Building your coaching curriculum with Ed McCarthy

I met Ed McCarthy at the US Lacrosse Convention in 2015 where he was one of the featured speakers and we immediately hit it off because of our common passion for leadership and character development related.  In this interview Ed shares his experience as a coach of multiple sports at multiple levels from 6 year old wrestlers to professional lacrosse players he coaches with the Boston Cannons.  In this podcast Ed shares with us a ton of value about how to build your curriculum as a coach and attend to the things that make a lasting difference in the young men that all of us coach.  The interview is a bit longer than most but I urge you to stay with us as Ed has a ton of resources for you and valuable insight into how to build your teams culture.

Here are the notes from the Ed McCarthy Podcast

  • Ed discusses how coaches need to develop a leadership and character development curriculum that is tailored to their program.  Too many coaches count events (fundraiser events, community service events, etc…) but the really effective coaches think in terms of curriculum.
  • If all of your team goals have to do with wins vs losses, or points scored vs points allowed, then you are likely going to lose focus on the character development goals that are the foundation of your success.  Team building, socialization, collaboration, and character skills are all things that help teams build and maintain their programs at a high level but they need to be stated in the teams objectives at the beginning of each season.
  • Your objectives that are stated with words like “excellence” and “competition” very often times exclude so you have to be careful how you word them.
  • “Teacher education equals coaches education”.  Coaches are teachers and in many cases they are also parents.  Coaches need to love their players in much the same way parents love their children.  Sometimes loving your child is providing the discipline, but mostly you need to “analyze and observe” what they are doing and intervene when necessary in a way that is appropriate for each individual player.  Suspend judgement for a while until you have observed and analyzed enough to intervene.
  • Watch what you compliment or reward because it send a message as to what is important.  When you place a high value on being the leading scorer, you exclude others who don’t have that gift, but when you place value on things like examples of good sportsmanship or how a player helped another teammate that is when your teams culture thrives because all teammates are capable of adding value to the team in those areas.
  • Ed tells a story about a mentor of his named Jim Wilson.  Jim graduated from Yale and taught and coached for 52 years. He asked Ed “what do you remember from your teams when you were a kid?  His goal was that his players would remember something about their teammates, their school anything other than if they won a championship or not.  So what he did was he purchased a model/doll of the schools mascot (a Pelican for his school) and each week they would have a competition for a Pelican event (ground ball competition, etc…), and the teams competing in events would compete all season and then after the last game they would have the “Pelican Cup” to determine the winner.  The end result was that when players were asked years later what they remember about their high school team, the answer more often than not, was about how they won the Pelican Cup and not what their record was or where they ranked in the state.  In essence it took the pressure off the boys to perform to someone else’s standard (societies) and allowed them to feel good about what they had to contribute to the group.
  • Ed believes that every man secretly dreams of being on a winning team with 30 people he considers family.  He would have his players sometimes just stop practicing, take them to the computer lab and ask them to write down the answers to these questions:
    • Name 3 people who helped you out when you were having a tough day and tell what they did that helped you.
    • Who are the people you really trust, and why?
    • Who can you rely on?
    • Who are the kindest people you know and how?
  • Ed is developing a book called “Coach Mac’s How to Playbook Lacrosse” and it has more to do with building teams than building lacrosse players.  The head coach wears many hats and needs to look at all aspects of what it takes to build the team.
  • One of Ed’s mentors is Bobby Shriver of Boys Latin, and Bobby asked him “why would you ever do line drills for lacrosse?” and the point was that players should practice things that are directly relatable to what happens in a lacrosse game.
  • Ed has seen a lot of damage done by captaincies.  He believes all seniors need to be captains and need to embrace that role.  Allowing captains to be chosen as a popularity contest is potentially damaging to players and teams alike.
  • Book recommendations from Ed:
    • “Mindset” by Carol Dweck
    • “Path to Purpose” by William Damon
    • “The Blesssing” by John Trent and Gary Smalley
    • “Drive” by Daniel Pink
    • The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL by Eric Greitens.  Ed is not totally sold on it, but thinks it is a great book to share with high school kids.  You need courage and compassion but you need strength to effect change.
    • “Excellent Sheep, The miseducation of the American Elite and a Way to a Meaningful Life.” by William Deresiewicz.  Claim is that individualism is now playing out into the work world.  Too many are focused on acquiring a “Head Coaching Job”, or “Vice President” position.
    • “Captains – 7 ways to Lead Your Team: Be First… Be Last” by Bruce Brown
    • “The Team Captains Leadership Manual” (and others by this author) by Jeff Janssen
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