Isaac Campbell: Coach, Manager, Athelete
Isaac Campbell moves quickly, and constantly. As he stands behind the counter of the Sling It Lacrosse store he manages on Fourth Street in San Rafael, this fact becomes clear to me immediately. He talks fast, moves fast, and never sits down despite having many opportunities. He never stops gesticulating and constantly shifts his weight from one foot to another, almost like he’s bouncing.
This sense that he is constantly moving, seemingly bouncing, appeared to be a more and more perfect description of Campbell’s personality the more I learned about him. Today, Campbell lives and breathes lacrosse, but in ever-changing, diverse ways. Along with the job of Sling It San Rafael manager he’s held for about 10 years, Campbell has also coached about as wide a variety of lacrosse as possible. He has been a head coach and an assistant coach, coached girls and boys lacrosse, coached varsity and JV, and coached young children and high schoolers.
Even more, Campbell is relatively new to lacrosse and sports in general. Campbell first picked up a lacrosse stick in his 30’s, first played sports seriously in his 20’s.
“Before I moved to the Bay Area before I was 20, I didn’t really play a lot of sports,” Campbell says. “But when I got here and I was on my own I kind of had to figure out what to do for fun. Sports were great. I could do that and it didn’t cost that much. I started to realize that I actually had an athlete inside me.”
This realization changed the course of Campbell’s life. He began to jump headfirst into, and between, tackle football, basketball, and any other sport he had access to. He found lacrosse by accident, because of he, “had a friend who was into lacrosse. I didn’t even know about it, [but] we would throw the ball around sometimes during halftime of football games.”
However, when lacrosse came along, it was different. Unlike basketball and tackle football, Campbell was quickly offered a coaching position. As Campbell speaks about how he first discovered coaching, something he now considers one of the great joys of his life, he speaks about it nonchalantly, an accurate representation of how it happened.
“[My friend who taught me to play] brought me to his first practice [of youth lacrosse], one of his first practices and said that if I come to all of them then they’ll pay me. I could never think of any better job than that and since I was already working about 6 am to 2 pm I was able to coach every day.”
Campbell had never planned on becoming a coach, much less a coach of youth sports. But Campbell jumped into coaching anyways despite hesitations and allowed the deep-seated impressions behind his hesitations to be flexible.
“I didn’t know I wanted to be a coach until I was a coach. I didn’t know that I even liked kids until I became a coach. I didn’t really like kids, I never really planned on having them. I just saw the badness from kids walking around with no respect, I’ve seen kids hit their moms. Once I actually had a team and they were my own and I got to be involved with them every day that went away real fast. Kids are great.”
As Campbell speaks about coaching, there is a clear change in him. This nonchalance, and this sense of constantly changing and jumping between careers, sports, and more, gave way to a glimmer of light in his eyes, an excitement in his voice, and another distinct, almost contradictory aspect of his personality: his steadfast loyalty and his need to, once he finds something he enjoys, understand it completely.
This is shown clearly through the immediate time and dedication he put into coaching as soon as he discovered he loved it. Campbell did everything in his power to become “the best coach [he] could possibly be” by “going to libraries, checking out books, [and] watching videos.”
This hard work paid off very quickly. The next year he had his own team, and 10 years later he began coaching high school, first through Redwood boys JV, then girls varsity.
During this time, he also became manager of Sling It San Rafael, something that came along in a seemingly similar way lacrosse did: someone asked him if he would be interesting and, not knowing exactly how it would work out, he jumped into it anyway. As he describes the way he switched between lacrosse teams and joined Sling It, he turns quickly to the fast-paced, ever-changing Campbell that I had become accustomed to, so much so that I forgot the other side of his personality existed at all.
That was until we began speaking about California.
“I’ve lived in California my whole life. California’s the greatest state in the union,” Campbell says with more passion and fire in his voice then I’ve heard thus far during the interview. “We have problems just like every other state, but I would rather be here than Oklahoma. I don’t mind paying a little extra to live in California because I would pay that money NOT to live in Oklahoma. I think that’s perfectly fair for me.”
The way he seemed so unbudging in his desire to stay exactly where he seemed to me incompatible with the man I’d heard speak thus far. Although he stated that he only is so open to change and new discoveries in the world of sports, I found this impossible to believe. He had to be generally open-minded and adaptable to try sports in the first place, to decide to dedicate his time to coaching, to be willing to coach a sport he didn’t have much experience actually playing. I couldn’t understand how he could be so open about so many things, and yet also have such a passionate response to ever even thinking about living in another part of the country, let alone somewhere else in the world.
I also quickly realized I was wrong to think these two sides of his personality are irreconcilable. Despite its seeming inability to exist simultaneously, this balance of two contradictions, of the open-mindedness, willingness to jump into things, and adaptability to the headstrong loyalty and unbudging necessity to fully understand is exactly what has made Campbell so successful. Once Campbell finds something he loves, he has the drive to do it well. But he is also only willing to do what he loves, and not willing to settle for anything less than passion.
As Campbell says, “[Lacrosse] is fun. It’s still fun. If it wasn’t fun I wouldn’t be doing it.”