Sprained ankles. IT band syndrome. Tendonitis. Stress fracture. Shin splints. These terms should not have to be associated with running (or any sport, for that matter), but the reality is that they are.

Here is a three-season runner: cross country, indoor track & field, and outdoor track & field. She felt great throughout the entire season of cross country; racked in the miles, pounded the pavement with strong limbs, and felt nothing but gains in her stamina, speed, and strength. She even ran a personal best and claimed that she was in the best shape of her life.

Winter break. She continued to work out according to the coach’s plan, but she also had some time to relax and rest on the vacation from the daily grind. The respite was much needed since her IT band was giving her some trouble towards the end of the season. She foam rolled every day. She stretched every day. It went away.

The indoor track season passed. She logged 20-30 miles per week. No problem…oh wait…what’s that? A nagging hip? Just the slightest bit of discomfort? Nah, she didn’t hear anything, but continued to run. Why? Maybe because it really didn’t hurt that much, or maybe because her injury-prone body was sick and tired of being hurt. She couldn’t face another setback. In her mind, ignoring it would make it go away.

Tell the coach? Nah. What good will that do? Go to the trainer? Even worse. He might tell me to stop running.

Little did she know that the nagging ache would turn into bursitis in her hip, tendonitis in her quad, and a weak SI joint in her back.

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5 Questions That Can Prevent Tragedy From Attacking Your Team

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As coaches, we hope to create an atmosphere that is welcoming and open…where no one feels alone.  In fact, I believe one of the major benefits of playing sports is the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than you, to share a common goal, and to have a set of ready-made friends.  And in terms of coaching, I’d imagine the reason many of us got into the profession is that we enjoy being the “significant adult” in a young person’s life.  So when I read about Tyler Clementi, the young Rutgers student who took his life last year, I had to take a step back and ask myself:  could this happen at our school, in our athletic department, or (Heaven forbid!) on my team?  Let’s ask the tough questions and challenge ourselves to answer them honestly.

5 Tough Questions That Must Be Answered By Every Coach When Facing Calamity

1.       Am I on good terms with the folks in our Residential Life office? I’d imagine roommate troubles are a daily occurrence on every campus in the country, but do you know who to call if someone on your team is having beyond-the-norm issues with their roommate?

2.       Do my team members feel close with one another? Most Student Affairs folks know that the first few months of college are tough for most students.  It’s one of the reasons I love that we’re a fall sport, it really helps my team gel and helps me keep an eye on the newbies.  I can’t make the team be close, but I sure can make sure that they’re spending a lot of time together.  My typical charge to my captains is that they hang out and become teamy…a good by-product of that is the newbies form deep relationships with each other and their older teammates.

3.       Am I up on my privacy laws? I don’t know HIPPA and FERPA like the back of my hand, but I do know that I can’t call up my student-athlete’s mom or dad to discuss the problems that their daughter is having…even if it’s exactly what the kid needs.  I suppose if you’re ever in doubt, ask before you start yapping about the personal lives of your athletes.

4.       How well do I know my student-athletes? I’m nosy and my team knows it…I don’t even try to hide it!  I know what classes they’re taking, what professors are driving them crazy, and how they’re balancing school and studying and that new boyfriend who is taking away all of their free time.  I don’t know because they’ve filled out some form, it’s because I’m nosy…it works for me.  And what I can’t pry out of them, I get from the training room staff.  I tell you what, those folks know everything!  The students get in there and start chatting and forget that the trainers are even there…the trainers hear it all.

5.       Would a troubled student come to me first? This is the biggie for me.  At this point in the season, have I and my staff created relationships with our newbies that would make them feel comfortable talking to us about a major personal crisis?  Have we created a family-like team where the older folks would notice something is wrong and come to me with it?  It certainly is our intention and I hope it is the case.

I pray that none of us ever has to deal with a situation like Tyler Clementi’s…and perhaps there was no preventing this outcome.  But it’s our job to make sure we’ve done everything within our power to keep a tragedy like this from impacting our teams.

For more on Tyler Clementi’s story, click on this link.

You can check out more of my writing at  You can follow me on Twitter @CoachDawnWrites and Facebook so that we can connect and talk coaching.


Accountability – an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.

To me, this is such a powerful word; it is also such an important characteristic to teach and demonstrate to my own athletes.  I do not feel this way just because I work at a boarding school and it is a big part of my job, instead, I believe it is my duty as people who are accountable for their actions seem to be more successful.  Not to mention, people like to be around people with whom they can depend and trust.  Therefore, I believe that in order to have a successful team, accountability must be a part of the entire team’s vocabulary and behavior.  Excuses should not be made, just accept responsibility for your actions, learn from the situation, and move forward.

At the start of each season I work to teach my athletes that when you are a member of a team, you are no longer solely responsible for your own actions; instead, you are now accountable for the actions of the entire team.   This is why the expectations are there that everyone will get to class and practice on time, will follow all school and team rules, and will support and help one another.  I want them to realize that while individually they may be successful, they alone cannot execute a play in basketball, secure an overall win in a tennis match, or run a corner play on the hockey field without the help of their teammates.  Therefore, without a sense of team accountability, no one athlete will achieve the ultimate success and accomplishment of goals without her other teammates.

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Coaching Through the Recruiting Process

Much of my day in the office right now is devoted to recruiting.  With a new program and season that doesn’t officially start until 2013-2014 our focus has been on securing the freshman class that will begin to write the history books for Michigan Women’s Lacrosse. Yes, you did the math correctly; the student-athletes we are recruiting are currently juniors in high school.

With so much time spent on recruiting right now, I can’t help but think about just how much this process had changed since I was in high school and the pressures young junior girls now face that I didn’t even begin to feel the weight of until at least the summer after 11th grade.   Gone are the days of  making your college athletic decisions through senior year official visits followed by commitments and the signing of a National Letter of Intent (NLI) shortly there after.  Today, girls fresh off the arrival of their junior year make unofficial visits to colleges and universities and verbal commitments to these institutions and athletic programs long before official visits or NLI’s are even permissible and prior to even stepping on the field to play their junior season in high school.   Additionally, with the onset of social media and mass communication vehicles and the increased focus on the sport of lacrosse through media and other such outlets, it has become far to easy to know about and thus compare ones self and ones current progress to the rest of the recruiting class across the nation.  Such pressures – self-initiated or brought on by those around these young women – lead to a thought process of who’s doing what vs. where am I which is often compounded by those in a position of guiding these young athletes telling them where they should be. As a result the decision-making process for these young girls can cause quite a bit of apprehension and is far more demanding and taxing than it ever was for me.

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