This past weekend, the Penn State womens lacrosse team beat UPenn and earned themselves a trip to the NCAA D1 Final Four, where they’ll match up against UNC this Friday. To celebrate, we’re featuring Suzanne Isidor on our blog! As a player, Suzanne led the Nittany Lions to the NCAA semi-finals her senior year, earning regional All-American honors in the process. Five years later, in 2000, she came back in a different leadership position: head coach. After ten years as the coach of a competitive DI team, Suzanne made the move to Sacramento with her family. Now, as a Tenacity coach, she continues to instill her love of the game in young players, bringing with her a deep understanding of what it takes to make it on and off the field.
I grew up in Madison, New Jersey and when I was a little girl I went to the Drew Lacrosse Camps. I didn’t realize it at the time, but you were the first coach I ever had who really knew what she was doing. I imagine it’s a big adjustment to go from working with college teams to working with much younger girls, but you’ve been doing both for a long time now. How does your approach change? Does one help to inform the other?
The switch from coaching college players to youth players was an adjustment. I have found that my coaching philosophy has not changed – I strive to combine hard work and having fun and expect the same of my players. But how I go about achieving this has changed. When players come to college, they already have a passion for the game and understand what work ethic means. I’ve found that when working with the younger players, teaching and inspiring that passion for the game is a bigger part of my job. Many of my youth players are just being introduced to lacrosse so it’s my job to help them discover the love of the game that I am lucky enough to have.
How did you become involved with Tenacity? What brought you out to Sacramento?
I moved to Davis almost four years ago. My husband got a job at UCDavis and we moved west with our three boys. I have known Theresa Sherry since her playing days at Princeton. I met with her a few times once we moved and was really impressed with her focus on growing the game and developing girls to be successful on and off the field.
You were a four year letter winner at Penn State, leading your team to the NCAA Semi-Finals your senior year. How did it feel to go back and take on the coaching mantle at your alma mater?
My return to Penn State as the Head Coach was exciting. I was very honored and happy to be able to do what I love at a place that I love. Coaching lacrosse at the college level was something that I knew I wanted to do and to be able to do it at the place that I was so invested in and gave me so many opportunities was really special.
Do you miss working with a college team? And, on the flip side, what do you not miss about it?
I miss parts of being with a college team. I enjoy competing at the highest level and working on a college campus. I was lucky enough to have my dream job for ten years. But at this point in my life I am loving working with younger kids and helping to develop the game in the Northern California. I still get to be competitive, teach and have an impact on young girls without having as much travel and stress.
A lot of our Tenacity girls are going through the recruiting process, which can be really fun and really stressful. What did you look for when you were recruiting? What advice do you give the Sacramento girls you work with?
The recruiting process can be stressful and is getting even more stressful with the earlier recruiting. My advice to student-athletes is to do as much “homework” as possible on schools before making a decision. As a college coach, I looked for student-athletes that were well rounded. We wanted players that would contribute on the field and off the field. They needed to be good representatives of our team and university. I was looking for players that worked hard, had fun and made the people around them better. It isn’t enough to be a good individual player. Lacrosse is a team sport and the best players make everyone around them better too.
You were, at one point, chair of the Tewaarton Trophy committee. Were you looking for the same kind of qualities?
During my time as the Chair of the Tewaarton Committee, we had the challenge of differentiating between so many talented lacrosse players. One of the important qualities that we discussed was always the player’s impact on the team as a whole. The player’s ability to lead the team to success was important. This is the same quality many coaches look for when they are recruiting HS student-athletes.
We talk a lot about helping girls develop confidence and drive not only on the field, but in the classroom and in life. How does a coach’s role transcend athletics? Is there a particular coach that influenced not only the way you played, but the way you’ve approached other challenges?
As coaches we have the ability to have a huge impact/influence on our player’s lives – on and off the field. There are so many opportunities in athletics to develop qualities that will help prepare them for challenges they will face later in life. Confidence and tenacity are two important qualities to develop in young girls.
My college coach, Julie Williams, was a big influence on my life and my decision to be a college coach. Early in my college career, I was struggling on the field. I was in her office, feeling sorry for myself, and she took out a piece of paper and wrote down a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt. “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” It is something that has stuck with me and a quote I have passed on to different players in my career.