Facing Failure: Varsity coaches


Anna McGrath, Staff Writer

The topic of failure can often be taboo, but not running into failure is impossible, especially in an environment like BB&N, where people are always striving toward self-improvement. In this first edition of “Facing Failure,” athletics coaches recall their own so-called failures and the lessons they learned from them.

Varsity Football Coach Mike Willey on a freshman year rejection:

During Coach Willey’s eighth-grade year, he made the freshman basketball team and even became captain, so as a ninth grader, he thought he would make the JV basketball team.

“I didn’t,” Coach Willey said. “I got cut.

I got cut from the JV basketball team as a freshman and played on the freshman team again. Crazy fact about me: I think I am the only person in the world who was captain of the freshman basketball team twice.”

His failure left him upset, Coach Willey said, but his dad, a role model and mentor, encouraged him to improve.

“He basically was like, ‘Control what you can control. You can get better,’” Coach Willey said about his father, Bob Willey. “You can work on your weak hand. You can work on your dribbling skills, work on your shooting.”

By following his father’s advice, Coach Willey said, he improved greatly.

“The following year, as a sophomore, I made the varsity team and was a starter. It was a moment in my athletic career I look back on as a good one.”

Coach Willey grew from his failures and brought that mentality to the Knights’ football program, where he now coaches his players to overcome adversity.

Girls’ Varsity Hockey Coach Ed Bourget ’96 on a rookie coaching mistake:

Coach Bourget started his coaching career in women’s hockey at age 25, when he took a job at Sacred Heart University. He was head coach, he said, but his mentality still needed development.

The media, the fans, and the school all wanted their team to win, which reinforced a mentality of prioritizing winning and which ignored other important aspects of playing on a team, he elaborated.

“As a young coach, I felt that wins and losses were a direct reflection on the coach as a person and the team as being successful or unsuccessful,” Coach Bourget said. “What I failed to realize in that season was that the measure of success was in the improvements that we made as a team and as individuals.”

When the team began losing, the morale and skill of Coach Bourget’s players plummeted, he said.

“What society and the media do not point out is that failure is a key ingredient that leads to later successes in life,” he said.

After leaving that coaching job, Coach Bourget said, he could see how to change his approach to coaching.

“BB&N has helped me craft my coaching ideology, and I now realize that it’s the connections that a coach makes with their players and how they can be a positive influence in their lives that matter most.”

JV Field Hockey Assistant Coach, GVH Assistant Coach, and Varsity Softball Assistant Coach Kathy Newell on a leadership letdown:

One of Coach Newell’s biggest disappointments in her athletic career was when she was not selected to be an ice hockey captain during her senior year at Noble and Greenough. She had assumed she would be chosen for her talent and good leadership skills, she said, but instead she was left heartbroken.

“[It] was horrible and took a toll on my self-esteem,” Coach Newell said. “I was one of the best players at Nobles. I lived for hockey. Retelling this story still makes me sad and a little mad.”

Coach Newell said she eventually decided that not being chosen as captain could not change her love for ice hockey, so she continued to love the sport, love her teammates, and live for game days.

“I learned that being a captain is an honor, but being a good teammate is more honorable. No matter what your specific role may be, great teammates do what they need to do to be successful. You don’t always need a ‘C’ on your jersey to be a leader.”