Culture is Key
The Golden Eagles of Marquette University might be the best kept secret in Division I Women’s Lacrosse. This program has the best team culture I have seen, and with 3 close losses, their win/loss record is just 4-7, so the team is flying under the radar. What I saw on the field the other day though was a hard-working, aggressive and sharply executing team. The chemistry on the field has to be due to what I was lucky enough to observe this weekend. The staff for this team- from managers to athletic trainers, from conditioning coaches to event staff- everyone was extremely enthusiastic, pumped for game day, sincerely engaged in pre-game activities, supportive pre and post-game, and the players didn’t stop cheering from whistle to whistle.
The things that stood out to me about this great team culture could fall into these 3 categories for me: Trust, Focus, and Contagious Positivity
Trust- Head Coach Meredith Black clearly had a good game plan, and on gameday she did what all good coaches do- LET GO. She let everyone do their job-especially the players- and this was key because I’ve always believed the players win the games and any control we have as coaches is done long before the first draw. Coach Black gave her assistants a voice pre-game, she had a 10-year old girl give a pre-game speech, and her players were empowered to do their own pre-game songs/dances/speeches and prep. There was strength and calm in that trust, which I think is great for young women who have a tendency towards anxiety under pressure. This has to be good for players learning to handle everything they face as collegiate athletes.
Focus- There were a lot of distractions (or potential distractions) on game day, between a post-game clinic, a fundraiser that evening, a couple guests hanging around pre-game activities, and a parent weekend which brought lots of family and friends to campus. The team and coaches did a great job focusing on what they needed to- one thing at a time- and they won each small moment before, during, and after the game. I think the attention to detail in preparation for the day was crucial, so all program participants did a great job working as a team to have things go off without a hitch like that!
Contagious Positivity- EVERYONE had a smile on their face all day! Players introduced themselves to anyone around the program they didn’t’ know, they engaged with each other in a happy/goofy (but not obnoxious) way, and I didn’t notice much in the way of self-centered behavior. Usually you can tell who doesn’t get playing time, who is injured, and who is in their own head. I am sure some of that exists, but it was refreshing to see only positivity, and I think it totally boosted the team’s performance. There is no need to be “Polyanna-ish,” but I do think enthusiasm is contagious, and it can be the X-factor in performance, AND more importantly, in everyone’s overall experience. If those of us think about the memories we had as student-athletes, it’s about the connection with our teammates and the positive experiences on and off the field, more than the wins and losses.
I think every coach and administrator can take a lesson from Marquette. And high school prospects- YOU should be making team chemistry and program culture a MAJOR factor in your decision. You aren’t always going to be able to control things like playing time, wins and losses, and injuries- so it makes a big difference if you like the environment you are in for so many hours of your college life. Start with the alma mater of Dwayne Wade, Chris Farley, and Doc Rivers. Start with Marquette…
Written By: Theresa Sherry
April 4th, 2017