Paying It Forward

For the two-plus decades that Andrew Stanley has been associated with the Collegiate boys lacrosse program, his focus has always been on transforming young athletes into responsible citizens while promoting the sport that has meant so much to him throughout his life.
Though he coaches the varsity squad and oversees the total program with passion, verve, and, at times, great animation, his focus has never, ever been on himself.
This past Tuesday, though, he found himself squarely in the spotlight. On that afternoon when the Cougars defeated Midlothian 16-11 on the Grover Jones Field, Stanley earned the 200th victory of his 15-year head coaching career.
What does that landmark mean to him?
“What it means,” he said, “is that a lot of kids have put in a lot of work over a long time. I’ve been super-fortunate with the coaches who coached me, the guys I’ve coached with, and the patience of the school to be around for 200 wins.”
Stanley’s career record now stands at 201-97. It includes four Prep League titles (‘05, ‘06, ‘11, and ’15) as well as the 2006 VISAA championship. He was league coach of the year in ’06 and ’11 and state and US Lacrosse coach of the year in ’15.
With regular season games with St. Anne’s-Belfield (Tuesday) and St. Christopher’s (Thursday) and the state tournament remaining, his current squad is 10-7.
Stanley, whose first “W” came when defeated Albemarle 9-6 on April 29, 2005, is the face of Collegiate boys lacrosse. He’s integrally involved with the Geronimo program. He runs camps and clinics. He takes the Cougars to summer tournaments. His time and energy commitment is off the charts. He loves to win -- hey, what coach doesn’t? – but with Stanley it’s about the basics, grit, hustle, competing the right way, and teaching life lessons.
“Andrew is amazing,” said athletic director Karen Doxey. “He tends to every aspect of his program with meticulous planning, thoughtfulness, and attention to detail. He is a teacher who understands the importance of fundamental skills, key concepts, decision making, and the X’s and O’s. Even more importantly, he spends as much time building relationships, building team culture, and building leadership qualities in his athletes. To say he has a passion for the sport and his athletes is putting it mildly.”

Stanley’s lacrosse journey began very early, not surprising since he grew up in Baltimore, a hotbed for the sport.
“As a young kid,” he said, “I was a baseball player, but every kid in Baltimore had a lacrosse stick. I played catch with my buddies. I went to a camp once or twice. In 8th grade, I got cut from the middle school baseball team. Rightfully so. Couldn’t hit a curve ball. Then, played intramural lacrosse. Played on my first lacrosse team when I was a freshman at Gilman (School).”
After two JV seasons, he earned a spot on the varsity roster as a junior.
“I never played,” Stanley said. “Didn’t deserve to play. At the beginning of my junior year, my coach (John Tucker) made a deal with me, because I’d worked hard and gotten into shape, that if I hit the wall (to improve skills, quickness, and reflexes) for an hour a day, I’d be on the team.
“Coach Tucker was very good to me. I worked his camps. Worked with the little kids. I was one of the few high school kids who did that. There were a lot of super-famous college and world team players that would hang out at those camps, so I got to be around a lot of really smart people and listen and learn from some of the best. Really enjoyed that.”
Stanley’s next stop was Division III Randolph-Macon College where he played his first three years for Matt Kerwick, a professional lacrosse player who, after several Division I stops, is now the director of lacrosse at IMG Academy.
“It was clear that if you really, actually worked hard, Coach Kerwick would give you an opportunity,” said Stanley, a long-stick midfielder and defenseman. “I played some my freshman year. I was a starter in a lacrosse game (at Washington & Lee) for the first time in my life as a sophomore on a pretty good team.”
How good did you become? I asked him.
“I was a meaningful player,” he said. “I was more Rudy than Babe Ruth.”
Just before Stanley’s senior season, Kerwick took an assistant’s job at Division I Penn.
“He called me up and said, ‘I’m leaving, and you’re going to have to keep the ship sailing,’” Stanley recalled. “For fall ball, I ran practices and dealt with recruits while Joe Riccio (Kerwick’s predecessor and also the head football coach) helped with the practice plans. I was thrown into the fire. That’s what really kickstarted the idea of coaching.”
After graduation in 1995 (BA in psychology), Stanley worked as a psychiatric technician at Charter Westbrook Hospital and, when time allowed, played summer league lacrosse and assisted Wortie Ferrell, Trip Featherston, and Darren Kennon with Collegiate’s JV.
The next two years, he served as a teaching assistant in Collegiate’s Lower School, then as a third grade teacher, then as an admission officer and fifth grade math teacher. He’s been a full-time associate athletic director since 2013.
While he’s coached, at various times, Cub football and wrestling, lacrosse has always been his sport of choice.
“Lacrosse is unique in that it’s a contact sport that is accessible to everyone,” he said. “It’s not a very difficult sport to learn. It is a hard sport to perfect. It allows for physical contact, creativity, and self-expression. It’s fast moving. Getting better at lacrosse just takes determination.”
Which, by the way, is an attribute which Stanley has always brought to his playing and coaching.
“If my high school coach hadn’t gotten on the phone with Matt Kerwick and said I could play, and if Matt Kerwick hadn’t given me an opportunity, I’d have a different job and a different life,” Stanley said. “I’ve tried pretty hard to do for motivated kids what those people did for me.”
What makes a good lacrosse day? I asked him. Winning? A spirited practice? Seeing a player perfect a skill?
“You know as well as I do,” he responded, “that the older you get and the more perspective you get, you can’t really control those moments. I’ve really enjoyed practices, especially in the early season when we feel less pressure. I enjoy practices where we have a bunch of people focused on getting better and working on individual skills and concepts and having fun. You see guys have the opportunity to improve and find their success. That’s different for every kid. You need to celebrate that. We’re going to take risks. We’re going to get up and down the field. We’ll make mistakes, but we’ll learn from them. I don’t dislike games by any means, but I really enjoy practices.”
You’re not shy about scheduling tough teams, I commented.
“I learned very early coaching here,” he replied, “and I think quite honestly why a lot of us coach here, is that it’s about providing for kids, not about numbers at the end of the day. I create a schedule with an appropriate amount of challenge. We’re not going to hide from reality. We’re going to test ourselves against reality and see where we are, just like you would in a math or history class. If you win, you win. We’ve beaten some really good teams. We’ve had some tough losses. We’ve learned from them and tried to get better. The sun’s come up the next day.”
Two hundred wins is a nice landmark, I reminded him.
“You hit a number, and to some extent it’s an acknowledgment of age,” he replied. “It’s nice. It’s really cool to reflect on the opportunity to have an impact. You hope to give kids a positive experience and hope they grow from it. Certainly, that’s what my coaches did for me. I have the job I’ve wanted since I was in the fourth grade. That’s not a bad place to be in life.”
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