Sept. 24, 2010
Returning To Her Old Stomping Ground
Former Irish player and team captain Crysti Foote returns as assistant coach in hopes of leading the program to a national title.
By: Lauren Chval
In 2006, the women's lacrosse team battled to its first Final Four appearance. The program itself was only 10 years old at the time, but even more impressive was that in 2005 the Irish had a record of 3-12. It was the biggest turnaround in NCAA women's lacrosse history when the squad finished 15-4.
Leading the team, along with head coach Tracy Coyne, was then-senior captain Crysti Foote. As a player, she was a two-time All-American and graduated as the program's leader in games, goals, assists and points.
In the summer of 2010 Foote rejoined the Irish as one of two new assistants on Coyne's staff.
"We went from winning three games the year before to making it to the Final Four. For me, being a captain on that team was just incredible," Foote recalls. "No one thought we could do that. It means whatever you want to do, you can do."
Following her graduation from Notre Dame, Foote utilized both her marketing degree and her love for lacrosse to first work in the business side of the club sport, but found she wanted to be more actively involved.
"I decided I wanted to take it to the next level, so I coached at Drew University, a Division III school in New Jersey," Foote says. "The following year I coached at Columbia University. While I was there, I was still debating what I wanted to do, but I wanted to get my master's degree. So I went to Long Island University and received my master's last year, and then all this kind of just happened."
Coyne, who is the only head coach the program has ever had, says despite Foote's unassuming demeanor, she possesses a drive to succeed that is unmatched.
"For such a gifted and talented athlete, Crysti is very unassuming," Coyne says. "During her senior year - the best season in program history - she embraced the younger players and encouraged them to always give a top performance. When the game was on the line, Crysti demanded the ball and found a way to win it
Coyne and Foote reconnected last spring after then-assistant coach Meredith Simon, another former player, resigned because she was relocating to San Francisco, Calif. The two have known each other since Coyne coached Foote on Team Canada, even before Foote came to Notre Dame, and Foote says she was excited to come back and coach with her former mentor.
"I knew I wanted to get into coaching again because I definitely missed it while I was out of it for a year," Foote says. "I was still coaching high schools and club teams during the year off, but I really missed being at the highest level. To be here it's a ton of effort and you have to love what you do. Tracy and I have a really good relationship, and we always have, so it's nice to come back and work for someone you've built a relationship with."
Also joining the coaching staff this season is Nick Williams, who spent last year as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Towson University. Williams says Foote is one to be admired for her knowledge of the game and her ability to relate to the players, and he feels that they have already established a good working relationship.
"We have spent so much time together that we really hit it off right away and have become great friends," Williams says. "We are on the same page with most of our ideas and thoughts, so I feel like we have been best friends our whole lives but only have known each other for a few months."
Besides their friendship, Foote's experience and knowledge of Notre Dame has made Williams' own transition easier.
"Being new in any situation is never easy but having Crysti here has made my life so mush easier," he says. "She is so helpful, and because she played here, she is teaching me the ropes even though it is hard for her too. She always makes sure I am comfortable and is looking out for others before herself. Her determination to succeed is second to none. She is going to be an amazing coach here, and I just hope to live up to her expectations."
Foote's determination to succeed, as Williams says, is clear in her approach to her new job. Taking the program she helped build to new heights is why Foote was so eager to return to the Irish.
"My expectations coming back to this school are to bring this program to national championship-level," Foote says. "This is our 14th year and we've never made it there. So in talking with Tracy and thinking about coming back, for me it has always been a dream to win a national championship. As a player I couldn't, but now I have the opportunity to do it as a coach."
Sophomore Kelly Driscoll is moving from defense to attack in her second season playing lacrosse for the Irish and will spend a lot of time working with Foote. She says that Foote has already brought more energy to the team in a smooth transition to her new coaching position.
"Crysti is the type of coach who's not going to stop the play every two seconds and blow her whistle to make a teaching point. Instead, she is going to let us play a certain scenario out completely and then make her point afterwards," Driscoll says. "She's also not the type to yell and scream at you if you make a mistake, but instead wants to make sure you understand what you could have done or need to do better the next time."
One of Foote's goals is to use her experiences as a player and student at Notre Dame to help her relate to the team. She wants to make sure they take advantage of every opportunity Notre Dame has to offer.
"Notre Dame is the best of the best in terms of academics and athletics obviously," Foote says. "But the combination of the two is something I loved as a student, and then coming back as a coach, it helps to know that the school makes you a better person. The things you learn off and on the field--the spirit, the culture here--everything is about learning and developing and growing as a person here, and that's what I really loved. I tell the girls I wish I took advantage of that while I was here more often. It really is a place where you can develop and grow, and that's why I wanted to come back here."
Foote's understanding of Notre Dame culture is apparent to her players. Driscoll says she has made a real effort to connect to the team, and they all feel that.
"It's obvious that Crysti was a player here when she was a student because she totally understands everything about the Notre Dame tradition and the Notre Dame way," Driscoll says. "She understands different things like how important football Saturdays are to our team, and more importantly, shares the same pride in the lacrosse program because she too was a player here. It definitely helps in terms of relating to her because she knows how demanding the life of a student - athlete can be because she herself went through it."
Foote and the team spend practices moving toward their goal of a national championship, building friendships and teasing Williams for his lack of Notre Dame knowledge. Surrounded by memories of her past, Foote says she didn't realize how good she had it as a player, but she knows how lucky she is as a coach.
"I think my best moments as a coach are still to come," she says. "I'm really looking forward to the success of the team and just being here. I would love to be a head coach someday. Tracy has been the only head coach here, and when she is ready to move on and do other things, that would be my dream to be the head coach here. And with that, I still want to do other things. I have my business degree, but coaching is really my passion and my love. I would love to stay in this as long as I can; as long as the sport lets me."