WPLL opener: Amanda Belichick takes Command on her father Bill's biggest stage
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Amanda Belichick stands on the edge of Gillette Stadium on a sunny May day, her hands in her pockets, deep in thought. She's looking up at the championship plaques that adorn the far end of the stadium. Five arranged next to each other, each a different variation that all read Super Bowl champions.
There's a silver sheet covering the latest plaque, the sixth. "New England Patriots: 2019 Super Bowl Champions," it reads. It later was unveiled this week, three months after her father, Bill Belichick, coached the Patriots to yet another championship. A gaggle of kids gather beyond the sidelines for a tour, clicking photos and selfies.
A small smile plays across Amanda's face. This Saturday, days after the plaque is unveiled, the WPLL Command -- her team, her professional team -- will walk out on to the same stadium for their season opener against the WPLL Fire as the Women's Professional Lacrosse League kicks off its second season.
She knows the stadium like the back of her hand. She's run down from her family's suite to hug her father after the Patriots' 2019 AFC championship win. She's thrown snow around with the Patriots after their Snow Bowl victory against Oakland. She's coached her Ohio State lacrosse team against Northwestern at the same stadium -- the only time she's coached a team there with her father watching from the sidelines. But Saturday will be different.
Ever since she started coaching lacrosse this is all she wanted -- to coach in a women's professional lacrosse league and to show the world that women can play on the biggest stage. Even on her father's biggest stage. Especially on her father's biggest stage.
And Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3, she will check that goal off of her list as one of the Command's assistant coaches.
"Life has definitely come in full circle," she says and smiles.
One of Amanda's earliest lacrosse memories includes a red bucket at their summer house in Nantucket, Massachusetts, where all the lacrosse sticks were stored. Her dad would throw a Fourth of July party every year and that meant hanging out with family and friends and playing lacrosse in their backyard. It was her father's hobby, his passion when he's not coaching or thinking about football. The biggest trick her father taught them was how nobody could tell if he's a lefty or righty. And that precision with stick work, that ability to be better than most people, stuck with Amanda.
So when she was offered a job coaching varsity lacrosse at Choate Rosemary Hall High School in Connecticut, she said yes, even though she had never thought of coaching at any point during her college lacrosse career at Wesleyan University.
She knew the game of lacrosse in and out, but she didn't know the first thing about coaching. Her father took her out on a bike ride from their house in Nantucket, and for a half an hour they talked shop. He was a championship-winning coach, and he told her everything he knew about being a good coach. Trust in the process. Build relationships. Get the stick work right. Results are secondary.
She loved lacrosse from the get-go, but she fell in love with coaching as an adult. She enjoyed its perfect combination of familiarity and originality.
She attended lacrosse camps at Northwestern University when the Wildcats were on their seven-year championship winning run, and spent time with coach Kelly Amonte and University of Massachusetts coach Alexis Venachanos. She was a sponge, learning coaching techniques from the best coaches. At the end of the camp, when the crew was at Amonte's house for a barbecue dinner, Venachanos offered her an assistant coaching opportunity at UMass.
"I have always been delusionally confident. Confidence is a big part of my coaching philosophy. I think building confidence in young women is so crucial to development," Belichick says.
She had picked up skills from her dad and now women in the industry. She knew exactly the kind of coach she wanted to be. A coach who players could come to if anything bothered them. A coach who they could trust even if they don't see the payoff immediately. A coach who believed in building a strong base for the future of lacrosse.
She moved from UMass to Ohio State and now is the head coach of the Holy Cross women's lacrosse team. In December 2017, she got a phone call from Michele DeJuliis, WPLL's founder and chief executive officer.
"The league was about building a foundation where women could play the sport professionally. It was not about getting the biggest players. It was about developing talent -- and I was in. This was what I wanted to do," Belichick says.
Belichick was the kind of coach who would stand in the far corner of the field helping players with their stick work for four hours at a time. She was also the kind of coach who knew when there was a concert her player really wanted to attend and got them tickets for it.
"Amanda and I went to my first Bon Jovi concert together, and I also remember this one time we had dinner with her father and went to Gillette Stadium and walked around. It was like I am a part of her family," Gabby Capuzzi, former Ohio State volunteer coach and current Command player, says.
With her high school and college coaching knowledge, Belichick was ready to build something special with the Command.
Sitting in a chair in one of the suites on the top floor of Gillette Stadium, Belichick points to the lines on the field. It's a football field and some soccer has been played here, but the only lines you see are women's lacrosse lines. "Isn't that incredible," she says.
"To put a group of girls on a field like this gives me goosebumps. It's an NFL stadium where there are so few women. And now to put a women's professional team on this field, and for me personally to be a coach at this stadium, now twice, I think is so empowering. And that's what I want them to walk away knowing, you can play on the biggest stage -- home of the world champions -- and you can play here," Amanda says. "And the young girls that will hopefully come to watch the game and see you can do anything, and that's what I think the message of the league is, you can do anything. That's what I try to instill with my players, too."
Belichick is selfless when she talks about lacrosse. It almost feels like she's a spectator the way she talks about the team's success.
"They do all the work, I just show up," she says.
But, if the first season of the Command is any indication, she's putting in hard work. They won the inaugural season of the league, defeating the Brave 12-11 in the championship game.
Belichick was the offensive coordinator. She can talk about the players doing all the work, but she's the reason they all show up wanting to win. She's the reason the team has a learning mentality, Capuzzi says.
Things have changed this year. She has an 8-month-old baby named Jaycee. On Sundays during the offseason, she is at Gillette Stadium with her father and brother, watching them go over games, watching tapes, figuring out a way to get better.
"How can we get better?" was one of her father's first questions after he won the 2019 Super Bowl. Self-reflection was key, and she took that back to her team.
"The Patriots don't settle for greatness because it's never good enough," she says. "You have no one to chase but your own ambition. It's a challenging way to live because it means you are never where you want to be, and that's how I want the Command to approach ambition."
The opportunity to win a championship, that's what wakes her up every day, she says.
"Give me a chance to be the best," she says.
Because of her background with football and coaching different forms of women's lacrosse, Belichick comes with a worldliness that will help make WPLL a success, commissioner Jen Adams says.
"She's always looking to improve her knowledge of the game, and that level of commitment in a new league is what will elevate us to the next level in the next few years," says Adams.