal. Listening to the alums speak so proudly of their time here and what they are doing now had to be heartwarming and moving for our team. The game itself was a total blast. We had enough alumni returning to have a true game! The current players wound up victorious but only after holding off a valiant comeback by the alums in the second half. The alums dusted off old plays and threw in a couple trick plays to pull within one before the current Bears could get back on track. It was a fun day with lots of laughs, and it was so cool to see alums from every generation (big props to Sarah Wheatley from the inaugural c/o '02 for coming out!). I can't wait for next year's game!
I couldn't help but take a step back, look at the crowd and compare it to my own collegiate lacrosse cohort. As more and more weddings fill my calendar, and my friends begin to tote toddlers around with them, I am ever more grateful to have the best friends I made in college. I know that my players are likewise fortunate to be surrounded by teammates who will one day be bridesmaids at their own weddings and in each other's lives forever. It's cheesy and all but pretty cool to watch the bonds of friendship grow before my eyes, knowing that I played a small role in the building of those friendships. As November recruiting kicks into full swing, I am reminded that recruiting is far more than identifying talent. I am building a family.
Every week I get wonderful emails from around the country from folks that read this blog. I really do love hearing from all of you. Know that if you're reading this, then you too are a part of our family! It's not just players but also parents, fans, alumni, donors and all of our staffers here at Cal that will play a role in this team's success this spring. To all of you, I am grateful! I'm taking a week off from blogging next week. I wish all of you safe travels and Happy Thanksgivings! As always, GO BEARS!!
Nov. 6, 2012
Happy Monday! The fact that I'm starting this blog before noon on Monday means Fall Ball is definitely dying down! With just a few more full practices left, we are trying to solidify our foundation as we turn over the reins to our senior leaders to ensure that we are still motivated every day to keep improving.
Constant self improvement is one of the greatest things an athlete can learn from playing a Division I sport. Being successful at this level is FAR more than talent. To use a poker analogy, talent will get you a seat at the table but it's the work and energy you're willing to put in every day that will earn you chips to play with. For some, that seat at the table is enough. These players will never know what it's like to be a true champion. For others, they refuse to lose and are willing to prepare every day, collecting as many chips as they can - whether it be physical fitness, strength, mental toughness or skill sets.
It's the athletes that make the sacrifices week in and week out that are ultimately successful. It has everything to do with that inner drive and determination that motivates you when coaches aren't looking, when your teammates aren't there to push you and when your legs and lungs beg you to stop. It's easy to stop. It's easy to give in. But those athletes whose inner voice is louder and stronger than any others are the ones that are successful.
Last week I talked about distractions and temptations. There are plenty in college that you are faced with every day, whether it's turning down that extra slice of pizza at 3 a.m. or deciding to stay in on a Friday night knowing that Saturday morning's practice is more important. To be a D1 athlete you have to have talent. To be a successful D1 athlete you have to have talent and the motivation to constantly seek ways of improvement because everyone sets goals. At some point, your weak hand will be as strong as your dominant hand, but then what? What will you tackle next? How else can you improve? How else can you get better every day? The successful athlete never stops pushing, never stops improving. When you take this kind of motivation into the workforce, it makes student-athletes a force to reckoned with. We are competitive and we are constantly pushing the envelope to be the best athletes, employees and lacrosse players we can be.
I'm glad these lessons are not lost on our team. They get the special commitment it takes now, and we are focused on getting better every single day - even if the next game is months away! This weekend we welcome back our wonderful alums for our Alumni game! Can't wait to reconnect with the program's history.
Oct. 30, 2012
Things are good in Berkeley with the Bears these days. Our practices have been strong, and I feel like we are really making significant progress as a team. With our conference competitions over, this is a critical point where our focus and intensity could easily wane - especially in light of never-ending midterms! But the Bears have remained focused and eager to learn. We are introducing new concepts, perfecting old schemes and adding new weapons to our repertoire. It makes it so rewarding to go out to the practice field every day knowing that in two hours we will walk away a better team. It's not every day, we wish it was, but the reality is that there are lots of distractions in college, especially their primary priority - school. One thing I really love about this team is that they work just as hard in the classroom as they do in the field. Our team GPA is among the best in the department to show for it! Let alone having a social life and every thing else college students do for fun. These interests make achieving consistency at practice a challenge. A noble goal to be sure, but certainly not easily achieved. We will get there though, I have no doubt. This team has found a resolve I admire. It pushes them to hold themselves and each other to high standards. Sometimes we close practice by admitting we did well but perhaps it wasn't our best. Our goal is to be our best every day. We may not succeed every day, but the determination I've seen from this group to buckle down and work even harder has been tremendous. We've gotten great leadership across the board. It reminds me of something Dr. Troesch has spoken about. 'Everyone must lead and everyone must BE led.' Traditionally, leadership comes from the top down but I'm happy to say we're getting it from every class, not just our seniors. I know we're a better team for it. Freshmen are pushing upperclassmen. Sophomores are embracing their leadership roles and stepping up their game. Juniors are holding everyone accountable and seniors are making sure we dot every 'I' and cross every 'T.' Instead of us as coaches cracking the whip every five minutes, we have found that this team is motivated enough to keep each other in line. This team is determined to set the bar high and make sure we get there whether that be encouragement, calling each other out or grabbing a bag of balls and hitting the net together. This makes me very happy. The road is long, but thankfully I've got great company. Buckle up for the spring Bear fans! We just keep getting one day better! Oct. 22, 2012
What do we mean by "changing a culture?" When we first gathered this year as a team, we talked about just how far we were from accomplishing our goals. We had tough conversations about accountability, sacrifice and what it means to "walk the walk" every day. We had to make changes - big changes.
So we did. We are making changes. It's not like we've flipped a switch and suddenly we're a whole new team, but our mindset is light years closer than when we started. We still slip up at times and there is still much to learn, but we are on our way.
This weekend, we participated in a play day at Stanford where we took on some conference foes we hadn't seen yet this fall. We opened the day with a tough Oregon team that was a low-scoring affair overall. We then battled in back-to-back games with Fresno and an energetic San Diego State team. We wrapped the long day with a strong Stanford team back from the East Coast and ready to make us work for everything.
I'm happy to say we played well. We seemed to pick up right where we left off last weekend. The Bears were sharp, disciplined and focused. We got strong contributions from everyone and it was the type of weekend where it was fun to just sit back and watch.
I will say one of the most rewarding things as a coach is watching a team come together before your eyes. Anyone that has seen this team play both this fall and last spring can attest that this team is different. We speak differently, we go about our business differently and we act differently. We are slowly becoming what I envisioned us being when I took over last year.
We've been through the trials and rough waters only to come out tougher, more resolved and hungrier than ever. We are realistically a long ways from where we need to be, but we're a heck of a lot closer than when we started. Our progress thus far is undeniable.
Part of our jobs as coaches is envisioning what your team is capable of. It's looking past the individual personalities and skill sets and seeing what the collective group might someday be and achieve. It's that vision that can haunt us when we fall short of our expectations, but by the same measure, brings great reward when you see glimmers of it coming to fruition.
We aren't there yet, but we're getting there. We're becoming who we want to be.
I'm looking forward to another extremely productive week!
Oct. 15, 2012
Another play day weekend in the books for the Bears, and what a weekend it was! In what has become our regular Saturday routine, we gathered early Saturday morning for fruit and bagels before taking the short trip over to St. Mary's for our play day. I am learning a great deal about this team already, like stay away from seasonal "schmears" at the bagel shop and just get plain ole' cream cheese. Who knew pumpkin cream cheese would be such a miss! Just trying to get creative guys!
We faced off against local foe St Mary's first in what was a very well-played game. The action went back and forth. I won't post scores, but the Bears did a great job of winning draws. Many of those draws led to goals, but too many turnovers and missed opportunities on the ground balls helped St. Mary's chip away at the score in the second half.
After taking a short break between games to mingle with parents and chow down on yummy sandwiches courtesy of the Reid's, the Bears were set and ready for the game two matchup against Fresno State. We came out strong to start the game, but seemed to lose our momentum out of the half. In the first half, we were creating second-chance opportunities and winning draws, which helped us control the time of possession. The second half was riddled with missed opportunities on ground balls and Fresno was able to match us in draws which made for a much tighter second half.
As coaches, we were disappointed that we let our play drop off and lost our focus and discipline in the second half. We reiterated this to the team after the game and let them know that we expected much better consistency in our final game against UC Davis.
The Bears rose to the challenge and came out fiercely inspired to dominate for the full 60 minutes. I don't know that I've ever seen our team, across the board, play with so much heart and desire. We were tough and able to match the Aggies' characteristically gritty play step for step. We used the momentum of strong defensive stands and smooth transitions to capitalize on attack. Our attack looked sharp and connected for several pretty goals. It was a great day of lacrosse and we are certainly on the right track! The Bears will be tested again this weekend at the Stanford play day. The schedule for this weekend: 8:30 vs. Oregon, 10:30 vs. Fresno State, 11:30 vs. San Diego State, 1:30 vs. Stanford. This Saturday is Big Game here in Berkeley! Come out and cheer on your Bears vs. the Card at Memorial Stadium!! Go Bears!
Oct. 8, 2012
What a weekend! With Stars and Stripes in town across the bay in Palo Alto, my weekend was filled with lacrosse and sunshine! The seventh annual Stars and Stripes weekend featured seven teams including national teams from USA, Canada, Australia and England, as well as collegiate teams Rikkyo (Japan), Stanford and your very own Golden Bears. The national teams used this exciting event as tune-ups for this summer's 2013 World Cup as they whittle down their rosters. For us, it was a great opportunity to not only see some lacrosse being played at the highest level, but to also play against some of the best players in the world.
While it would have been easy to be intimidated by the lineups we faced, I was very proud of the way our Bears took the field with great eagerness to test what they were made of. Against Team Canada we held our own, but every once in a while got caught being dazzled by the likes of such former collegiate greats like Dana Dobies, Brooke McKenzie and Christie Foote on offense. San Diego State head coach Kylie White was relentless with her defense and harassed our attackers all game. I was extremely proud of how hard we worked, how we handled the pressure, our ability to make adjustments and how we kept our resolve all game long.
Compared to last year's first scrimmage, this was a gigantic improvement. Last fall, our first scrimmage against Stanford was...well a complete mess. We had no rhythm on offense. The defense was a sieve. Our transition game was nonexistent and we certainly weren't organized. On Saturday, however, we were a very different team. We looked organized. We communicated well. We worked well together on both sides of the ball. We were able to connect the filed. Our goalies looked sharp, all things that can pretty easily falter in the first scrimmage of the year, let alone against some of the best players in the world. I'm proud of my players for rising to the occasion and I'm proud of my staff for getting this team ready for this tall task in such a short amount of time. We still have lots to work on but what a great start!
After lunch and some quality family time, we had the chance to watch Team USA take on Team Australia, which was exciting until Team USA ran away with the game. For our players, it was an incredible chance to see how quickly Team USA is able to move the ball, make decisions and fly all over the field. All day fans were treated to incredible behind the back goals, crafty stickwork in tight spaces, stifling double teams and impressive goalie play (shout out to former teammate and friend Kendall McBrearty on Team USA!).
After an exciting day of lacrosse, the Bears had an even bigger treat returning home just in time for Homecoming madness in Berkeley. We arrived home to find the streets were filled with Cal and UCLA fans alike. I've never seen the campus so alive! After a quick turnaround, the staff and I made it to the game in time to see the Bears upset #25 UCLA in front of a packed house! It was a truly incredible sight to see the place packed with alumni and fans. I've never heard the crowd be so into the game as they hung on every exciting play. I spent most of the evening high-fiving strangers and grinning ear to ear! What an incredible day!
We get back to work today for our scrimmages this weekend at Saint Mary's. Our games will be played at 10:00 a.m., noon and 2:00 p.m. I can't wait to build on this foundation! Go Bears!
Oct. 2, 2012
We are heading into our second week of full practices, and things are really starting to pick up. Our defense is starting to gel and our offense is starting to develop a rhythm. We will get more in-depth this week with X's and O's as we prepare for our first scrimmages this weekend. There is still much to teach and much room for growth as we adapt to new players and new roles.
During this time of growth and development is also when our team mentality begins to shape. As I've said before, every team is different every year. Who will this team be? What will other teams fear when they play us? What kind of mark do we intend to make this spring? There are many unanswered questions about the 2013 Bears and I have no doubt that we will start to formulate answers throughout this fall ball season. Our team personality is evolving, and, with how hard our girls are pushing themselves and each other, I have no doubt that we are capable of achieving great things this spring.
New year, new mindset. I'm hoping this will be the toughest Bear team yet! So far, so good.
Sept. 24, 2012
Another strong week of practice, and I'm happy to report that the Bears have been really buckling down in our workouts! We are hoping for another good week as we prepare for our first competition in just two short weeks.
This week will be the start of our full practices! We have been dabbling into lacrosse as much as the NCAA will let us, but most of our practices, for all intents and purposes, have been a tease. It seemed like just when we have found our rhythm, it's time to cool down and stretch. This week we will be moving to 20-hour weeks and full two-hour practices where we can really start laying the foundation for this year. Much of that foundation remains from last year but with new faces and big shoes to fill, things are destined to change and adapt based on our personnel. We can't wait to roll our sleeves up and get to work. I know the players are just as eager as we are as a coaching staff!
I am particularly excited for this fall as our players are working harder than ever. With all starting spots up for grabs, everyone will be working hard to prove themselves and earn playing time for the spring. We've already seen tremendous growth and effort from several players in particular and the pressure of upcoming scrimmages will only raise the stakes.
While some teams simply look to fill graduating holes in their lineups, every starting spot is always up for grabs here. The best 12 on any given week will start, and I have faith and hope that we will have some tough decisions to make this spring. We want our lineup decisions to be as tough as possible come February. It's a good problem to have. Who will step up? Who will rise to the occasion? Who worked all offseason to impress? Who's willing to do whatever it takes? Who wants it the most? Time will tell!
Last week we also had the opportunity to step away from the field and do some good work in the community. After such a rewarding experience last year, we returned to the Children's Hospital of Oakland to take part in their "Artist-in-Residence" program. We spent the afternoon of our off-day beading, painting and decorating with patients and families alike. It's such a small part of our lives but we hope that we can help make someone's tough day/week/month a little brighter. I sat with a family for over an hour and practiced my lanyarding/gimp/boondoggle skills and I can now say that I have the box and spiral down pat! For your very own Coach Miles crafted blue and gold lanyard just email...kidding!
I wish I had the time to do that every day! It's actually pretty relaxing. But alas, the fall is as busy as ever and I'm just lucky to find time for these blogs! Until next week...GO BEARS!
Sept. 18, 2012
Hey there Bear fans! Sorry for the delay in these blogs! Things sure are busy this time of year! I am just returning from Baltimore for U.S. Lacrosse meetings where the volunteers and staff are doing great work to promote the game of lacrosse. It is super exciting to see where the sport is going and molding the future of our sport, while being surrounded by some of the game's most prominent influencers.
While Baltimore always means getting my fill of Maryland blue crab and catching up with old friends, it is good to be back in Berkeley and getting back to work on the Golden Bears. We have made considerable progress since day one, and that momentum continues to push us forward in a positive direction. We had a great team meeting yesterday where we identified just how we've improved, but also where we are still falling short.
We know we won't magically become a different team overnight, but are now more focused on making improvements - no matter how small - every single day toward our goal. Thirty small improvements, seven days a week for the next 23 weeks adds up to a lot of improvement by the time we play our first game. This improvement must be intentional and focused.
We have a structure in place to hold each other accountable and so far, so good. It truly is fascinating to see a team transform before your eyes. I think back to where we were this time last year and I can't believe how far we've come. We push each other. We support each other. But most of all, we believe in each other. We believe in our ability and potential to do great things and, finally, we are making sure that we all help each other be the best that we can be every single day. One day better, every single day.
It's not just about what we do on the field but also what we do in the classroom, the weight room, how we eat and fuel our bodies, how we get proper sleep and even how much time we save for ourselves to foster our own mental peace. We know the challenge is great - and will only get greater. We know we will face adversity. We know there will be the inevitable "all-nighter" or cheeseburger that slips into our lives, but that's what great about a team- our team. We have 29 people to pick each other up when we fall. That's what being on a team is all about. Thirty strong and getting stronger!
Sept. 11, 2012
Hello Bear fans,
Let me start off by saying, I am looking forward to a great week this week! I think we are at a critical break through point with the team that will define who we are, not just this year but for future years to come. We are creating a culture that embraces hard work and the success that results from it. Building a culture, like Rome, was certainly not built in day.
After a rocky start Week 1, we met with the team to discuss our expectations and just what it would take for us to accomplish our goals this year. After a somewhat disappointing finish last season, we wanted to establish all that it will take for us to prevent that same fate in 2013. It was very clear to our staff on day one that our effort, intensity and commitment did not match the lofty goals we set to win the conference. Our walk certainly didn't match our talk.
We held a very difficult and candid team meeting, but one that I think will very much shape the outcome of this year. With sports psychologist Dr. Jeff Troesch and High Performance Director Keith Power in the room, our girls bravely spoke to each other about working harder, sacrificing more and holding each other accountable.
I give them credit for addressing such big, tough topics so early in the year. As a staff, we were expecting much more from them in Week 2 and our players stepped up in a big way. To test this new resolve, we even held a surprise second running of our fitness test. I am happy to say the results were immensely better despite being seven days into heavy lifting and conditioning from Coach Z. We wanted to see who would push themselves even when their legs and lungs begged them to stop. Who would push through that mental ceiling and accomplish what they previously thought they could not. And frankly, we wanted to see who would let themselves quit. I'm happy to say the Bears rose to the occasion!
Nearly everyone did better than they had on the opening day, and I saw more heart and determination from the group as a whole than perhaps we saw all of last year. Week 2 featured hard runs, tough workouts and practices with strong communication and effort. Because of their hard work all week, we ended the week with a fun East Coast vs. West Coast scrimmage. Associate AD Ashwin Puri, a former lacrosse player himself, was even on hand to witness the rivalry!
While we are still a ways from being ready to open our fall season against the U.S. and Canadian National teams on October 6th, we have seen a significant shift in mindset, which is just as important if not more so than X's and O's at this point. We are cognizant of attacking our mental challenges as much as we work on our physical game this fall. The hope is that during that game in season, when it's down to wire and within one goal, the Bears will be able dig deep and battle our opponent in the same relentless way they attacked our fitness test last Wednesday. We are building fortitude and resolve and a never say die attitude that will hopefully take us far!
This week will be a test of whether or not we can replicate that same energy and enthusiasm we saw last week. Can we get better every day, every week? When we hit that inevitable wall, will we succumb to our legs and lungs or will we refuse to give up and be even better than we thought we could be? Time will tell but I do know that I'm getting a lot more sleep these days knowing that we're on the right track.
You'll have to tune in next week to see if we were able to get another week better in Week 3! I can't wait to see what this team is capable of!
Sept. 5, 2012 - Special Guest Blogger Assistant Coach Lauren Schmidt
Happy Monday! It was a week of a lot of firsts for me, so I am taking over the blog this Monday(ish)!
First of all, the stadium is incredible. Even considering the fact that we had heard about all of the new features at various meetings beforehand, pictures and descriptions didn't do it justice. The new Lisa and Douglas Goldman Plaza was beautiful and perfectly decorated and designed to highlight the historic architecture of Memorial Stadium while providing astounding views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. I played in Memorial Stadium a few years ago, and I just remember it as a really cold, dark place that took a million steps to get down to the field. The interior was spectacularly done, with much larger concourses and filled with great views and lots of natural light.
In one of our staff meetings I was laughing about what a big deal they were making about the bathrooms, and how returning fans would find that to be one of the highlights of the renovation. It struck me as pretty funny that with the brand new interior of the stadium, the incredible attention to detail with every aspect of design (and the awesome copper bear statue outside of gate one!) that the bathrooms would be a highlight. Needless to say, during the game I was standing in line and the four women around me were all commenting on how fantastic the bathrooms were. I did find it somewhat amazing that even in a place with a formerly outdated interior that had tiny bathrooms that flooded frequently, fans still used to come out in force to cheer on their Bears. The new stadium seems like an incredible place to reward that loyalty.
I think what may have blown me away the most were the number of people that were there. The student section was massive, and perfectly situated at the 50 yard line. They coordinated a "Go Bears" cheer with the section directly across from them, did the card stunts at halftime (gets me every time- I think it's the coolest thing!) and were overall loud and very spirited- exactly what a college student section should be like. They were just bigger, which totally added to the energy of the game.
On Sunday we had a welcome back BBQ with the team. We all went down to Alameda, Ginger grilled some burgers (veggie and normal) and hot dogs, and I was introduced to a categories-esq game by some of the juniors. As it turns out, I need to learn some more types of fish, but who even picks that as a category?! It was a great day to just hang out on the beach and get to know the team outside of lacrosse, while eating some great food.
That's about all I have this week! Get excited for the fall season!
August, 31, 2012
Hello Bear fans! It is with great excitement and enthusiasm that I welcome you back to our weekly blog! Our fall season is underway (mostly just lifting, conditioning and team meetings for now) and we are eagerly anticipating the opening of California Memorial Stadium this weekend! The stadium has been closed for renovations since 2010 and half of our team has never even had the chance to be in the facility let alone see a REAL home game played there. This weekend, the Cal football team opens up its season with Nevada as we re-open Memorial Stadium.
A few weeks ago, in preparation for Saturday's home opener, the athletic department held a small "mock game" to work out the kinks and we got to check out the new place. Let me tell you, IT IS FANTASTIC. It really is an elite-level facility that will spur a new sense of passion and pride in our fan base. I couldn't help but get goosebumps, walking into the building and being greeted by staff with warm and hearty "welcome home!" "Welcome home" will be the theme of this fall as the gates reopen not just for our football team, but fans, alumni, faculty, staff and the student body alike. I have no doubt they will be just as impressed by the stunning details and accommodations.