Rob Bordley '66 spoke at the 2017 US Lacrosse Convention (LaxCon), where he shared his philosophy on "how best to reach today's student-athletes and help them find success both on and off the field." In his 47 years as a Landon teacher-coach-mentor, Bordley has become one of the most respected and winningest coaches in the sport of high school lacrosse. In the following blog post, Bordley shares some of his remarks from LaxCon.
I think you get wiser with age. Some of the things I do now as a coach are not things that I have always done. I handle situations differently now than I would have 20 years ago. The guidelines I share now are guidelines I wish I had followed from the beginning, but the truth is that my coaching philosophy has evolved over time. These principles are the product of many years of experience and of mistakes, but I like to think that I have hopefully learned from my mistakes...
Your team is a reflection of you. To maximize their potential, you must be the most enthusiastic person on the field every day. Enjoy this opportunity, as you have a chance to be a huge influence in the life of a young person. Be honest with your players, and when you handle a situation poorly, be wise enough to acknowledge that. Remember that you are not preparing your players to go on to a career in lacrosse. However, you can demonstrate to them each and every day the importance of hard work, organization and commitment.
You must also have a vision of what you want your program to be in several years and a plan for achieving that goal. Of course, flexibility is another essential quality for success. Be willing to listen to your players and assistant coaches; if something isn't working, either figure out why or think about moving in a different direction. In addition, be patient, as it takes several years to really turn a program around and change the culture.
Most importantly, model the behavior that you want your players to demonstrate. We live in a world where sportsmanship, humility, unselfishness, and compassion for your opponent are often sacrificed for winning and rankings. Those will mean little if you don't teach your players to be better citizens in the future. To do that, you must pay attention to little things and establish a code of conduct that you, your coaches and your players will abide by. It is easy to look the other way at times, but your players will be quick to pick up on that inconsistency. That will only undermine your team's respect for you, so don't be scared to discipline your team and hold them to a higher standard than their fellow students.
At Landon, we stress to the boys that playing varsity lacrosse is a privilege and not a right that all students have. That privilege carries responsibility, and I have occasionally heard some of my players reprimand their peers for irresponsibility. That is when I know as a coach that I have really had an impact on a young man.
(Pictured above, left to right, at LaxCon: Bordley with assistant coaches Ian Healy '00, Will McGettigan, Conor Cassidy '06 and J.R. Bordley '00)
A lot of this comes from my time as a student at Landon. Ed Barton was the football coach, but he was also a true gentleman. I remember as vividly today as I did back then the way he stressed the importance of sportsmanship. He didn't tolerate fighting or foul language. And Mac Jacoby was like that too. He was the head of the Middle School and my Middle School football coach. Even though our team was undefeated and even unscored upon, what was most important to him was sportsmanship and that you do things the right way.
The reason I have stuck around at Landon for so long can be summed up in a single word: relationships. I love working with the kids. I love working with the teachers and coaches here. And I love that a lot of my assistant coaches are guys that I coached when they were students here: my son J.R. '00 and guys like Ian Healy '00, Penn Leachman '94, Tiger Joyce '78 and Conor Cassidy '06. The relationships I have with many of them is more than just coach-assistant coach; it's like father-son. That's what I love about Landon.
Bordley is one of just five high school lacrosse coaches to have amassed more than 600 career wins. His teams have won 30 Interstate Athletic Conference (IAC) titles and three times have been ranked No. 1 in the country. He is a five-time Washington Post Coach of the Year and a member of the Rugby Hall of Fame. He also attended Landon as a student from Grades 3 through 12.