4 Pillars of Success: My Coaching Philosophy
“We want to help them develop their life skills so that they can be not only successful while they are here academically, athletically and socially, but so when they go out into the work force they can be successful and contributing members of the work force and to their families. Everything we do is not just about winning at lacrosse; it’s about winning at life, too."
- Dave Pietramala, Johns Hopkins Head Men's Lacrosse Coach
| Accountability | Effort | Trust | Respect |
Looking back upon my time on the field as a student-athlete and my initial steps as a coach, I have developed an idea as to the type of coach I want to become as I progress through my career on the sideline. Since I believe that academics and athletics go hand-in-hand, I am not the slightest bit surprised that my objectives on the field echo my intentions in the classroom. My central aim as a coach is to foster a competitive culture that not only supports the development of the whole student-athlete, but also ensures that each student-athlete reaches their full potential both on and off the field. In order to successfully develop and nurture this multifaceted culture, I continually strive to instill the true meaning and value of four characteristic traits in all of the athletes with whom I guide. The four traits that I wish to teach and form the foundation of my coaching ethos are accountability, effort, trust, and respect.
Almost every athlete and coach will support the idea that there is no “I” in team and that is simply wrong to credit a win or loss to an individual team member. However, there is most definitely an “I” when it comes to accountability, such that coaches and athletes need to hold themselves accountable for their actions at all times. Whether it is a player going into a scrum to battle for a ground ball or a coach expecting their star senior to exert the same amount of effort as a freshman fighting for a spot on the practice squad, accountability is one of the most vital traits that set superb coaches apart from their average counterparts. If I can convince the athletes whom I guide and advise to hold both themselves and each other accountable for their actions then the following three traits—effort, trust, and respect—will follow in good time.
Coaches and athletes can easily hold both themselves and each other to a higher standard when it comes down to the mysterious X-factor that we commonly label as effort. Whether it is the first day of preseason or the final moments of the championship game, the amount of effort that an individual or team puts forward can determine their overall level of success, both in the short term and for years to come. In its most basic form, effort is the most accurate way to measure how much a team or individual essentially cares about what they are doing even though there is no column for effort on the stat sheet. Aside from its ambiguous nature, it is vital that athletes learn what it means to put forth their best effort, give everything they have to offer, and not veer away from a challenge that requires a decent amount of pure grit on their part.
Like effort, trust is another intangible trait that has the potential to usher in sweet victory or dismal defeat depending on the degree to which individual athletes trust each other both on and off the field. Athletes need to trust their teammates so that they can focus on the present task free of any potential acts of friendly fire, because frequently looking over your shoulder hinders your ability to play to your full potential. More importantly, athletes have to know that their teammates will do their respective jobs, because any lack of trust in regards to competence is a one-way ticket to failure. While trust plays a crucial role in regards to interactions between teammates, it is imperative that athletes also trust their coaches, the officials, and their opponents. Players need to trust that their coaches have done everything within their power to best prepare them to compete, they need to trust that the officials understand the rules of the game and will judge the contest free of any bias, and they need to trust that their opponents will play a clean game.
The final trait that I wish to convey to every athlete I work with is respect, which is an underrated characteristic that most people take for granted. However, I struggle to think of a more meaningful moment than shaking hands with an opponent after an evenly matched contest and sincerely expressing my gratitude for his efforts throughout the course of the game. More importantly, the ability to genuinely express the emotion of respect in the ‘real world’ without coming across as a brownnose or suck up is a skill worthy of high praise because it is so rare in the modern era. In a more intrapersonal sense, it is of the utmost importance for athletes to respect themselves regardless of the outcome of their efforts on the field. The development of self-respect is a top priority due to the plethora of negative opportunities in the non-athletic real world that will cause even the most well tuned athletes to question their self-worth. While there is ample room for harm when an individual fails to respect their own efforts and persona, the failure to respect others is also ripe with potential dangers, whether dealing with friends or foes.
I love winning just as much as any coach or former athlete, but I no longer measure success by the final tally on the scoreboard when the final whistle blows and I do not fret over who hoists the championship trophy at the end of the season. It is pointless to stress over these minor details because the scoreboard will read zero-zero tomorrow and only the champions will remember who won the championship ten years down the road. Coach Dave Pietramala embodies my belief in the four pillars to success to near perfection even though the two national championships on his coaching resume may say otherwise. Pietramala summarizes the ethos of the four pillars that serve as the foundation to my coaching beliefs and attitude on the sideline, such that we both firmly believe in coaching with the intention of imparting lessons on the field that carry over into life after school and off the field.