When my boss and JustLacrosse.com owner and operator Dennis Pettit suggested to me years ago that I take a bunch of my Road Trip Dad blogs and put them in a book, I liked the way he was thinking. In the spring of 2018, I self-published my first book – The Best of Road Trip Dad – The Laker Lacrosse Collection
– and, as a lifelong reader and high school English teacher, I gotta tell you… I felt pretty proud of myself.
“How many copies did you sell?” you might ask.
No idea. Don’t really care. I published my own book. Bucket list item.
The 37 blogs I selected were all about the people, history and traditions, and favorite stories I’d accumulated in my 28 years of coaching at Oswego State. Still, I knew that, if you weren’t a Laker Lacrosse alumnus, you probably wouldn’t be terribly interested in reading the book. I might have given away more complimentary copies than I sold.
Even as I finished that book, I was already working on another, and by November of 2018, I published my second book – … and piles to go before I sleep – The Book of Wit
– my teaching memoir, highlighting classroom, coaching, curriculum, and extracurricular memories I’d experienced over my 33-year teaching career.
“Great. How many copies did you sell?” you inquire.
A few more than the first. Doesn’t matter. I’m not looking to buy my own private island.
Hannibal people liked it, especially all those years’ worth of former students, and so did many of my teaching colleagues – but then, Hannibal is a pretty small market, too. Teacher friends from other school districts said they liked it, and could relate to what I was describing, but it was still targeted towards a rather small audience.
Well, here we are, almost three years and a pandemic later, and today I’m proud to announce the publication of my third book, which just happens to be another “Best of RTD” collection. The Best of RTD – A Lacrosse Coach’s Handbook
is 410 pages consisting of 58 blogs posted at JustLacrosse.com between 2012 and 2020, and its target audience is any and all lacrosse coaches near and far, young and old, from the youth level to college (maybe pro?).
As I searched through the RTD archives, it wasn’t hard to find individual blogs that addressed coaching and coaches. There were pieces I wrote about indoor practices, parking lot practices, and limited fall practices. There were the Attackman’s Bible and the Defenseman’s Bible, two old but time-tested lists of carved-in-stone absolutes I first read when I was in third or fourth grade, and happened to re-discover when I was cleaning out my basement. There was the five-week series of my summer camp stories – the many different camps, the coaches, the on-the-job learning, and more. I selected the series of “letters to” college freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, as well as a few others. There were articles where I espoused the importance of community service, my disapproval of sideline celebrations, and so many others.
Sorting through the blogs, I organized them into five sections, and I gave them the following titles – Lacrosse Coaching 101, Drills and Practice Organization – In and Out of Season, Coach to Players, Coach to Coach, and Story Time! Within each section, the articles appear chronologically.
The Epilogue in A Coach’s Handbook is the last RTD blog I posted in March of 2020, as the pandemic brought our favorite sport – and our world – to its knees. “Now’s the Time to be a Good Teammate” appeals to our sense of teamwork, our empathy for others, and the idea that we all have the skills and talents it will take to get through all of this. I hope I’m right.
Long-time readers know my background… 28 years as head coach at Oswego State, two years as a varsity volunteer coach, two years as head JV coach, and four years as paid varsity assistant. Three years writing recruiting profiles for 3d Lacrosse, coaching my sons’ winter and summer league teams, volunteering at FIL World Games in Denver, Syracuse, and Netanya, Israel, handling various roles at the Lake Placid Summit Classic and other Summit Lacrosse Ventures events, and becoming a certified lacrosse official. For almost nine years now, I’ve written weekly RTD blogs – more than 450 of ‘em! – describing my many, many experiences.
Unlike the first RTD book, there are no pictures this time around. I suppose I could have collected photos of all the coaches, mentors, and assistant coaches I’ve worked with and learned from, but that could be an entire book all its own (hmmm…note to self…).
Instead, I think I nailed the front and back covers with some great graphics. The front cover features the RTD crest/logo that Graph-Tex’s Justin Cook created for me, as well as a beautiful sketch from Tommy Johnson (laxartist.com) – who graciously gave me permission to use his work. The back cover has as its backdrop an awesome black-and-white photo taken of me when I was at the Menschner Cup in Prague in September of 2019, by Marek Stor (of shutterlax.com) – who also gave me the green light to use his photo. Many thanks to all of them!
The back cover and the inside pages also include “testimonials” from a number of supportive and well-wishing readers, coaches who I’ve known for years. Excuse my bragging for a few seconds, but when I sent out the request to a group of about ten “high-profile” coaches, both Tony Seaman and Dom Starsia replied within hours
! Between the three pages of endorsements, I ended up with ten recommendations – and only three are from Oswego State alumni! Again, many thanks for all the kind words!
Unfortunately, and ironically, it was the cover that proved to be the hard part in getting this book published. The text was pretty much complete when I went down to Florida to help my parents in October. Yeah, that’s right – October. But the cover took a little longer…
To self-publish with Kindle Direct Publishing, previously known as Amazon’s Create Space, you need to submit both your text file and your cover file for formatting. Minutes after downloading your files, you can see a real-view picture of what your book is going to look like. Edits and changes to the text were simple, but the cover proved to be quite frustrating.
Of course, I have convinced myself (and others!) that I do not have the technological know-how to follow directions and do math, both of which are necessary skills, so I have relied on my friendship with and generosity of one Dan Rupert, an Oswego City School District computer educational specialist and former Hannibal teacher, to do all of my book covers. Dan designed and downloaded the covers for my first two books with very few problems or delays, but something was different this time around.
Between early November and Christmas, Dan probably sent me 25 attempts to make our cover fit the Kindle format (I’m looking at a log of 12 versions alone submitted between December 10 and 23!). This was all done remotely, of course – first from Oswego to Lakeland, FL, and then across town once I got back into Oswego in late November. Fortunately, Kindle’s turnaround time was quick; they usually emailed me with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down within 12 hours of hitting the Submit button. Dan would tweak the dimensions of the three covers – front, back, and spine – and then we’d get an email saying that something isn’t right. We got to the point where we joked about how lucky we were that Kindle doesn’t charge for each download – I might have given up or had to take out a loan if they did.
Then, finally, on Wednesday, December 23, I got the email we were both praying for – the cover file had finally been approved! I immediately ordered one copy for myself so I could proofread it and make sure it looked as good in my hands as it did on my laptop screen.
Well, that took almost a month. My copy finally arrived on Thursday this past week, and I’m very pleased with the combined efforts of Dan, Kindle Direct Publishing, and myself.
And I hope you’ll be pleased as well. I think it will make a great gift for any coach, whether it’s a beginner youth coach or a long-time college coach. If you’re a coach, treat yourself. As I said in a press release, “Whether you’re a young junior high coach or a veteran college coach at the top of his game, I’m confident that this book will entertain, instruct, reinforce, and/or validate what you’re doing. I never won any national championships, but I’ve experienced highs and lows, thrills and frustrations, and I’ve told my stories honestly and candidly. Everyone will find something to take away from this collection.”
The Best of RTD – A Lacrosse Coach’s Handbook
is now available on Amazon.com for $17.95. If you like what you read, please feel free to write a positive review for Amazon. Thanks!
“Super. How many copies do you think you’ll sell?” you ask.
Only time will tell.
Thanks for reading. Please, drive carefully, stay safe, stay smart, and stay kind.
- Dan Witmer
Dan Witmer is the author of three books. The Best of Road Trip Dad – The Laker Lacrosse Collection is an accumulation of 45 articles written for JustLacrosseUpstate between the years 2012 and 2018, about the history and traditions, the people, and the stories of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program. The book is available on Amazon.com, and at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, the SUNY Oswego College Store in the Marano Campus Center, The Sports Outfit on West Genesee Street in Fairmount, and Geared 2 Sports in Cortland. … and piles to go before I sleep – The Book of Wit is his memoir describing his 33 year career teaching HS English and coaching at Hannibal Central School. It is available on Amazon.com and at the river's end bookstore. His third book, The Best of RTD – A Lacrosse Coach’s Handbook, has just been released at Amazon.com. It contains more than 55 weekly Road Trip Dad blogs spanning 2012-2020, featuring Xs and Os, highs and lows, and even some Dos and Don'ts, and plenty of advice for coaches of all levels.