Remembering Jack Sandler: 1980-2015

Jack Sandler, coach of Colby Men’s Lacrosse, unexpectedly passed away at age 35 on November 19, 2015. A graduate of Bates College, Coach Sandler coached Skidmore College Men’s Lacrosse for eight years before taking charge at Colby in 2013. Guiding his team to a CBB title in his first season, Coach Sandler was widely respected for his immensely positive attitude, genuine care for his players, and love for the sport of lacrosse. Colby Echo Staff Writer and Colby Men’s Lacrosse player Russ Ollis ’16 reflects on Coach Sandler’s untimely passing.

I’ll never forget where I was when I heard the dreadful news.  I was eating breakfast in Dana when I got the simultaneous email and text.  Mandatory meeting at 10 am with the Athletic Director in the Alumni Center – everyone be there. I called a teammate to figure out what was going on.

“Hey what’s the deal with this meeting?” I asked, confused.

In a raspy voice, he responded, “Coach died. Had a heart attack last night. The AD will explain.”  Click.

Completely numb, I made my way across campus to the Alumni Center.  I sat motionless while I saw my teammates come piling in, most confused, but there were a handful that had heard the news and were devastated.  The AD solemnly told us the news.  Coach Sandler had died of a heart attack.  He was on a recruiting trip to the West Coast when he had a layover in New York.  After delays forced him to check into a hotel, he headed down to hotel’s gym for a workout.  It was here that Coach suffered his fatal heart attack.

I was in shock for most of that Friday, as were probably the rest of the Colby men’s lacrosse team and the Colby community. The next few days were a blur ­— from the reflections in the Chapel, to the memorial scrimmage and tailgate, to the funeral.  The shock eventually gave way to grief.  The grief eventually subsided to acceptance.  And, oddly enough, the acceptance lead to happiness.  I’m filled with happiness because I had the privilege of having Coach Sandler in my life.  I’m only sad more of you couldn’t have shared my same experiences of having known this great man.

The overused cliché is that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and while I certainly knew and appreciated everything Coach Sandler did for my team and this school, I couldn’t see his profound impact on the lives of so many until this tragedy.

Coach Sandler loved lacrosse.  From growing up on Long Island, to his playing days at Bates, and through his coaching days at Skidmore and Colby, Coach Sandler was enthralled with the sport.  But to characterize him merely as a lacrosse coach would be a great disservice.  He was a connection with the real world — constantly trying to help his players out for post-graduate success.  He was a mentor – teaching all of us the proper way to achieve goals.  Most importantly, he was a friend.  Coach could relate to his players and knew when to push more or when to ease up a bit.  He recognized the potential in each of us and pushed us to excellence on the field, in the classroom, and throughout the rest of our lives.  I cannot possibly begin to express all that he did for my teammates and me, but I can stress that he cared deeply about each and everyone of us – from the star player to the bench all-star – and was influential in shaping who I am as a person today.

As those who knew the man can attest to, Coach Sandler loved quotes.  A teammate joked that he thought Coach spent most of his day just googling inspirational quotes to drop on us.  He had a few favorites: “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.”  As well as a team-favorite, “the only thing better than being perfect is being done.”

  But as I bid adieu to my coach, I want to use a quote that I think Coach Sandler would love. As I was leaving Colby at the end of my freshman year, I saw a senior on my team. I approached him and congratulated him on finally being done, and asked if he had any advice for me for the next three years on the Hill.  He smiled and shook his head.  He said he didn’t have any advice for the next three years, but he had a few words he tried to live his life by:  “Don’t judge. Seize opportunity.  Live for the moment.  Crush jams.  Keep faith.  Love wholeheartedly.”

I love you, Coach.  While I’ll miss you, I won’t forget the innumerable ways in which you helped me grow and prosper.  Thank you, and rest easy.