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December 17, 2009

This "Her Space" column by Clare Lochary appears in the December issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 300,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

Lochary: Pay It Forward

by Clare Lochary | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

I am a terrible pack rat. Allow me to provide a partial inventory of my purse: masking tape, triple A batteries, a program from Team USA's World Cup ring ceremony, a back issue of Smithsonian magazine and a green sparkle pen. I have not used any of these things in more than a week. At last count, I own 30 lacrosse-related t-shirts and I can't bring myself to toss any. My living room closet would do Fred Sanford proud, and I dread having to dive in there to dig out the holiday decorations. If this space is blank in January, please send in a search party.

Because I already have so much, I always feel anxious when Christmas approaches. There will inevitably be more stuff. Wreaths, trees, ornaments, trinkets, wrapping paper scraps, ribbons and gifts. And gifts and gifts and gifts.

The truth is, I could do without a lot of it. I like talking with my loved ones at the holidays way more than the knickknacks I get. Exchanging stories is more fun than exchanging presents, especially since our Secret Santa has, in recent years, become an elaborate, zero-sum swap of gift certificates and iTunes cards. It's nice just to be together for a while.

Time is really the best gift of all, and that's not just a Christmas thing. For players, the time you put into lacrosse is a gift to yourself and to your teammates. For coaches, umpires and other grown-up types, the time you put into your daughter's hobby is, to crib from the MasterCard commercials, priceless. Sharing yourselves and your knowledge of the game helps lacrosse to grow and improve.

Take, for example, the joint work of Janine Tucker and Diane Geppi-Aiken. As young coaches at Johns Hopkins and Loyola respectively, Tucker and Geppi-Aiken were frustrated by the lack of training manuals and by clinics that never went beyond the very basics.

"It was like, ‘Thanks, I get this. How about something that's going to get my juices flowing? How about something that's going to get me to think a little bit harder about a defense or an offense or a ride?'" says Tucker.

Tucker, who played for Geppi-Aiken at Loyola, praises her former coach as a true educator. Geppi-Aiken had the self-confidence to be free with her lacrosse knowledge, to know that if someone turned her plays against her, she could always adjust and come up with something more. So she hosted clinics, spoke at conventions and taught lacrosse to anyone who would sit still long enough to listen. She and Tucker had dreams about writing a lacrosse book together, to help up-and-coming coaches understand the basics and build a foundation for innovation.

Sadly, Geppi-Aiken's time ran short, and she died of a brain tumor in June 2003 after leading the Greyhounds to the final four from a wheelchair. When Tucker visited her mentor's death bed, she made two equally serious promises: to look out for Geppi-Aiken's children and to write the lacrosse book they'd always talked about. Tucker had her own kids to raise and a Division I program to run, but she made time. Within six months of Geppi-Aiken's death, "Coaching Girls' Lacrosse: A Baffled Parent's Guide" was in print. It has since sold more than 20,000 copies, and Tucker has only one regret.

"Diane's not here to experience what I have, when a mom or a dad calls me or stops me in the mall, to say, ‘This book helped me so much, and I've been able to spend some wonderful quality time with my daughter.' I know Diane is up there smiling but I wish she was able to see that," says Tucker.

Competitiveness is an essential element of any sport. I personally can't stand scrimmages where no one keeps score, even for little kids. But success - on the field or off - is not a physical thing that you cling to, something that you will no longer possess if you give it to someone else. The truth is that it multiplies and expands to fill the space it's given.

So give your time and knowledge as gifts. Share your playbook. Teach a friend from another team how to beat a double. Show a benchwarmer on your team how she can become a starter, even if you play the same position. You'll be the better for it, I promise.

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