Laxicon012: Creating positive team culture with Jon Torpey of High Point University

I recently had a discussion with Jon Torpey, the Mens Head Lacrosse Coach at High Point University.  Jon was selected to start the lacrosse program at High Point and the Panthers couldn’t have chosen a better candidate as Jon came in and made an impact right away.  Within his first 3 seasons the team qualified for the NCAA tournament during 1 of those seasons and was 1 goal short in a second.  Jon played his college lacrosse at Ohio State University under Joe Breschi whose Carolina Tar Heals recently won the NCAA DI Mens Lacrosse Championship.

Jon shares his coaching philosophy as it pertains to leadership and team building with us, in particular he shared the following:

  • Things Jon looks for in players
    • Does he play hard and does he want to work hard.
    • What is his demeanor like when there is a questionable call on the field.
    • Grades, he needs to be a good student.
    • Character piece.  Is this a guy that is going to make us stronger.
    • What is his family like, does he come from a solid family environment.
    • Will take on a player that may have issues, but him know up front what the standards are and what the consequences of not meeting those standards are.
  • Over time the upperclassmen who have lived within the system and lived up to the standards tend to lead the underclassmen in their development as good team players.  Also, the recruiting process being what it is, players tend to know what is expected of them when they arrive because they have been in contact with the college for 2-3 years prior to even arriving as a freshman.
  • The most impactful thing they do is to have the players stand up in front of each other and speak to what they are going to do to help make the team better, or what are they thankful for, or discuss things they are going through and how being a part of the team has helped them get through whatever it is.  You have to be careful that players feel safe in this environment and letting them cut up and make it fun.
  • Underlying goal is for players to create relationships with each other that last beyond High Point and well into the future.  Relationships where they are in each others’ weddings, or working together in business, or any number of things.
  • To win championships every player needs to be pulling in the same direction and the culture is not built by any one event, it is built over time with many different events all focused on the overall mission of building close relationships and trust.
  • Players need to understand what their value is to the program.  If players understand their value they will respond and be a force for good on the team.  Game balls, recognition after and during practice, and other things that ensure they understand their value.
  • High Point has a leadership committee that represents each class.  Players from each class stand up and say why they want to be part of the committee and then their teammates vote on who will represent them.  This is a way for the coaches to keep a hand on the pulse of the program, and for players to feel like they have a say in the direction of the team.  Players get to talk about whatever they want during this time.
  • All players know that Coach Torpey’s door and his assistants doors are always open for whatever issues players have.  This is something that is very important to maintaining trust and open communication.
  • Team captains are chosen by the team.  Players self nominate and the team votes.  It is all in the hands of the team.  There is no specific number, the team decides.  That said, the coaches speculate on who the team will vote on and most of the time it is the same players that the team chooses.
  • When asked what other coaches would be a good interview, Coach Torpey could not name any specific one coach because the lacrosse community is so open and a lot less formal as well as less ego’s so essentially anyone is open to talk to.
  • Book recommendations.  Bill Parcels book, Bo Schembechlers book (John Bacon), Urban Meyer’s book, loves history books as well.  Stays away from TV unless he is watching programs that educate and enlighten.
  • Quotes:
    • “I am addicted to the process of getting better” ~Jason Day, professional golfer
    • “Take a job big or small, do it right or not at all” ~Bobby Muuss, Head Soccer Coach, Wake Forest
  • You can learn in any environment, you can always read watch and reflect and take something away from whatever you are watching.  He was recently watching the NBA finals with his guys and mentioned to them that they should take their eyes off the ball and watch what is going on off the ball because there is a lot to learn about the game away from the ball where the team is doing things to make the person with the ball successful.

Enjoy the podcast!


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