Lasagna: 'Who Am I Now That I Am No Longer What I Have Been for So Long?' | Inside Lacrosse

2022-07-02 08:03:00 By : Mr. Polyva Xu

This column appears in IL's 2022 Championship Issue, out now. Click here to purchase it and click here to subscribe.

A soul crushed 19-year old boy stares up at the peeling training room ceiling. Right leg elevated, his knee throbbing through the Ace-bandage-wrapped-ice. He’s been injured before and knows — in a way his mind is not prepared to grasp — he is not easily walking this one off. Senior Henry Pippins (Brown ’80) stops by, glances at the scene, shakes his head and blurts, “You can’t win for losin’.”

For the first time since he was six, the kid realizes he needs to start learning who to be if he’s not a lacrosse player anymore.

I started my college coaching career 40 years ago to re-channel the energy I planned to invest in playing the game I loved most of all. If I no longer possessed the speed to play at a high level, maybe I could help my former teammates as an assistant on Dom Starsia’s first Brown staff?

Four decades, later it’s time, once again, for me to start determining who I am now that I am no longer what I have been for so long.

Today, I say goodbye to two longtime devotions, two labors of love simultaneously. It feels right to leave college coaching and regularly writing about college coaching at the same time. I consider myself a lucky man. I have gotten to teach this remarkable game to, with and against exceptional people since I was a junior in college. Two world-class institutions trusted me and my valued associates with their lacrosse-playing students through 10 U.S. Presidential terms and almost as many changes to the face-off rules.

Just as important to me, a world-class periodical has provided me a monthly blank, back page canvas for the last 22 of these years. Original publisher Bob Carpenter, first editor John Jiloty, and more Terry Foy and his superb staff, gave me a secure, sacred space. They supported freedom of expression, encouraging me to connect lacrosse and lacrosse people to issues, ideas and social realities that impact players and coaches in even the most protected bubbles.

The keepers of the flame at IL certainly approved when I dissected traditional topics for a magazine about lacrosse, like recruiting calendars and giving hope to a discouraged freshman goalie. But they actively pushed me to swerve into less traveled lanes as well. The majority of my column ideas came from listening to peers out on the road. I listened to players of all ages, as well. I wrote hoping they might turn to the back page of IL with an open mind. Children sometimes pay closer attention to advice from parents that aren’t their actual parents. Players often hear the same words differently when spoken by someone they don’t see every day at practice.

Inside Lacrosse provided cover while I stepped out on various, unsteady limbs. They stood behind me whether I addressed conferences, officials, parents or governmental leaders. And while this kindly elastic leash unquestionably saved me millions of dollars in unspent therapist fees, my primary goal was not to reach me. My intention was to resonate with, appeal to as wide a community as possible each month. I wanted to project from the editorial “we” soapbox to assure coaches, players and spouses that they were not alone.

In addition to thanking Bob, John, Terry, Matt Kinnear, all staff and writers, I want to thank the readers. The netless tightrope aspect of this repeated endeavor has been as scary as it has been liberating. I take this opportunity and privilege seriously. I strive to make every column a contender for the “Best of Atsap” coffee table collection that might support a retired coach. Turn scribbled notes on three different pads into coherent sentences. Compose opening, body and conclusion. Push SEND. With no idea whom besides Terry Foy and Holly Lasagna will ever read the words.

Steady, faithful IL readers have communicated over time which pieces meant most. I cannot express how meaningful that feedback has been. To move from one dimensional, black-and-white text to engaged dialogue is special alchemy. The overwhelming response from the piece I wrote on a former player’s struggles with substance abuse disorder remains among the most replied-to. Complete strangers shared their equally powerful, vulnerable stories with me. With permission, I connected them with each other — chipping away at their isolation at least a bit. This happened because a visionary allowed a coach a safe, fluid space in a magazine about lacrosse.

The calls, texts, e-mails, letters over the last month have been deeply appreciated. The roots, branches of 40 years of teams, assistants, opponents, refs, alums and parents ripples out indefinitely.  Not many people get to soak up eulogizing sentiments while still above ground. An old coach needed healing Good Medicine after his final season. Thank you all so very much!

I now join the almost perfect Holly in forging exciting next chapters. Trips to see beloved friends made through lacrosse will be featured prominently. I hope that we gave young men the tools to win with pride, lose with grace. I hope that I helped generations of young men become more curious, push comfort levels, grow into integrity-filled leaders, partners, fathers. I will never leave the game nor its people. The game will never leave me. I look forward to figuring out who I am tomorrow.

Thank you for a thrilling ride!

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