This summer, Wendy Kridel packed up her life and moved across the country to San Francisco. In 1850, that trip would have taken six months. Sure, the times have changed and there’s now little fear of cannibalism on the way, but nevertheless it take a lot of conviction to make that kind of move. Wendy joined Tenacity as National Director after twenty-five years in Baltimore, where she spent nearly two decades coaching the Bryn Mawr Mawrtians, including Tenacity founder Theresa Sherry. She led three different teams to one state title and six independent school titles, and in 2003 she was named to the US Lacrosse Greater Baltimore Chapter Hall of Fame. Her experience goes way beyond Baltimore, however: she coached the U-19 National Team to three world championships between 1999 and 2007.
Even with all of that under her belt, Wendy considers herself a student of the game. Her drive to acquire more knowledge and to instill the same curiosity in her players is one of her secrets to success. The others? You’ll have to get on the field with her to find out! I had a chance to catch up with Wendy just last week. Here’s what she had to say:
Does working in the National Director role mean less coaching for you?
I think I’m doing more on field coaching than I was able to do as an athletic director and coach before. First of all, I’m coaching a high school team this season and I get to coach camps, clinics, and my own Tenacity team. I’m at practices on the weekends where I get to work with teams that aren’t necessarily in my care, but I’m working with the coaches on those. So I’m actually doing more coaching, which is what attracted me to this role—the opportunity to work in growing the business in a field that I love, to work with someone I care about very much, Theresa, and to get to do more.
What was the team dynamic on the U19 team? What was it like to work with players from different backgrounds all coming together for that experience?
They’ve probably been the easiest group of players to bring together because they’re playing for the ultimate goal, a gold medal for their country. So it’s really easy to get buy-in and there’s very little selfishness when you’re working towards a goal like that. It’s way easier than it can be when you’re with a team every single day and players feel the immediate pressure of playing time, or they don’t necessarily see themselves fitting into the greater process. Or maybe their team isn’t as strong. For the kids at the pinnacle, it’s recognizing “Wait, I’m good enough to be on this team?” They look around and they think, “Oh man, these kids are amazing. I’m not as good as they are.” And that is the biggest challenge with them.
Kind of the impostor syndrome? I definitely struggled with that at Princeton, just looking around and thinking there was some mistake, that I didn’t belong there.
And for girls in general, overcoming the confidence thing is nearly impossible, and the social hierarchy for girls is very challenging.
The lacrosse scene on the west coast is so different than the east coast. Was that part of the allure of coming out here for you?
You know, I helped run a fall ball this fall in San Jose where we ended up having close to sixty girls, thirty of whom had never played before—high school girls! And in all of my years coaching, I’ve never worked with a group of kids so inexperienced at that age. And that was really fun. All of a sudden you get to watch kids love something that you love for the first time at fifteen years old. That’s pretty cool. And that’s something that can’t happen with lacrosse in Baltimore, Maryland.
Any advice for newer, younger coaches?
Find great mentors and be as open as you can to learning the game in all different ways. Be a lifelong learner. Those are things that I personally feel like I have done and they’ve helped me succeed. I’ve never felt like I know the game. I’m never afraid to ask questions. Sometimes I make people crazy because I ask too many questions. But there’s always more that can be done and there’s always a new way to look at things. I did a coaches’ workshop a few weeks ago in a youth league and I was explaining shooting space—the rule—to people who didn’t know, and there was a young man sitting there and he said, “Well you could sorta describe it like a flashlight.” After 30 years of coaching I hadn’t thought of that.
Any other messages for the Tenacity community?
Just that people have been unbelievably gracious and welcoming in my transition. I’m learning new aspects of the game and that’s really what inspired me to make this move. To be 50 years old and to pick up your life and your family is a scary thing to do, but I knew I had to push myself a little bit. You reach a point where you’ll never do it, and if you never do it you’ll never know. So it was a conscious push, with welcoming arms and I feel really fortunate. I’m so appreciative of all the great people who’ve been part of this transition so far.
What does tenacity mean to you?
Tenacity to me means never quitting, doing what it takes to get the job done. To be truthful, as a person, I don’t often think of myself as tenacious (sometimes I wish I was more!). I, like others, can have doubts, lack confidence etc. With that said I think that I have coached only a handful of girls who were legitimately tenacious. While I don’t know if she will appreciate or want the reference, Theresa is that ultimate example. Firstly she always played the same, no matter if it was a practice or game. She knew how to compete, wanted to, and worked harder than anyone to do it. When her father died, it was one of the hardest times I’ve seen someone go through, but she worked harder and harder to better herself. Still is the same today!
Okay, last question. Could you have ever anticipated working with Theresa in this capacity, back when you were coaching her?
I don’t know that I ever thought I would directly work with her, but I always felt that she would take her learning and be a coach because of the relationships with her father, with me and with Chris [Sailer]. I don’t think I thought that my path would connect with hers in that way—it just didn’t occur to me—but it’s such a blessing that it has. And you know, to me, the greatest accomplishment that I’ve had is the number of young women I’ve worked with who are now involved with coaching. That’s what I’m most proud of.
By: Courtney Bird
March 3, 2016