Carlin Ober can’t shake the lacrosse bug. She took a two year hiatus in high school, but then like a wayward planet drawn back towards the gravitational pull of the sun, she became involved with the team at Whittier College, stepping into a managerial role that often felt more like that of an assistant coach, and even taking a turn in the cage. Now, nearly a year after graduating from Whittier with an anthropology degree, she’s Theresa’s right hand woman. What does that mean? First of all, she’s got organizational skills the rest of us dream of. Secondly, she’s finding out first-hand how to grow a company, navigate the transition to non-profit, organize events, and prioritize the ethics that define the Tenacity culture, all without losing sight of the heart of the matter: lacrosse is about having fun.
How did you get involved with Tenacity?
I first got involved with the Tenacity Project through my Bryn Mawr connections with Theresa and Wendy. My dad is on the board at Bryn Mawr, so he was one of the first people to hear about Wendy’s transition. My mom mentioned that I was graduating this year (2015) and was looking for employment and Wendy’s first response, without hesitation, was to send my resume her way. After learning more about Tenacity’s goals, I knew I had to work for the company.
There’s an intimacy to the Tenacity experience that, I think, sets it apart from other club teams–despite the fact that it’s expanding. Do you think the connections between staff and coaches – let’s say your Bryn Mawr connection, my Princeton connection, the fact that so many of our staffers have played either as teammates or opponents – helps to foster that? How else does Tenacity work to maintain the personal approach as it becomes a larger national organization?
I would say that the intimacy between staff and coaches absolutely helps this company strive. Many of our coaches were hired through connections with staff members or schools, but we also look for a very specific type of coach. For all age groups, it is important for our coaches to not only empower our girls to reach their highest potential, but also to provide a supportive environment when something doesn’t go as planned. Not every coach is able to strike a balance and I think that is what pushes Tenacity ahead as a club team. And that starts with Theresa. She’s able to maintain a professional and personal relationship with each and every member involved within the Tenacity Project. Of course, as the company grows this becomes more and more difficult, but we are really trying to maintain that sense of intimacy.
Can you talk a little bit about how your lacrosse experience in college prepared you for the role you’re in now? How did you make the decision to manage the team at Whittier College?
I was primarily the manager for the women’s lacrosse team, although I did get a little playtime. I stopped playing lacrosse my junior year of high school because I was focusing on academics, field hockey, and squash, but after the first semester at Whittier, I realized that I couldn’t give up sports all together. I asked the coach if she needed help and she said yes. It was her first year and she didn’t have an assistant, so she was a little stressed out. After the first game or two, I started going to practices with the team (meaning I had to wake up at 5:30 am). I helped set up, get the equipment, and run the goalie through warm ups, acting as an assistant coach. At games, I was in charge of statistics and keeping the team in line. I am a very organized person, so managing the team was easy and made me realize that I could do something similar for a career. Of course, I didn’t expect to help organize an entire company, but working for the Tenacity Project has been amazing. I have learned so much from Theresa and our other full time staff about how to start and run a company. Theresa is honestly an inspiration and anyone would be lucky to work for her.
You were coached by Wendy in high school and now you’re working together as colleagues. Any stories you want to share from back in the day?
By the time I had gotten to the level that Wendy coached at Bryn Mawr I had decided to switch to goalie. I had played every other position in the sport, so I figured goalie could be a new challenge. For my first high school tryout I was not only one of the younger players on the field, but I was also learning an entirely new position. That was the hardest day I’ve ever experienced in sports, but it was also so much fun and that was primarily because of Wendy. She’s one of those coaches that will never give up on you and will absolutely never let you give up on yourself. She always knew when you were starting to get frustrated and she would tell you to just take a minute to regain your confidence.
This next story is actually from freshman year in college. Our goalie was injured, so I stepped up (at this point I hadn’t played in two years). I was terrified and out of practice, so I emailed Wendy. She responded with ten tips. Most of the suggestions involved staying confident and not letting one goal mess with you, but that last one said to have fun. It brought me back to that first day at tryouts when I was new to being a goalie and Wendy said that if I got anything out of the day it is to have fun. I may not have done entirely well that day—actually we lost miserably—but I remembered that the whole point of this sport was to enjoy it and to let every day bring a new adventure.
What does the word tenacity mean to you? Do you have any stories that illustrate it?
To me, tenacity means having determination and persistence. It can be difficult to keep alive, especially if you’ve had a bad day, practice, or game, but that is how you can tell who the strongest players and people are. I had to learn tenacity from a very young age because I have a learning disability that basically prevents my brain from memorization. I went to Bryn Mawr, an exceptional school for strong, intelligent girls, and every day I had to fight to stay on track. Homework or classwork that would take one of my classmates an hour to do, would take me two or three, meaning more often then not I stayed up until 2:00 am doing homework every night. After a while this became exhausting, but I constantly reminded myself to stay in the game. Although every day was a challenge, I knew that if I was determined enough and had enough tenacity, I would make it to graduation.