In just over a decade, the Tufts University men’s lacrosse team has gone from worst to first under head coach Mike Daly. Instead of focusing on wins, Daly urged players to take pride in mastering the details and always improving their craft.
For starters, the team emphasized fitness and preparation. Its once-lethargic workouts became intense, and Daly’s passion proved contagious.
Daly taught the team to measure success by on-field excellence as well as by how they behaved off the field. Teammates challenged each other to get good grades and aspire to careers that reflected the values Daly instilled in the team, such as effort and sacrifice.
He often recognized unsung heroes who exhibited those values. For example, Daly repeatedly praised the team’s athletic trainer along with a Tufts custodian for their dedication.
Daly ran practices that enabled players to develop skills and strategy, but he also reserved time fortraining. Every Friday, he gathered groups of teammates to discuss reading assignments on aspects of leadership.
In 2010, the team won the Division III national championship—the only Tufts athletic team ever to win an NCAA crown. In the two years before he became coach in 1998, the last-place team had won only two games.
Today, Daly sustains the team’s high level of performance by continually reassessing what success means. Wins and losses are one metric. The larger goal is for players to become well-rounded, disciplined individuals who work hard, sacrifice for others and demonstrate commitment to shared objectives.
— Adapted from Team Turnarounds, Joe Frontiera and Daniel Leidl, Jossey-Bass.
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