A new legacy: coach Gail Wallach and the launch of Trojan women’s lacrosse
Sports is a way of life for Gail Wallach.
The head coach for Anderson University Women’s Lacrosse, Wallach learned extreme diligence and tenacity as a three-sport star in high school and college.
But coaching? That wasn’t necessarily a part of her early plan. It took the rigors of the college recruitment process— and a high school coach with whom she didn’t see eye-to-eye—before Wallach considered a coaching career of her own. She recalled traveling to various college campuses and thinking, “I want to work like this for the rest of my life. I want to be on a college campus.”
Wallach’s dream before coaching was law school, but she says that she changed her mind upon graduating from high school. The value of the lasting relationships built on college campuses drew her into coaching. Wallach initially coached college basketball, which taught her about the competitive nature of collegiate sports. “It’s ultra-competitive. If you don’t win, you’re fired. That’s the reality,” Wallach said. She wrestled with her athletic identity when she switched from coaching basketball to lacrosse.
“My whole life I thought I was going to be a basketball coach. Not once did I ever even think I was going to coach lacrosse—not once. I thought, ‘I’m a basketball coach—that’s who I am.’ Then I realized, ‘That is not who I am. That is what I do,’” Wallach said. Coaching lacrosse introduced Wallach to many new experiences and life lessons. Coming from a cutthroat basketball background, Wallach observed a shift in her perspective as a coach. She no longer prioritized winning above all else.
“When I got my first head lacrosse job, I was like, ‘Man, I really don’t think it’s all about that.’” Instead, she discovered that the key to coaching a successful team is in building community. Through her own experiences as an athlete and years of coaching, Wallach understands the profound impact of personal connection in motivating athletes.
“They learn how to become empowering young women just ready to take on the world
… I want them to remember who we are, not just because of wins and losses, but because of what we stand for and what we believe. I want people to know that we’re different.”
– Gail Wallach
Head Coach for Anderson University Women’s Lacrosse
“I really want to know each player,” Wallach said. She cares deeply about each individual on her team and wants to see them succeed. Athletes frequently hear that they should give 110 percent, but Wallach disagrees. “It’s impossible to give 110 percent every day,” Wallach said. Instead, she encourages her players differently. “You just need to be one percent better every day. All you need to do is come out here, work, have fun, laugh in the moments we can laugh at, get mad in the moments we can get mad at, be disappointed if you had a bad practice. Just be in the moment. No one can take away your effort.”
Wallach is excited to have a team of freshmen to get to shape the legacy of the new AU Women’s Lacrosse program. She enjoys watching her players grow up and change throughout college. “They learn how to become empowering young women just ready to take on the world,” Wallach said. The players have spent their preseason developing team goals that they will implement in the upcoming season. She hopes that these goals will be something they write down and see every day to remind them of the program they are building. Wallach wants her players to focus on building relationships with one another and their coaches so they have a solid foundation for their first official season. Wallach is optimistic about the team’s ability to compete well this season.
She envisions these freshmen leaving this team feeling encouraged from being part of the lacrosse program. “I think the legacy will be a team that when they put on the Anderson jersey and we’re representing this University, that people will remember who we are. We’re going to win games—we just are. I know the types of kids we have. I want them to remember who we are, not just because of wins and losses, but because of what we stand for and what we believe. I want people to know that we’re different,” Wallach said.
Written by Caroline Mason, ’22