Last June, amidst the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic, women’s lacrosse Head Coach Liz Grote was selected as the President of the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches’ Association (IWLCA).
As President of the IWLCA, a nationwide organization that monitors the proceedings of all intercollegiate lacrosse and represents coaches from NCAA Divisions I, II and III, Grote found herself with newfound responsibility.
“My role is to set an agenda, to decide what we talk about at meetings. We have executive meetings and full board meetings, and I have to make sure that things run smoothly,” Grote said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “I also ensure that we’re following through on all the promises that we make to our coaches.”
Grote first became involved in the IWLCA as a volunteer, when she worked as a women’s lacrosse Assistant Coach at Princeton University in 1996. The head coach at the time was the president of the organization, and Grote was able to learn about the work that the IWLCA does from her.
After over 20 years of volunteering on various IWLCA committees, Grote decided that she wanted to make a larger impact in the intercollegiate lacrosse world.
“I’m very passionate about the growth of lacrosse and of our coaches,” Grote said. “I wanted to encourage more professional development and provide a good experience for the younger coaches to ensure that they stay in coaching.”
Grote was a natural choice to be selected for the prestigious position. She is the winningest coach in Bowdoin Women’s Lacrosse coaching history and has diverse prior coaching experiences at Division I schools such as Princeton, Monmouth University and the University of New Hampshire.
“[Being] involved in Division I and Division III coaching helped me to learn about some differences between the divisions, and it helped me to see the bigger picture,” Grote said. “I can see the overall objective and see what will be best for everyone, not just my own division.”
Grote said she has been able to use the skills that she developed as President of the IWLCA to fine-tune her coaching style at Bowdoin.
“I’ve learned to be thoughtful and mindful of everything. I have to be aware that one decision can affect everything,” Grote said. “Being president has allowed me to take on a lot more responsibility, and I have to make sure that my decisions are good.”
Given the timing of her transition into her new position, Grote has taken on more than the typical duties of the IWLCA President. As well as balancing normal tasks such as scheduling board meetings and hosting recruiting tournaments, she and the organization have faced the task of negotiating COVID-19 restrictions.
“We host recruiting tournaments so we can provide the best experience for our IWLCA coaches, but because of COVID-19, we had to cancel all of our tournaments,” Grote said.
The pandemic restrictions did not just affect Grote’s plans and objectives as the President of the IWLCA. At Bowdoin, Grote and her athletes were dejected after their hopes for a season of full competition in the spring of 2021 were dashed by the College’s ruling to refrain from participating in any athletic competition outside of Maine.
“Bowdoin is opting out of the restricted spring sports season, so it’s hard right now, and it’s going to be even harder to watch other NESCAC [colleges] start playing games,” Grote said.
However, Grote and the IWLCA were able to adapt and find many positive aspects of a limited, virtual season.
“I think COVID-19 actually helped our organization grow, because we did so much online and it was more flexible. We had completely virtual conventions and coaches’ clinics, and people were able to either watch them live or watch them later,” Grote said. “We also established a DEI committee that [has] helped grow the diversity of [college] lacrosse and provided an opportunity for students of color to learn about coaching from current coaches.”
As Grote to the future, she is working diligently to maintain a positive mindset and optimize the opportunities that she and her athletes still have.
“We look forward to having everybody back on campus next fall,” Grote said. “Right now, we have a great opportunity to work with our sophomores, who have only experienced 21 days of Bowdoin lacrosse [thus far].”
Outside of her responsibilities with the IWLCA, Grote plans to tackle difficult issues with her team, using the time they have off the field to improve aspects of the sport that reach beyond training and competition.
“I don’t think my role as President [of the IWLCA] will change much because we just have standard meetings and committees, but my goal for the future is to diversify [lacrosse],” Grote said. “Right now, [the DEI action plan] talks about inclusion, but I want belonging. My goal is to make everyone feel like they belong on the team, because I’m not sure that being included is always enough.”