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Welcoming Change: An Interview with PSU Lacrosse Coach Sandy Bridgeman

By Kendal Lariviere; For the Clock
On February 9, 2017

Welcoming Change: An Interview with PSU Lacrosse Coach Sandy Bridgeman 

Kendal Lariviere

For The Clock

klariviere@plymouth.edu

An athlete all her life, coaching became a natural progression of Sandy Bridgeman’s athletic career.

After playing a variety of sports throughout her childhood, she came to focus on field hockey and lacrosse in college. Sandy amounted an impressive resume of experiences, both during her days of collegiate athletics and after graduation, from being a part of a National Championship team in lacrosse at UNH to serving as head coach of her alma mater’s Division I Lacrosse program for 13 years to getting the opportunity to coach the Dutch National Lacrosse team. With a variety of valuable experiences under her belt, Sandy joins the Women’s Lacrosse team at Plymouth State with a fresh set of eyes looking forward to the future of the program and excited to get out on the field and play. The Clock had an opportunity to sit down with her back in September, during the PSU Women’s Lacrosse team’s nontraditional season, just as she started to settle in with her new players.

Q: When did you first become involved in athletics and playing sports?

Sandy Bridgeman: I came from a very athletic family— I’m one of six kids, and the second youngest. It was always the older ones who blazed the trail [in athletics]. As a family, after dinner, there was a basketball court where we would play until after it was dark. Again, having that many people in the family, we could get some good games going. So, when we were growing up, sports were always a part of what we did.

Q: Was lacrosse something you picked up later in life?

SB: Yeah, actually lacrosse was not something I was exposed to until I went to college. In high school, I had played field hockey, basketball, and a number of different sports, and going into college, I figured I’d just start with that first sport, field hockey, and then play basketball. I didn’t realize that tryouts were the same day, for both field hockey and basketball, so I tried out for field hockey and made the team. At that time, a majority of the players also played lacrosse,

and that led me to being exposed to it, then trying out and making the team. Then, I went from there. Funny how things work out!

Q: In addition to coaching at UNH, you also had the opportunity to coach the Dutch National Lacrosse Team. How was it dif- ferent coaching a national level team as opposed to a collegiate level team?

SB: The sport is very young in the Netherlands. It was their national team, so there certainly was a pride in what they were doing, but it was also about teaching the sport and bringing it along. There was great commitment on their part— commitment to be a part of it. Their dedication to

it was a different level, especially considering their newness to the sport. We would practice almost once a month— I would fly over and fly back, going for about a week at a time— and for our practices, most of the kids were working somewhere, or they were at university, and alot of them would take a two hour trip just to get to that practice. Then they would get on their bike and go back. So, just the dedication was really inspiring. It was a wonderful experience for me to be a part of, to help grow the sport, and for them to see that success and for me to see their love for the game and to represent their country.

Q: How does PSU compare to other places where you've coached?

SB: I guess my approach to coaching is the same, no matter where I am, and that’s kind of building on the fundamentals and a style of play. I feel like no matter what level, there is that consistency in how you play the game. There’s an integrity behind it, and I focus on just honoring the sport. So, I think my philosophy is consistent between here or anywhere else I’ve coached. And I find kids and the team aspect— they’re all the same, as far as for that wanting to do the best. Yes, there is a perspective of where sport fits in that might vary level to level, and as far as time commitment that I ask [of my players] versus coaching at a different level, but I think that commitment and the rewards of being on a team are all very similar.

Q: The PSU Lacrosse program has had a history of being a very successful team. Despite that, there has been just a little bit of controversy in the past few years around how the program had been run and how it had been coached. In what ways do you plan to change the program to shift that focus away from such negative connotations? 

SB: I’m a fresh set of eyes, a fresh person, and I feel like that’s the same for the players. It is important for them to afford me that fresh set of eyes, and for me to afford them the same, too. I think really stressing how you want to go about— and I said this to the players in one of the first meetings— representing yourself and your school by your play. I’ve always believed that long after the game is over, you’re remembered for how you played the game, rather than the score of the game. So, you have to think about, how do we want to be remembered? Yes, I think winning will come with it, but more important is just how you play the game and how you treat each other, and how we as coaches treat them. So, I think those things all will evolve for them to build a trust in what we’re asking as a coaching staff, and our reciprocal effort back and forth. 

Q: What do you see for the future of the lacrosse program here?

SB: I’m just starting to get know them and just having our first couple practices, but I’ve been very impressed that they’re very receptive to the coaching and the feedback. It’s greatly appreciated, and almost not necessary, but almost every practice, they’re like “thank you, coach.” It seems like that’s the type of kids they are, and I like that. So going forward, I think we want to continue to build and surround ourselves with good people, and I think good things will happen. That’s my goal, is to continue to find those kinds of kids that are going to represent what we’re about and what the school is about— that love to play, lovetobea part of the team, and work hard. Obviously, you want to compete and do well in your conference, but I think it starts from laying the foundation of what you’re about.

Q: What do you think your biggest challenge will be during your first season here as a coach?

SB: I was going to say getting to know our opponents, but then again, coachingwise, I worry more about what we’re about than what others are about, so that’s not it. I don’t really know! I’m sure that there’s going to be challenges or opponents or who knows what, but it doesn’t really bother me. I try to keep the focus on [that feeling of] “how lucky am I?”

Q: What are you most excited about for the upcoming season? SB: Just that opportunity to get out there and play. Granted we’ve only had five practices, but the kids seem very receptive to what we’re doing, and are just taking it all in, and that makes it rewarding as a coach— that enjoyment of being out there every day and building something.

Q: As you’re starting practices and getting to know the players, what are some words you would use to describe the team so far?

SB: One is that I think they’re very close. They graduated no one from last year, so there is 26 players returning, plus some new players. Throughout different things happening— I’m the third coach they’ve had— they’ve really relied on each other and that has built a really strong group. They’re receptive to whatever I’m asking. I give them a lot of credit, particularly the upperclassmen that have had three coaches in three seasons, that they’re able to be open. They’re very welcoming. I’ve seen some good things on the field that I want to build on, but I think that cohesiveness as a team shows on the field, too. I want to refine some of the skills in some of the different areas [of the game], but there’s a couple of key things that are really pretty advanced.

Q: You’ve been coaching for a very long time. What are some of the most significant things you’ve learned about athletes during this coaching process?

SB: I think that everybody just wants that opportunity to show what they can do, and I think everybody deserves that opportunity. That’s what I like as a coach, and what I like to see in players— the [mentality of] “I don’t have to have the given, I just want to have the opportunity to earn it.” So, I think that’s what I like about athletes, is seeing that mentality. Rather than “I’m entitled to that spot on the team” it’s “just give me a chance, and I’ll show you that I can do it.”

Q: Do you have any specific philosophies or guidelines that you stick to while coaching? Or do have you adapted to each team that you’ve coached for?

SB: Different things work for different athletes, and I try to be aware of that, but I have to stay true to my style. I strongly believe in teaching each kid with respect. I tell the players, there’s what you’re entitled to and what you earn. You’re entitled to fair opportunity. You’re entitled to be treated with respect by your coaches, by your peers...but everything else you earn. Earn that spot on the team, earn that practice time, earn your playing time. Also, to keep in mind the big-picture of what’s going on. It goes back to that mentality of be remembered for how you played the game or how you coached the game. It’s keeping that perspective of the bigger picture. 

 

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