Sports

Faith on the Field: Men’s Lacrosse Coach Kevin Wallace

Serving as head coach of the Men’s lacrosse team for two years, Kevin Wallace has led the team through their most successful seasons yet. In 2012, his first season as head coach, the team were undefeated in the Freedom conference, won the Freedom Conference Championship, and won the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Conference Championship. Furthermore, the team’s successful season earned them the opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament, where they won another overtime win against Widener University. In 2013, Wallace guided the Eagles to national relevance with another incredible record of 15-2 and a Freedom Conference Championship. Needless to say, Wallace’s two years at Eastern have ushered in a new season of success for Men’s lacrosse.

With this level of success it’s easy to assume that Coach Wallace doesn’t have time for things like relationships, fellowship, or prayer. Perhaps in a culture where faith is compartmentalized to Sunday mornings or Wednesday night Bible studies, it would be reasonable for Coach Wallace to simply keep faith off the field. This, however, is so far from the reality of the Eastern Men’s Lacrosse Team; Coach Wallace does not separate his faith from lacrosse. With his feet firmly planted on a Christian foundation, Coach Wallace guides his team to success through relational leadership.

Coach Wallace leans on God while coaching and seems to attribute his successes to Christ. Before the start of each season, Coach Wallace thoughtfully looks for a Bible verse for his team to “something to cling to” and to use as their motto through the course of the tumultuous season. In 2012, Proverbs 24:10, “If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength,” served as inspiration for lacrosse team.

Coach Wallace only came to Christ a few years ago, but he holds a mature dependency on prayer and the word of God. This dependency seems to help him maintain a calm demeanor in spite of adversity and tension that his players appreciate. Last year during the 2013 MAC championship game, for example, Wallace responded with grace to the tension and immaturity of the opposing team prior to the game that had began to distract and frustrate our Eagles. Although Wallace himself wanted to defend his team who he cares for “like his own children,” he prayed and then met with his team. Wallace told the Eagles that they had to stay silent and not say a word, when they went out to the field and instead “let the scoreboard do the talking”. His players listened to him and did just that; they avoided potential fights, distractions, and emotional outbursts while securing the championship win. This grace seems to be reminiscent of the “quiet strength” of one of Wallace’s inspirations for coaching – Tony Dungy- a Christian who led the Indianapolis Colts to win the Super Bowl.

Coach Wallace delegates certain leadership tasks through the team with captains and a mentorship program. According to Wallace it “eliminates bullying the younger players, helps academically, and makes them trust each other”. Wallace himself sees relationships with his players as “something to be taken advantage of” and has intentional conversations with his players frequently. Last season Wallace, some of the assistant coaches, and the senior captains had breakfast on Friday mornings to discuss the status of the team. The senior captains Zac Ivy and Ron Johnson said that they enjoyed this time with their coach and looked forward to meeting with him. Wallace’s relationships with his players are marked with intentionality and kindness that both Ivy and Johnson believe helped strengthen their own faith.

Junior Kyle Gilliam has a similar story. According to Gilliam, Coach Wallace showed him grace when Gilliam was undeserving of being on the team due to a number of “poor decisions.” “Whether he knows it or not,” said Gilliam, “Coach Wallace’s decision [to let me stay on the lacrosse team] helped me come to the Lord. People like Coach Wallace that stuck with me when I didn’t deserve to be stuck with showed [me] Christ’s love and mercy.” Coach Wallace knew Gilliam’s love for lacrosse and used it as a tool to help him come to Christ. Now, Gilliam leads others to Christ. In situations such as these, it seems that Coach Wallace has such a deep care for his players that is impossible for them to be ignorant of Christ’s love shining through. The relational leadership practiced by Wallace as an outgrowth of his faith further enables his team’s success.

Standing alone, these stories of Coach Wallace’s impact are incredible, yet many other stories still have yet to be told. Through his faith, Coach Wallace has led his team to success for two seasons. It looks like this spring season will prove successful again, but in more ways than one. Perhaps the impact of Wallace’s coaching that can be quantified into statistics and records are only one aspect of his coaching. Coach Wallace takes coaching to another level of success through his integration of faith and lacrosse where the ripple effects of his successful impact are impossible to record.

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