Saturday, January 24, 2009

Talking With Tierney

Bill Tierney met this morning with a group of about 30-40 coaches for the Lower Bucks Lacrosse youth organization. The basic idea was for Tierney, Princeton's Hall of Fame coach, to give some basic pointers on coaching the sport and on common mistakes youth coaches make.

The result was about 90 minutes that were pure Tierney. He spoke about the good fortune he has had in his career, especially the opportunity to coach his sons, and blended that with a genuine appreciation for the tough job that youth coaches have these days. He was funny, direct, informative and above all humble.

His audience was mostly awed by having someone of Tierney's stature speak to them. During a Q&A session at the end, the "Q's" bounced around between lacrosse strategy and basic philosophy and the "A's" were informative, respectful and enormously well-embraced.

Among Tierney's points:
* if you walk way from a youth game happy only because you won, then you're not doing it the right way
* if you "kick 'em in the butt," then you have to turn around and embrace them as well
* if you take a bunch of kids and let them play a game, what they'll remember most is that they had a good time doing it
* kids inherently want to get along and play the right way and show good sportsmanship; it's when they look around and see the coaches and parents around them losing track of that that the kids begin to lose their way
* the goal is to keep all of the players in the program because they're having a good experience

For a youth coach, this was the equivalent of having Bill Belichek or Phil Jackson or whoever the best hockey coach is come and speak to a group of volunteers at the most grass-roots level of the sport.

TigerBlog was there to introduce Tierney and to listen to stories that were familiar. Tierney speaks often about his four children and his experiences with them, both sons Trevor and Brendan who were part of NCAA championship teams in their own right, and daughters Courtney and Brianne, who were college athletes and are now college coaches, as well as his wife Helen.

One of his best questions asked by the audience was the question of coaching your own children, something that most youth coaches do. It's a difficult balance, Tierney said, because you don't want to be seen to be favoring your child, while at the same time, you don't want to overdo it in the other direction.

He followed that with one his best stories, which comes from after Princeton defeated Johns Hopkins 8-4 in the first game of the 2001 season, which would end with the Tigers' sixth NCAA championship. Tierney had to replace Brendan in the starting lineup with freshman Ryan Boyle, one of the elite lacrosse players of all-time. It was not easy to do, for obvious reasons.

Boyle had four assists in that first game. Later that night, Tierney said, he got into bed feeling pretty good about the win, and before he could fall asleep, he heard his wife say: "would it have killed you to play your son a little more?"

The audience loved that one, as always.

As for TigerBlog, it had one regret over its intro for Tierney. Lower Bucks Lacrosse, and the many leagues in the area, didn't exist before Tierney brought the sport to Central Jersey and Southeast Pennsylvania. Its explosion is directly relatable to Tierney's success at Princeton.

TigerBlog forgot to mention that without Tierney, the gathering of coaches would most likely have been prior to the start of Little League baseball season.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tierney's daughter Courtney is the head girls basketball coach and the assistant girls lacrosse coach at the Pennington School. Brianne is an asistant woman's lacrosse coach at Cal-Berkeley