“Just play like it’s the last game of your life.”
Those were Steve Kidder’s parting words for his players — words he hopes stick with them for the rest of their lacrosse-playing years. Over the past 18 seasons, Kidder has been on staff with the Carlisle boys lacrosse team, the last 11 as head coach.
Now, he figures, it’s time to move on.
“It was just time. I’m going to be on Medicare in six months, I’ll be 65 in December. I just figured it was time for me to go,” Kidder said with a laugh.
After 11 seasons with the Thundering Herd as head coach — he took over for Dave Breschi in 2007 — Kidder has decided to retire and leave the reigns to “new blood.”
“It got to the point where, for me, after all these years it started to become more like work and less like fun,” Kidder said. “As a result, that’s when I said, ‘You know, I really need to move out.’ That’s when I decided to go. Get new blood in there to see what they can do.”
Kidder’s legacy with the Herd is an impressive one. He wanted to build a winning program for the Carlisle community, one it could be proud of. As head coach, Kidder racked up a record of 155-66, including Mid-Penn championships in 2007 and 2013. (He was an assistant when they won titles from 2001-05.) The Herd also snagged a District 3 title in 2014.
This season Carlisle finished 12-6 and snagged the No. 9 seed in the District 3 Class 3A playoffs. The team beat Dallastown in the first round before falling to eventual champion Wilson in the quarterfinals.
When Kidder and his wife arrived to Carlisle in the summer of 1999, he jumped right into lacrosse with Breschi, working on the sidelines as an assistant coach. Kidder also worked with the community all those years and created bonds with people he won’t soon forget.
“I was integrated into [the community] and I got to know a lot of good people over at the school,” Kidder said. “I can’t walk down Hanover Street without running into somebody I know whose kid I coached. That’s going to be part of the overall deal of what they did for me.”
Interacting with the community and with his players, building bonds and helping to shape great individuals, Kidder also learned something else: maybe lacrosse wasn’t just all about what titles you have and how many wins you rack up.
“At first, I started out saying, ‘Hey, I want to build a winning program.’ But then I started to realize that wins are transitory, they’re fleeting,” Kidder said. “In other words, you win a game and then if you lose the next game, now you’re forgetting all about that win you had — it’s temporary.
“What really matters is the relationships you forge with the players and if you had any kind of impact on their lives to make them better — that’s what’s really important. I kind of transitioned towards the end of my time to, ‘What kind of values, virtues have you instilled in you as a result of the program?’ as opposed to, ‘What did you learn about lacrosse and how many wins do you have under your belt?’ I always felt that was kind of secondary.”
Forming relationships and close bonds with his players will be one of the biggest things Kidder will miss the most about being coach. At the end-of-the-year banquet earlier this month where Carlisle players got a chance to reminisce and tell stories, Kidder also took the time to announce his retirement to everyone.
“I was a little bit choked up because I realized that, okay, this is the last time I’ll be doing this,” Kidder said. “I’ll miss the players, I’ll miss the guys.”
But there is one silver lining.
“I’ll get to see them every year at the alumni game, and I’ll always come out to that,” Kidder said. “They need a guy to referee the game anyway, so that’s my function.”
Kidder is just the second coach in Carlisle history. Breschi was the head coach in Carlisle’s inaugural season in 1997 and stayed through 2006. Carlisle is one of the oldest lacrosse programs in the Mid-Penn Conference.
Kidder takes the memories and good times with him into retirement, and he could talk all night about the stories he has from his adventures in coaching. However, a few stick out. Like beating Wilson 11-8 in the District 3 title game in 2014 or Jason Lutz scoring 13 goals in a scrimmage game in 2003 against a private school from Philadelphia. They lost 14-13, but to Kidder, “This guy was a total beast. That was a big deal.”
There’s also one more.
“I remember a (league) championship game of 2001, we were losing to Hempfield and then it started to rain on us and these huge raindrops, they looked like they were the size of quarters, starting hitting us,” Kidder said. “That sort of gave us energy and we went on to beat those guys.”
For the first time in nearly two decades, though, Kidder will have no impact on the next championship Carlisle wins. And Kidder’s more than okay with that.
“I think the legacy has been established and whoever takes over next, they’re going to take over a good group of kids and they’re going to have success,” Kidder said. “I think the systems are in place for that to happen.
“I think it’s going to be okay.”