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Ted Lasso’s Guide to Coaching Lacrosse

I don’t watch much television as I’d rather wait to see what’s gaining traction amongst trusted friends. Then I can backtrack and destination watch. I did it with Game of Thrones during the pandemic. Recently I’ve been watching seasons 1 and 2 of Ted Lasso.

I love this show. The casting and writing are elite. There are lessons to learn from Ted Lasso, an American football coach hired to manage a British soccer team. What he lacks in soccer knowledge, he makes up for in optimism and relationships.

There are boatloads of lacrosse coaches sprinkled across the United States who never picked up a lacrosse stick. It’s not uncommon. They may lack full schematic knowledge initially, but using Ted Lasso as an example, the X’s and O’s are the lesser piece of the leadership pie.

Brown University’s Men’s Lacrosse Head Coach, Mike Daly, is one high-end example of a Division 1 coach (won three Division 3 National Championships at Tufts) who has found massive success after playing football and baseball (not lacrosse) in college.

Lead like Ted Lasso 

Believe, bream big, and go to work. Learn to listen. It’s okay to let the individual and team discover the answer themselves. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Most importantly, invest in relationships. Know your players. Be proud of designing the game winning play on the white board, but understand that the team trip to a fast food restaurant after the game may resonate stronger and longer than the win itself.

Coach with courage and a forward looking mindset. Coaches should embrace challenges and look to crosscheck obstacles. Treat opponents and referees with respect. Your team and its parents will follow the leader. Success isn’t immediate, it’s a long term proposition.

Inhale through your nose and exhale out of your mouth. Breathe. Lacrosse teams that are the most relaxed perform the best. Putting players on egg shells hinders performance. Gripping the stick too tight is a real phenomenon. If I’m afraid of making a mistake, I will make one. Play fast and free, within the confines of the team structure is imperative. Players need to know that coach has their back.

Be yourself. The team can sense when coach is not authentic. Young people have accurate ‘BS’ meters. Have the confidence to make mistakes and then own them. Don’t run from difficult conversations. Set the tone and inspire a diverse team with honesty.

A five-star culture defeats five-star recruits. Foster and develop a “we not me,” locker room.

Everybody matters. From the janitor to the secretary. From the grounds crew to the laundry staff. From the bus driver to the athletic trainer. To even the fourth-string goalie. Everybody tugs on the rope. Managing and influencing people that don’t necessarily work for you may seem secondary on the surface, that’s Lasso-like leadership.

Be a sponge. Worthwhile ideas originate from the most unpredictable sources. Eyes on. Hands off. Let the strength coach and training staff do their jobs. Stay in your lane. Delegate and empower.

Rituals are okay and can build camaraderie, but don’t become a prisoner to superstitions. Keep the locker room and team facility areas squeaky clean. When on the road, leave things better than you found them.

See the unique value in every team member. This relates directly to the origins of lacrosse, the Creators Game; a game according to the Haudenosaunee legend, that was first played amongst the animals. Each animal possesses a distinct skill set. The bear has power and fast hands. The eagle soars with uncommon vision. While the jackrabbit is defined by quickness.

See the best, not the worst, in each of your players. The slower skilled kid can’t play defense, but is ideally suited to be crease attackman. Lacrosse welcomes all shapes and sizes. Always has. Always will.

Hey goalies! Be a goldfish. Get over it and move on. Flush it. Hit the reset button. The next play matters most.

Use lacrosse as a vehicle to teach life lessons. Use lacrosse to illustrate teamwork. It’s just a game. Don’t forget to enjoy it like a kid does. Let them play in the mud. Let them create. Let them celebrate. Let them run. Lacrosse at all levels should be fun.

We can only hope that Lasso gets hired to coach a PLL expansion team.