The Head Coaches main job is to drive the culture

Today I am honored to bring you my interview with Hank Janczyk, the Head Mens Lacrosse Coach at Gettysburg College.  Coach Janczyk is one of the most successful coaches in all of lacrosse, at all levels, with 423 career victories to his credit.  Next season Coach Janczyk will begin his 30th season at the helm of Gettysburg Mens Lacrosse so you’d think after all that time he has it all figured out, but coach will be the first one to tell you; “I could be wrong, I often am”, and today he shared with me a time not so long ago that he had to sit back, reflect, and ask his players for help in figuring out what he needed to do to improve.  It was a pleasure to speak with coach Janczyk about this time in his career as well as get his perspective on what he believes all head coaches main responsibility is.  Here are my notes from the interview which you can listen to on iTunes at Laxicon Leadership or click on the link below.

Hank Janczyk Podcast Notes

  1. Coach Janczyk has been coaching mens lacrosse at Gettysburg College for 29 years, and although he’ll be the first to tell you; “I could be wrong, I often am”, Coach Janzcyk has obviously been right much more often than he’s been wrong with an overall coaching record of 423-133 (378-109 at Gettysburg) which ranks second in victories amongst lacrosse coaches in all divisions.
  2. In 2012, 13 & 14 Gettysburg had some non-Janczyk like records and coach remarked that “when the pain of staying the same is worse than the pain to change, you change.” Coach advises every coach to take a brutal look at their program starting with themselves.  Coach says we all have this “inner defender” who tells you that you are okay, but he had to ask his seniors to take a “brutal look” at him, and tell him what he needed to hear.  He asked them to be brutally honest, not to worry about what he would think of them, but to focus on what he as a coach needed to change.  What they told him became his focus for the immediate future.  They told him 2 things:
    1. He needed to improve his attention to detail.
    2. He needed to be more objective in evaluating players because he had become too close to some players and he needed to get tougher.
  3. Gettysburg also needed to look at what they were doing as a team and make some brutal assessments, and in that vein they came up with a couple of things they needed to work on as well.  They came up with 2 things:
    1. They were better friends than they were teammates.  Their accountability to each other was not as good as they needed it to be.  They didn’t want to be a family anymore, they needed to be a team.  People were going to get let go, standards needed to be communicated and enforced.  One of the first things they did was disallow players to pledge and join fraternities.  Coach Janzcyk wanted the center of their world outside of their families and academics to be the team and fraternities and their activities diminished the focus on the team and what players needed to do to be accountable to the team.
    2. They didn’t think they were very mentally and physically tough.  
      1. In order to improve toughness Coach Janczyk instituted a depth chart for the first time in his career which was updated each week.  If there were 15 middies, they were all ranked 1 through 15.  Initially it was difficult to manage but players responded because when coach asked them why they thought they were ranked where they were and most of the time they knew exactly what they had to do to get better and they took action to improve.  It changed how they practiced, players got more competitive in practice.  Parents weren’t very understanding at first and questioned whether coach cared about their son and his response was that he couldn’t care more, every player is valuable and deserves to know where he stands and what he needs to do to improve and grow.
      2. Another tactic that Coach Janzcyk did was to institute a travel team, and players responded by competing to be on that team.  No one wanted to be left behind and when it happened to a player that player responded by fighting to be on the travel team.  Some mediocre players were able to really take their game to another level that previously they never would have gotten to.
  4. Coach believes a player led team is better than a coach led team.  He believes when players lead they get better buy in.
  5. Coach had players share some personal experiences with each other, and that activity had a dramatic impact on them becoming a team.  The players were asked to share with their team something that happened to them in their lives that was so significant that it changed their lives.  The players wanted to do it, they wanted to share, and it built them up as a team.  Its not a beginning activity if you are building a team, but once you’ve got the momentum going in the right direction an activity like this takes them to an even higher level.Positive Team Culture
  6. Coach Janzcyk believes that coaches need to continue to continue to educate themselves with good books like:
    1. “Legacy” by James Kerr
    2. “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown
    3. “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek
  7. Coach also believes that networking with other coaches and listening to what works for them as well as doesn’t is also important.  Going to conventions and listening to other coaches who have ideas then applying what you learn where appropriate will make a big difference in your outcomes.  The little things make a difference.
  8. “A head coaches main job, and it is a significant main job, is to drive the culture”, to pay attention to the little things and continuing to help players find their purpose on the team.
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