Lisa Lindley grew up in Simsbury, Conn., with a bunch of older siblings, and knew from an early age she wanted to take sports to the highest level she could.
The question was, which sport? She was recruited in field hockey and basketball coming out of Simsbury High School, and picked up lacrosse during her time at Northwestern. After transferring to UMass, she went on to star in lacrosse and field hockey, earning All-America honors in both. She made the U.S. World Cup Lacrosse team.
After her playing days, she transitioned to coaching, where she has led Darien (Conn.) High School to 17 state championships. Those achievements earned her induction into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
She joined host Jack Piatelli on “New England Lacrosse Journal’s Chasing The Goal” podcast to talk about her introduction to lacrosse, team culture and the dark side to recruiting.
The full podcast can be accessed below.
Jack Piatelli: What made you the player you became at UMass versus your experience at Northwestern?
Lisa Lindley: When I transferred I had to sit out a year because the Northwestern coach wouldn’t release me. I had a full year of practicing with the field hockey and lacrosse teams without playing. So it gave me a full year to get bigger, stronger, faster. I did gain a little bit of weight from going out so much at UMass but I got that off the summer going into my actual junior year. A lot of it had to do with maturity and wanting to achieve certain things. All my brothers were All-Americans and that was important to me. I had an amazing (field hockey and lacrosse) coach, Pam Hixon, who was an amazing motivator, and things just fell into place.
JP: What got you to the (lacrosse) level you got to at UMass?
LL: For me it was putting in the extra time and the extra work. I knew that showing up for just a two-hour practice wasn’t going to cut it. I’d do extra running workouts. I’d get in the weight room. Back then, with women’s teams, coaches didn’t require us to lift. I did that on my own and that was really what transitioned me from a college player to an elite player at the U.S. level.
JP: What makes you the coach you are today, with the success you’ve had on the field?
LL: I think some of the things that have made me successful as a coach are the value of being honest with players, being able to communicate with them, caring about them as a whole individual versus just a lacrosse player. I think I’m a very good motivator and I’m consistent; I’m not going to have some rules for star players and then some rules for benchwarmers. And the importance of building the culture we’ve built at Darien, that’s something I’m very proud of.
JP: What is that culture, other than winning championships?
LL: First and foremost is team-first, embracing your teammates and making it a great experience. Doing the right thing ethically and morally as a person. Being accountable. And hopefully I’m teaching them to be good citizens. Those are the main things.
JP: So many kids today, they want to get through high school and get to college, but high school goes by so quickly. Life goes by so quickly. They don’t understand that that time is so precious. When you get to college it’s a whole new world.
LL: You hit the nail on the head. College sports is a business. The coach you see during your recruiting time is not going to be the same coach you see when you step on the field as a freshman. Their job is to win. If you’re not doing the job they’re going to move on. I can say that and tell players that all the time but they don’t believe it. Parents don’t believe it. They think it’s going to be this great, wonderful path — and for some it is — but for many, they go off to college and may never see the field. They may have to do all the work without reaping the benefits.
JP: You’ve talked to a number of college coaches over the years. When they ask you about players, do they ask if she’s a good teammate?
LL: Yes. That’s one of the first questions coaches ask: What is she like as a kid? Is she a good kid? And then the second question is, ‘What are her parents like? Am I going to have an issue with her parents?’ Because now we’re at a point where coaches are not going to recruit a kid if they have parents that are going to present a problem. It’s just not worth it for them. They get in situations where their job is on the line. If they recruit a kid with baggage or a kid with parents that are going to be a problem, and they subsequently go and complain, that coach can be fired.