I just wrapped a successful first-year season coaching high school lacrosse at my daughter’s school. It was the inaugural season for girl’s lacrosse and we weren’t expected to do much. In fact, coaches and club leaders told me I would fail, that our season wouldn’t amount to anything, and that the girls would just plain suck. After all, it was their first year playing as a team, right?
Turns out, there were right, and they were so wrong. While we had four who have played before, the majority of the team didn’t know a thing about the sport and never touched a lacrosse stick before. Yet here they are signing up for the fastest growing sport in San Diego, about ready to put everyone on alert.
We were told that we would suck, that if we scored a goal all season we would be lucky, and that if the girls understood the game by the end of the season, we would have done an amazing job. Well, that didn’t happen. What did happen was so much more. Our team scored thirty-five goals, had twenty assists, won three out of eight games on a shortened season, and would have ranked in the top forty if we had a full schedule of twelve games or more.
Winning isn’t everything, but it sure helps.
Our players knew that wins would be hard to come by. Most of the teams they faced have been together for years, some playing their fourth year together. So when we won on our fourth game, we were over the moon. When we won the next game, we built momentum. And when we won our third game and almost won our last game, we knew we could compete against anyone in the league. We know we are not the best, but any team could win on any given day given the right circumstances and players.
Winning is recruiting.
The best recruitment tool is winning. You don’t have to be the best, but the best way to reach new players and encouragement people to check out your sport is by winning the games you are supposed to win and compete in the games you are not. I did not expect to win every game we played this year, but I did expect to win. You would have no idea how many people thought I was crazy and told me I should just coach for knowledge this year, but the fact is, you can do both.
Building the right coaching staff sure does help.
I am not the best lacrosse coach in the world. In fact, I am still learning the game. My daughter has been playing for seven years now–from basic to elite teams–and is much better at the sport than I can ever hope to be. But I am good with people and do know what it takes to get the best out of players. I think a lot of that comes from coaching for over two decades (which sure makes me feel old).
I wasn’t alone at coaching; I had help.
While I could get the best out of players and teach the fundamentals of the game, I needed specific gameplay help and drills, plus intricate knowledge of the game we could apply. My assistant coaches both played lacrosse, and one of them at a D1 school on the East Coast. That meant I could focus on my wheelhouse and they could focus on theirs, and together, we could build the best team possible with the players we had.
The right players are always the bottom line.
If we had a full season, we would be able to send a few of our players to all league, and two of them would have been first team, and several other second team. That’s how good they were, and this was only their first year playing. But that’s also a part of what makes this team so special; they’re willing to give everything they have to make themselves the best player for their team. I told them early on that I don’t care if they’re the best player on the team, I want them to be the best player for their team. It’s a dynamic shift, but it’s one you need to understand in order to achieve excellence as a player and teammate.
We won because of the right players, coaching staff, and execution of our strategy.
If you liked the Oakland A’s, then you know it’s all about small-ball. it’s not about paying with the best athletes in the world, it’s about playing with the bets athletes you have to their best of their ability. As a coaching staff and team, our job was to execute our strategy in order to optimize our performance. We did that almost every time we stepped on the field. And while we got goofy at times, that was needed and that helped us play more as a group of friends, then random athletes.
Yeah, this should connect to every aspect of life.
You need the right mentor. You need the right team. You need the strategy. You cannot do this alone and you really shouldn’t have too. You can be the best you if you have these three in your life, but you will not be the best you if you are missing even one of them.
If you really want to win, you need to plan to win.
Sure, our lacrosse team expected to lose. And yes, we did lose some games. But you know what? We exceeded expectations, overcame insurmountable odds, competed with the best in our league, and came out winners. And as we move into next year, we have a solid foundation to improve on and the best recruitment tool possible: winners.