I just finished watching the dab video that features the head coach of the 2016 National Championship lacrosse team dancing (dabbing) with his players in the locker room. His hat was on backwards, his team was erupting with intense joy and it made me smile. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to be on some incredible teams over the years and there is one common denominator that each of them shared — family and fun.
Joe Breschi was raised on the fertile lacrosse fields of Baltimore Maryland where he learned to play the sport alongside some of the greatest players and teams in history. After graduating from Loyola Bakersfield High School in Towson he decided to leave his hometown and head south down I-95 to Chapel Hill to wear the light blue for legendary coach Willie Scroggs. After 4 great seasons and multiple individual awards including All-American and All-ACC honors, Breschi was ready for the next challenge.
During his senior season he was selected by his team to represent them as the sole captain – which is something that has only been done three times in UNC history. So aside from possessing obvious skills on the field as a defensemen, Breschi had a powerful knack for leadership. It was this attribute that pushed him into his profession in 1991 as he joined the UNC lacrosse coaching staff as an assistant coach under Dave Klarman and helped the team win a national championship that season. Not all great players are great coaches, but Breschi was different. After two years at UNC he decided to take a position under legendary Brown University coach Peter Lasagna.
Coaching is not unlike any craft, it needs to be learned and experienced. When he landed in Providence as the head assistant coach, he spent the 1993-1997 seasons as an apprentice where he soaked in all of the positive motivational tactics employed by the Lasagna coaching style. He learned more about players, personalities and of course the game. After five years in the Ivy League, it was time for Breschi to spread his wings and become the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes lacrosse program in Columbus.
Over the course of the next ten seasons he would turn a fledgling lacrosse team into a competitor. In 2008 the OSU beat Cornell and recorded the first NCAA tournament game ever won in the programs history. The months following that game would be filled with changes and an opportunity that would take him and his family back to Chapel Hill. In 2008, Joe Breschi took over as the head coach of his alumnus and he found his groove early.
He quickly became one of the best recruiters in the country because of his likability and fun approach to lacrosse. The best recruits in the country and beyond started to look at UNC as a major player – a place to win a national championship.
Photos by Mason Powell
After watching the Final Four this past weekend it was clear there was one team that was having more fun and playing with more confidence than the others. I decided to take a closer look at where that fun and confidence comes from. I quickly learned the source of the stream was Coach Breschi. With his hat on backwards, dancing with his team in the locker room and almost always donning a large smile on the sidelines it was was obvious that his team loved him. They were playing for him. Like all great leaders he had created a culture and a brotherhood that emphasized the importance of playing together.
A prime example of this can be found in the story of the the most outstanding player of the NCAA tournament, sophomore Chris Cloutier. His 14 goal performance in two games was easily one of the most impressive showings I had ever witnessed in the Final Four. And after learning that he was pulled off the field early on in the season because he wasn’t playing all that great I couldn’t help but think about how the Carolina culture that was created helped foster his growth as a player and allow Cloutier to persevere, play with confidence and ultimately lead his team to a national championship. It is always fun to see unsung heroes arrive on the lacrosse worlds biggest stage. It reminded me of a performance by Nick Licameli in the ¹95 national championship run for Syracuse. It takes a certain kind of coach to lay the foundation for any player on any given day to step up and be the hero.
What We Can Learn From The Dab
I think a lesson all coaches from all sports can learn from these two storylines (Cloutier and Breschi) is that if you and your players never lose sight of why we choose to be involved in sports in the first place you will create an atmosphere that is positive, fun and productive. If you treat a team like a family instead of how you would run a business you will help maximize each players potential. Great coaches now how to motivate, understand that different people require different methods and find the greatest power in focusing on personal relationships as they relate to overall team dynamics. There is no doubt in my mind that North
Carolina won the national championship because of what most people would refer to as the “X” factor. The “X” factor refers to an unexplainable attribute that the team possesses that ultimately leads to their success. They played with heart and made up for what they lacked on paper with energy and confidence.
I would like to congratulate the University of North Carolina on their impressive victory and powerful performance over the weekend. And I send a huge thank you to Joe Breschi for putting his fun approach on display for the lacrosse world to see. The modern lacrosse world has now witnessed the power of positivity, family and fun. Lacrosse is not robotic, its fun and fast. May we all go forth with this in our minds and focus our energy on creating a culture that maximizes people/players potential by motivating them through confidence. Whether you¹re a coach, administrator, teammate or a parent you have a responsibility to lead and improve the people that surround you ‹ one ounce of action beats a ton of words.
Here’s to great lacrosse.