FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Amanda Belichick shares a picture of one of the most meaningful moments in her lacrosse coaching career. In the photo, she’s on the sideline at Gillette Stadium. Watching closely nearby are her father, Bill, and brother Steve.
Amanda’s primary responsibility as a coach for Ohio State was to oversee draws, the play that starts each half and restarts the action after each goal. She had been looking forward to this day in 2012 — when the Buckeyes faced Northwestern in her dad’s home stadium.
Then it couldn’t have unfolded much worse.
“I thought I did a terrible job. I was thinking we had it, but we just didn’t and never adjusted,” she said. “So when I look at that picture, I never forget because it made me better. And being able to have them watch that, and reference it, those are some of the monumental connection moments.”
Everyone knows about Bill Belichick’s bottom-line results. Now in his 23rd season as New England Patriots head coach, his 322 career victories as a head coach put him three away from passing George Halas into second place on the NFL all-time list behind Don Shula (347).
But few know as much about the “monumental connection moments” he experiences behind the scenes with his three children — such as Amanda’s forgettable-but-unforgettable day on the Gillette sidelines — and how they resonate for all involved.
As Steve watched from the Gillette Stadium sideline, it was a flashback to his youth.
“It was unique for her to be coaching where we work, but my sister was always the boss of me and my brother, so it was kind of natural to see her as the boss in her own way,” he said.
Brian wasn’t there that day, but he’s had similar experiences in recent years, albeit with a slightly different twist.
“Sometimes when she’s yelling at the refs, it reminds me of my dad. The pitch of the voice goes up a little bit, an octave maybe,” he said with a smile. “And she’s just stalking the sideline.”
Amanda, 37, moved on from Ohio State and is now in her eighth season as Holy Cross women’s lacrosse coach. Steve, 35, enters his 11th season on the Patriots’ staff, working as linebackers coach and defensive playcaller. And Brian, 30, is in his seventh season with the Patriots, starting in scouting and currently serving as safeties coach.
Coaching is their family business.
“I guess we fall into that category,” Bill said, smiling.
It wasn’t by design.
AMANDA HAD FOLLOWED in her father’s footsteps by attending Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut, but she was determined not to follow his footsteps into coaching.
“I remember in college, sitting in my [lacrosse] coach’s office as a senior and not having a job, and she said, ‘You’d be a great coach,’ Amanda said.
“I remember saying, ‘Absolutely not! I’m not doing that.'”
Part of her thinking was that she wanted to do her own thing. Also, perhaps a lack of self-confidence that she could make the same impact her own coaches had on her.
So she worked over the summer at a Nantucket T-shirt store, and with no other career path tugging at her heart, she applied for a full-time position in the admissions office, recruiting students at Choate, a private boarding and day school in Wallingford, Connecticut. The job included a little bit of everything — from teaching a health class to coaching the women’s lacrosse team.
She was hired, and then turned to her dad with a pressing question: Now what?
“I remember going on a bike ride with him, and he talked about getting to know your team. He said, ‘You’re a leader. You can attack it in so many different ways, and there’s so many parts of coaching that are beyond the field.'” Amanda said. “There are many pieces that I feel like, as a player, you’re so unaware of.”
Amanda soon realized coaching was her favorite part of the multifaceted job. In admissions, she would hardly see the students she had recruited after they arrived at campus. In coaching, she had a greater connection and enjoyed watching the growth of student-athletes over time.
“That was the ‘light bulb’ moment,” she said. “Through all that, having my dad as a mentor and being able to talk to someone you trust about your work, the challenges you face, and hearing feedback, that was really where [the connection] happened,” she said.
“It was unique for her to be coaching where we work, but my sister was always the boss of me and my brother, so it was kind of natural to see her as the boss in her own way.”
Steve Belichick on his sister, Amanda
It was different for Steve, who played lacrosse at Rutgers and was a walk-on with the Greg Schiano-coached football team as a snapper in his final year as part of preparing himself for a potential career in coaching. He had long envisioned following in the footsteps of not only his dad, but his grandfather, whom he is named after (Steve Belichick spent 34 years as a coach/scout at Navy).
“I never really saw myself doing anything different,” he said. “It doesn’t really feel like work. It’s more along the lines of a hobby and what I enjoy.
“My parents (dad Bill, mom Debby) were very supportive, but they definitely asked questions. They didn’t try to push me away, but wanted me to think through my decisions, the positives and negatives. Then it’s just ‘Dive in head first’ and ‘If you start something, you have to finish it.’ I always appreciated that.”
Brian was less decisive with his post-college plans. He played lacrosse at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and majored in anthropology.
“Growing up, I didn’t say to myself, ‘I’m always going to be a coach.’ Football has always been a big part of my life, and I think it’s the greatest team sport in the world, but I always tried to keep my options open,” he said.
“Then towards the end of college, like most people, you start thinking, ‘What am I going to do with the rest of my life?’ I had an opportunity to come work for the Patriots, and I couldn’t find something that I thought would be more fulfilling, and I would hopefully have success at.”
Thus, the Belichick coaching trifecta was created.
Ironically, Bill Belichick said his father had once advised him to avoid coaching. But Bill sounded a different message to his kids:
“Follow your heart. Do what your passion is.”
It’s what he would tell anyone who asks, which he explained in the days leading up to the Patriots’ victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, when he said: “Don’t just take a job because it pays a little more money. Do what you want to do. Live out your dreams and try to achieve them.”
Of his kids all choosing coaching, he added: “They’re in what they do because that’s what they want to do. It’s not my decision. I try to help them the best I can, like any father would try to do for his children. Ultimately, when they become adults and they’re ready to make their own decisions, they have the green light to make them.”
PUT BILL, AMANDA, STEVE AND BRIAN around a table — or in a meeting room at Gillette Stadium when Amanda visits — and the discussion flows naturally.
“Some of our most memorable coaching conversations have to do with team dynamics,” Amanda said. “What are you going through on your team? What kind of dynamics are challenging? How do you motivate an individual player? How do you teach someone where they can understand?”
But Steve said that coaching chats are usually secondary to catching up on all happenings with their own kids, as Bill now has five grandchildren.
Then there are memorable occurrences when the two happen at the same time, such as when Amanda — whose children Jaycee and Clarke are 3 and 2, respectively — was on maternity leave. Having grown up around football, understanding the demands of the job, she knew when to capitalize on the chance to connect granddaughter to grandpa. She knew when the football workload was lightest during the season, usually at the end of the week, and planned accordingly.
“One of the things that I did more was trying to get [my daughter] to him. I would just go stop at the office, whether it was a Friday afternoon or whatever. It was time we never had before,” she said.
Uncles Steve and Brian joined in too.
“One of those moments bringing the family together,” Steve explained.
“We’ve always valued how we could learn from each other and how you can get better. …That’s something our dad has always shown in his own life.”
There are other times when the coaching connection manifests itself. Sometimes in the fall, Amanda calls her father on her drive to Holy Cross’ campus for the team’s 6 a.m. practices. He’s usually driving to Gillette Stadium, or already there, during those “pretty regular” before-sunrise chats.
Or in the late winter and early spring, when the football hours aren’t as demanding, and Bill attends a Holy Cross lacrosse game. He is usually focused on two areas of the game: charting them in his head during the action and seeking them out from statisticians afterward.
“The main thing he cares about are hitting pipes [around the goal] and clearing [the ball out of the defensive zone],” she said. “After a game, he’s like, ‘Oh, man, if you would have gotten that clear. Or ‘You hit three pipes.’ Those are the stats in his mind that he always talks about.”
Bill’s affinity and support for lacrosse, which he played at Wesleyan, is well documented. He was presented the Spirit of Tewaaraton Award in June for his contributions to the sport.
He’ll surprise Amanda at times with a message during the season.
“He’s funny, because he’ll reach out and chime in about something random,” she said. “I think with as much that’s being streamed on ESPN now, there’s just so much more access to watching women’s lacrosse especially. So he’ll call or text and say something like, ‘Did you see the Virginia game? The BC game?’
“I’m like, ‘What do you mean?’ And he says he was just watching it.”
Growing up with the Belichick last name, and going into coaching, has sometimes invited greater scrutiny for Amanda, Steve and Brian. But they say the rewards have outweighed those times for all of them.
“I think it’s meant something to him to have all three of us all be involved with his work in a way and spend more time with him because of that,” Brian said. “It’s nice for him to be able to talk to all of us about a common goal.”
It’s been 10 years since the day Amanda paced the Gillette Stadium sidelines as an Ohio State assistant coach. She keeps that picture nearby, in her vision daily, with her father and brother watching over her shoulder, because of what it represents.
“It’s a lot of pride. I think it connects us,” she said.
“We’ve always valued how we could learn from each other and how you can get better. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, have that self-motivation and love the journey, it’s so hard. That’s something our dad has always shown in his own life.”