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Like Father, Like Sons

One of the coolest things about lacrosse is the commitment players have to giving back to the sport and Jake & Jesse Bernhardt are no exception.

In our first sit-down with the guys, we talked about family ties, competing against one another and their journey from Florida footballers to Major League Lax pros. 

This time around, we chat with the boys about their dad’s coaching influence, what makes a great coach and why they take the role so seriously: 

Let’s back up, why did you get in to coaching?

 

A post shared by Jake Bernhardt (@jak3bernhardt) on

Jesse: Coaching is something I always knew I wanted to do. I kind of lucked out because growing up, I already had an answer to the cliché “What do you want to be when you grow up” question. Being around sports and coaching with my dad had a huge influence on me. Seeing the enjoyment and gratification my dad had in doing it was an easy sell. 

Jake: Before graduating, I knew I wanted to be a part of a team and serve our community. I REALLY wanted to join the New York Fire Department (FDNY) when I graduated because of the camaraderie and family aspect of a firehouse. But it's a highly sought-after position, so I took the NYPD test instead, which is also extremely competitive. It took almost two years to hear back, even with scoring in the top percentage. 

By that time, I had gone back to coach high school lacrosse at my alma mater in Altamonte Springs, FL. It may seem like I settled for coaching, but I believe it was something I was always destined to do because of my dad. 

What do you love most about it?

Jesse: The opportunity I have to impact my players by interacting with them every day. The fact that I get to spend time with young people (not that I’m old ha!) on a daily basis and get the opportunity to mentor and shape them as both men and players is very gratifying.

Jake: EVERYTHING...haha next question!

Just kidding, but seriously I love everything about it. Most importantly, I love being around the team and establishing relationships that I hope go beyond the field. I’m a young coach that lives a simple life and getting to see my guys every day is the highlight. 

How would you describe your coaching style?

 

A post shared by Jake Bernhardt (@jak3bernhardt) on

Jesse: I try to coach my guys as if I were coaching my younger brother. Ironically, I am coaching him right now, but that’s how I want all my players to feel. I’m tough on them when it’s needed, but I love them and really enjoy my time with them. 

Jake: I feel like my style is a mix of all the different coaches who have inspired and impacted me. I’ve been fortunate enough to observe coaches from a young age, being around my dad and his staff. I’ve seen almost the entire spectrum - how coaches work with youth players all the way to the NFL - and I'm so grateful for how each has impacted my development and approach.

In your opinion, what’s the mark of a great coach?

 

A post shared by Jake Bernhardt (@jak3bernhardt) on

Jesse: Being a great communicator, which means knowing how to be clear and effective, but mostly knowing how to listen. I also think it’s really important to have a confident, steady demeanor. 

Jake: I think there are three key qualities and they have nothing to do with the game and everything to do with being a reliable, respectable leader – be fair, be consistent and be open to trying new ideas. 

Who are some of the coaches who have had a significant impact on you? 

Jesse: There’s no way to list everyone and why and do them justice. My Dad, Coach Dave Cottle (Chesapeake Bayhawks), Coach John Tillman (University of Maryland), Coach Kevin Warne (Georgetown), Coach Ryan Moran (UMBC), Coach Jeff Goldberg (Saint Andrews) – there are so many more that I could list but they are the ones who have had the biggest impact on my playing career and coaching career.  Each one of them played a significant role in helping me to get where I am today. 

As a coach now, all I can say to the young guys out there is remember to thank the people who had an impact on you. They deserve to know how much they mean to you. Always always take the time to say thank you.

 

A post shared by Jake Bernhardt (@jak3bernhardt) on

Jake: Ah where do I start??? There are so many, but I'll keep it tight and name three. First and foremost, my father because he is everything to me. I can talk about anything with him and more often than not, he’s been in my shoes at one point in his career despite coaching a different sport.

Coach Cottle has had a tremendous influence on my career. I started playing at his Loyola Lacrosse Camp down in Florida and he eventually recruited me to Maryland as the first player from Florida. Coach John Tillman is one of the smartest and most detail-oriented coaches I’ve ever encountered. He firmly believes that the smallest details are the most important and that no one is bigger than the smallest detail, including himself. 

How does your coaching style compare to your dad’s?

 

A post shared by Jesse Bernhardt (@coach_bernhardt36) on

Jesse: I laugh at this question because there are times when I’m coaching and catch myself, “Geeze, I sound like my Dad right now.”  It’s funny because all the things he used to tell us when we were growing up (especially all the things we didn’t want to hear) are the exact same things I’m relaying to my own guys. In any case, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I would hope we’re similar! He has always said that he coaches his players as if they were his sons. I try to treat and lead my guys like family. 

Jake: Coaching has evolved across the board and every player is taught differently, in my opinion. I think we are similar in many ways but also have our differences, even though they are very minute. He’s encouraged me that I have to be my own type of coach. 

How do the Bernhardt brothers feel about competing against one another on the field? Here’s how they keep it in the fam and spread the lax love. 

Suit up like the Team USA champs here!