Lindsay Sanderson – Integrity and Accountability Matters!
Like many in lacrosse, prior to becoming a Builder, Lindsay Sanderson was a player. Known for his high level of compete, he was a team leader and very capable scorer. Playing with the Orangeville Northmen, Lindsay Sanderson was part of three Presidents’ Cup national championship team (1981, 1982, 1984). He compiled 856 points in 237 games. Lindsay Sanderson also played Major Series Lacrosse with the Brampton Excelsiors winning multiple Mann Cup championships.
When his playing career ended, Lindsay Sanderson went onto to make a significant impact as a Builder particularly to the community of Orangeville which grew to become a powerhouse of lacrosse. There, over the years - he held numerous positions from Director to President.
He has coached at every level including OLA Minor, Junior, Major Series, and the National Lacrosse League. He has been part of numerous Minor Lacrosse Provincial Championships, Presidents Cup and Minto and Mann Cup championship teams.
Among the many accolades directed his way were OLA Junior “A” Coach of the Year and the OLA Mr. Lacrosse Award in 1995.
Lindsay Sanderson has been inducted into three Sports Hall of Fame:
Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2010
Orangeville Sports Hall of Fame in 2011
Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2015
The Sanderson family grew up in Nova Scotia. They had a mixed farm, along with animals (which probably explains the strong work ethic). Lindsay’s father - Earl was also a contractor at the Greenwood Military base. He was a soldier in the Second World War. At one point, the economy in Nova Scotia was struggling, so the family moved to Ontario. The parents looked at buying a house in Orangeville or Georgetown. (Orangeville won out, as housing was less expensive). Unfortunately, Lindsay’s father died at age 42. His Mother Daphne had just celebrated who 90th birthday, is still living independently. Like so many Mothers - she supported all of her boys during their athletic playing careers.
The Sanderson brothers’ first exposure to lacrosse was when Lindsay was 13 – his first school year in Ontario. He had met Mac Maude and Norm Brown. Those two lads had lacrosse sticks and that was the Sanderson brother’s introduction to the game of lacrosse.
This interview with Lindsay Sanderson was conducted in his home in the summer of 2017
As the interview began, Lindsay’s dog Abby (a purebred English Bulldog) was staring me down, snorting and growling. It was both comical and appropriate. It seemed to me that Abby is a great symbol to represent Lindsay Sanderson – a strong mighty looking figure that is loyal and willing to chomp your head off to protect his team..
1. From your perspective – Who are the Sandersons?
Well, I would like to think our family – I know there are people who love us and people who hate us – but I would like to think in regards to integrity – that is who we are. We truly believe in being accountable and having integrity - we never bullshit or lie to people and whether you agree with our selection process or the way we do things, we won’t make any apologies. We probably believed at the time how things were done, we were doing it with the right purpose. Everyone has things they would like to have back, but we don’t mislead people. I just think we were raised to be people who are accountable. If you are going to get involved or be good at something, at the end of the day, you better give er all. All in.
2. Let’s back track to the “people love us, people hate us factor”. Please expand.
With a chuckle, Lindsay responded - “Oh F**k yah, (with another chuckle) there are a few people out there who hate us…. but they haven’t said it to my face”.
3. Does that matter to you?
It would probably depend who is was. There are plenty of people I don’t respect – because they are people who were never accountable. People who took too many accolades for not really doing anything. But, again, there are a lot of people I like and respect and they may not have much use for me, but at the end of the day, I know they are trustworthy and their word is solid. I am a big common-sense guy…a big common-sense guy. I truly believe, if you believe in what you are doing is what needs to be done - I go with it. It is a gut feeling. – you know it is right, so you do it.
4. Let’s visit your comment about – A “redo”
I am talking about how I handled some things, maybe the way I handled a player or a situation when coaching. But I never had any player ever quit on me during a season. I can honestly say that I never had a player or parent tell me – “My son is not playing because of you”. I have never had such a conversation with anyone.
5. How would you describe yourself as a Coach?
I have been told that I am a hard guy to approach. I would like to think NOT. But I have mellowed a lot in the last ten to fifteen years. I am a pretty intense f***ing guy. Back in the day with the Junior team – when I coached, losses didn’t leave me - they stuck with me for 2 or 3 days. You wouldn’t want to be around me after a loss, because I was not much fun. In that same breath, I am usually quiet when I am pissed off.
If we blew a game, I thought we should have won, there was no blow-up in the dressing room. I am a big 24-hour guy, unless it is the result of a blatant selfish act. I have no tolerance for selfishness. If you did something that hurt the team, that wouldn’t get by me. That would be dealt with before the 24-hour period.
The next night at practice, we would go over what we did wrong in a relatively calm manner. However, if I was disappointed in the team, it would be a really hard practice, with plenty of running. The team would pay a price and would get the message.
6. When did you get into the Coaching?
I have always wanted to coach. I began coaching at age 19. I truly believe my strength is coaching and building. Back when I was playing, I would miss a game as a player to coach one of the minor lacrosse teams I was coaching. The commitment as a coach to the team is a big thing.
7. Do you have a particular philosophy or style of coaching?
My theory was always about player and team development and the winning will take care of itself. It was necessary to get the players to push each other. The middle five players pushing the top five players, the bottom five players pushing the middle five players.
Getting every player, the opportunity to develop and given the chance to try to get better at individual and team aspects of the game. And nothing is more important than hard work. Push comes to push comes to battle and it becomes second nature. I truly believe that.
My teams play a style of tough disciplined lacrosse. It is not a star-based system. I know for a team to win; you have to have good foot soldiers. It is about instilling discipline and having loyalty to and for each other.
I coached a number of players who spent their entire careers from age 4 to the end of Junior with me. Terry and I did the Juniors together. I pretty well coached Josh and many of his colleagues all the way up. (With sons of their own, Lindsay and Terry Sanderson coached the next generation of lacrosse playing Sanderson). The cousins grew up playing together - Brandon with Ryan and Chris; Josh with Phillip; and Nathan with Dustin.
8. Who or what influenced your style of coaching?
John Holder was one of my first coaches. He was Bolton dairy farmer. I was playing Junior and I was a hard guy to coach. I was wound pretty tight. I played hard, but I both helped and hurt the team, with my style of play. John Holder taught me about what a team was all about. He kicked me off the team, even though I was leading the team in scoring. It was his shock therapy to get me to think more of the team, to cut down on unnecessary penalties and stop hurting the team. John Holder had me apologize to my teammates. I don’t recall missing a game, but I did have to eat some crow. It was a major lesson I learned, it is not about you, it is about the team. John shocked me to that reality. It seemed devastating, but it was a lesson I needed to learn.
I never wanted my sons to play like me. I wanted them to be more skilled. Because I was a ruthless player. I was, I was, I was. There are people to this day, I wish I could say I am sorry. When I played, I had no problem with solid tough lacrosse. But, if you went finger hunting or tried to intimidate some of my teammates, it would infuriate me. I spent plenty of time protecting my smaller skilled teammates., I was always aware if someone was f***ing around with one of my teammates, particularly smaller teammates.
I did enjoy fighting. My career ended when the OLA suspended me for the remainder of the season in 1988. I was suspended when I went after the goaltender from Sarnia. It was a Senior game in Orangeville. This goalie was huge and he ran one of our players who was about to get a breakaway pass. This goalie came out and ran our player so hard, his helmet and gloves flew off. Our guy was 150 pounds, this goalie was like 260-280. Our coach said….” Someone get that goalie”. I jumped off the bench and two handed him on the head and fractured his skull. I regret that I hurt him that bad. But I did intend to get payback for my injured teammate. The OLA suspended me for the season and that is the way my lacrosse playing days ended. It was time to call it a day. I am not proud of it, but at the end of the day it is what it is. I just didn’t take any prisoners.
9. Who is the coach you most admire? Why?
I am thankful to John Holder. I also played for Gary Landoni. He coached me in Fergus in Major in 1976. I remember his mantra, which was right down my alley -” If one of us bleeds, we all bleed”. That was giving me the key to the castle. Lindsay also spoke about Butch Keegan and his relationship as a teammate with Butch and then as a player playing for Butch.
But I admire my brother Terry the most. He is a winner. Committed to his teams, loyal to his players. When you think about the history of Terry as a player, he only played lacrosse 3 years and then he made the Syracuse Stingers of the NLL team in 1974. That says plenty about his character and his commitment to be the best.
We never spent a lot of time talking about how we were going to coach, we just did it. I did consider Terry a hero to me. I was so amazed, he made pro lacrosse having played the game for only three years.
10. As a player, in comparison to Terry, where were you?
If Terry was a 10, I was a 7. If you were comparing me to a hockey player, I would like to think I was a Wendel Clarke. He never won any scoring titles, but the way he played, made a difference for his team. Beyond tough and tough scary. And still played a big role with the team.
11. What do you feel are the reasons why you were as successful as you are?
I worked hard at becoming a better coach. I want the game to be fast and skilled, the way it should be played. It was about improving every player and the entire team. I learned from each coach I played for and each coach I coached with. Certainly, I worked hard, but much of my success was because of so many committed players dedicated to becoming the best they could be.
12. Best team you ever coached? Why?
1996 Orangeville Minto Team…Those were the young men who began the Northmen run. Many of them I started with when they were four years old. It was an extraordinary team, loaded with 18 last year junior aged players.
13. Best (most skilled) player(s) you coached? Why?
Mike Murray. He was an Orangeville boy who played on my tyke team. He helped us win the 1993 Minto Cup. A unique player who even as a youngster was a man among boys. He was so powerful and strong. He was a player you had to manage as he occasionally would being going off the rails, but you just settled him down and he would be ready to go in a few minutes. In addition, Mike was a really good team player.
14. Toughest player you coached?
I measure toughness in so many ways. We were never large physical teams, so all of our players were tough. But as far as individual tough players I think of offensive players who every shift on the floor took a pounding. In particular I think of Rusty Kruger and Josh Sanderson. But again, all of our players had a degree of toughness to them.
15. What do you think (in general), your players thought/felt about you as a coach?
Many of my players would probably tell you…. Back in the day…I was one miserable son of a bitch. BUT, now, they go out of their way to tell me they get what I was trying to teach them at the time. They realize my techniques were all about teaching integrity and accountability as individuals and a team.
16. Can you imagine your life without lacrosse?
Coming from the Maritimes as we did, lacrosse gave us young brothers an identity. We played lacrosse as hard as we could and we were good at it. And it didn’t take long for us to be good at it. Lacrosse gave us purpose.
Parting thoughts from Lindsay Sanderson
I would like to think I have made a positive impact. Winning is fun, but seeing players and teams develop to become the best they can become, really matters! Teaching young men about integrity and being accountable matters!
I like to think the last three or four years I have been the best Coach I have ever been. I have become the full package. In my opinion, my best work as a Coach has been the years 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
When I look back, I have lived the dream. Life in Orangeville has been good. I have three healthy sons - Brandon, Philip and Nathan. They were all good athletes. I have been able to do everything I wanted to do. I had a good working career (Enbridge). The way things have turned out, I cannot be any happier than I am right now. I have everything I want; I do everything I want; I don’t answer to anybody. (At this point, Lindsay went onto to speak about his grandchildren and the joy of being a grandparent).
And certainly, his furry snorting, growling housemate – Abby - is a part of his daily life.