Culture Part 1. By, Joe Cummings

 “Culture will beat scheme every day” –Chip Kelly, Head Coach Philadelphia Eagles

Culture- what is it?  How is it defined?  What does it look like?  Who creates it?  How is it passed on? Who defines a culture?

Webster’s dictionary defines culture with three listed definitions.  Webster’s states that culture is “the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time; a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.; a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization.”

Here, we see Webster’s offering three avenues where culture is defined and located: society, a place, and an organization.  For our purposes with Lacrosse Force, I will add two more.  Culture is found in a team and yourself.

Lacrosse Force, as a whole, is an organization, and we have defined our purpose and mission statement as the following; “Coach lacrosse at the highest level while encouraging growth Beyond the Game.”  Our culture, our leaders, and our coaches are committed to this mission, and we hold ourselves to a very high standard when it comesto the platform we have been given through lacrosse to teach the game to the next generation of lacrosse players.

We also hold our athletes to a very high standard as well.  We have five themes that we hold our athletes to when they are a part of any of our programs. Attendance, Attitude, Integrity, Team Mentality, and Represent.  In simple description, here’s what we ask of our athletes from those five themes.

Attendance:  Show up.  More than half the battle is simply to show up, be on time, and prepared to compete.

Attitude:  Be positive and encourage one another.  We as coaches work day in and day out to create a positive environment.  We view ourselves as teachers, and we realize that mistakes happen, and they will continue to happen throughout the rest of our lives and our athletes lives.  We want our athletes to be positive, learn from their mistakes, and try to correct those mistakes for the future.  Effort, focus, and humility (the ability to be coachable) are all we ask from our athletes. And, we want them to encourage each other along the way.  “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

Integrity:  Basic question, what are you doing when no one is watching?  Do your actions look the same when a coach (parent, teacher, friend, etc.) is not around?

Team Mentality: Put others before yourself.  There is no I in Team…  I attended a Jesuit high school, and our slogan for my high school was, “Building Men for Others.”  As difficult as this can be for all of us, it is something we always want our athletes to aspire to become, a man for others.

Represent: We all have something or someone we represent.  Whether it is a team, a school, or a club; a person, a friend, or family; all of us represent something greater than ourselves.  First, that is a great gift; knowing that we are not alone.  However, it also comes with great responsibility.  We ask our athletes to carry themselves in a manner that is honoring to all that they represent in every aspect of their lives.

For Lacrosse Force, this is the culture that we aspire to build and create for all who are involved in our programs.  For you parents out there, we are working to reinforce the same values that you are trying to teach at home.  Hopefully, many of the themes we have stated here are similar to those values you are trying to teach at home, for we know that lacrosse is a great tool to teach lessons that will go beyond the playing field.  Our hope is to reinforce those values on the field, so that these young men, who are the future leaders of their teams, schools, organizations, businesses, and more, will stand firm to what they know to be true when the temptation of moving away from those values presents itself.

Referring back to the quote we started with from Chip Kelly, “Culture will beat scheme every day.”  In my opinion, this quote from Chip Kelly is 100% true, and I have attached a great article about Coach Kelly below.  Unfortunately, there is no perfect scheme; not in sports and not in life. Sports and life can be very grey.  However, our fundamentals, our foundation, our culture, is what we fall back on when times get hard and things don’t go our way; whether in training camp, a game, or in life. 

I love reading the Scriptures because the greatest Teacher to ever live talked about this very same idea in a parable that he taught to his disciples.  Jesus says in Matthew 7: 24-27, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

I won’t begin to try and dissect all the meaning laid out in this parable, but I think it’s a great message that still holds true for us today.  Adversity is going to come for all of us, and what type of foundation we have will dictate how we respond to those situations.  Whether it is a hard practice, a tough game, or a frustrating season; how we handle adversity is a great question for us all to ask ourselves.

At Lacrosse Force, we are working to build a culture of coaches and athletes who value hard work, effort, humility, dedication, selflessness, integrity, character, commitment to excellence, and responsibility.  As a result, we hope that this type of culture will transcend the practice field onto the playing field to help carry our athletes through when they meet adversity.  As coaches, we will consistently put athletes in situations where they will be uncomfortable and be forced to fall back on their fundamentals and the culture we are working to create.  Our hope is that through lacrosse, they can practice facing adversity and learn how to overcome it.  Likely, they will find that as the skills that were once difficult become easier, there will be more challenges to overcome in order increase their skill level.  But, this is what athletics is all about, and that’s why we believe it is a great tool for laying a foundation in a young person’s life that will go Beyond the Game.

Lastly, I love to study great teams, organizations, and businesses that have created this type of culture for their people where they can learn these lessons.  Some of my personal favorites to study include (I may catch some grief on some of these):

-Maryland Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse (obviously, for selfish reasons)

-A couple Terp lacrosse rivals here but… Duke Men’s Lacrosse (Painful to say, but definitely admire Coach Danowski’s consistency in creating a team-first, winning attitude), Johns Hopkins Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse (Coach Dyer and Coach Stanwick are great friends, and got to spend a few minutes with Coach Tucker this last spring, great program!)

-Baltimore Ravens(forever a Ravens Fan!), Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers (Yes, it pains me to admit it, but they are a great organization!)

 -San Antonio Spurs

 -St. Louis Cardinals

 -UCONN Women’s Basketball

 -Clemson Football, Ohio State Football

-Chic Fil A, YoungLife, Under Armour, Google, Southwest Airlines, Wegmans, and Twitter

… just to name a few. 

Thanks for taking the time to learn more about our Lacrosse Force team, the culture we are working to create, and the goals we are working to achieve every day.   Keep an eye out for my next post where I talk a little bit about my experience in the Maryland Lacrosse culture. 

We hope to see you on the field!  Be the Best!

Joe Cummings- Greenville, SC

A Look Back: John Greeley

I never thought the time would come;

It was May 3rd, a Friday night up at the historic Michie Stadium in West Point New York. The last regular season game against Army. I barely remember the game itself, I just remember taking off my jersey and untying my cleats for the last time of my college career. Sure, there will always be pro leagues; summer leagues, alumni games and drop-ins, but it will never hold the same meaning or emotion. 

Throughout the last 20+ years of my life, I have dedicated my life to lacrosse. Some of my first memories growing up are running around my front yard at my old house in La Fayette, New York, making up situations in my head. We all did it. It’s the championship game in overtime, and the ball is in my stick!

I remember all to well during the 90s sitting with my Dad every Saturday either at home watching or listening to the Syracuse Lacrosse games, or making our way up to the Carrier Dome to watch there. I knew then that lacrosse was something I wanted to play, and be very good at.

At a young age, I met some of my first and lifelong best friends through lacrosse, many of whom I still keep in contact with to this day. There’s just something about the game that creates untouchable bonds between a group of people. Bonds that distance doesn’t break, which is something so rare in todays day in age.

Looking back, I was pretty lucky with all the things I got to experience and accomplish. I got to be a two time captain in high school; play in two state championships winning one; 3x first-team all league; New York State Player of the Year; #1 Ranked Player in the nation both Junior and Senior year; Was able to represent team Central for 3 consecutive years in the Empire State Games; I broke scoring records; I was first-team all-state twice; and I got to play competitively until I was 22 years old for the best coaching staff in the game and for the best and most respected college program in the country; Johns Hopkins University

However, there is no accomplishment that begins with the letter “I” that will ever come close to what I will miss most about playing lacrosse with my “TEAM”. One thing you learn early in the sport is how much more important “we” is than “I.” The things I will miss most aren’t scoring goals, the big hits, or the awesome no look backside feeds. I’m going to miss the locker room, the road trips on the bus and the time spent in the hotel, the humorous stories, and the chirps on and off the field. The overall atmosphere that was created when we were clicking on all cylinders is one thing that will forever be engrained in my mind, one thing that I would do anything to go back to and feel again.

There is something to be said about lacrosse players. We’re a breed unlike any other, and it may be cliché, but the only way to understand it is if you have been a part of it. It’s never just a team; it’s a FAMILY. You will fight with your family day in and day out, on and off the field, but when it comes down to it there isn’t a thing in the world you wouldn’t do to look after or be there for them.

Lacrosse has taught me more about life than anything else on this planet. You learn about discipline, courage, respect for others, the development of becoming a sound leader, both physical and mental toughness, teamwork and communication. But more importantly it was the first aspect of life that will really make you look at yourself in the mirror and ask, “how far am I willing to go? How far am I willing to push myself for what I want?”

On the field, as in life, the person who is rewarded is the person who scratches and claws the furthest, fights through the sweat, blood and tears, and walks away knowing they gave everything they possibly could. I think that is one of many important life lessons I learned from playing, my coaching staff Dave Pietramala, Bob Benson, Bill Dwan and each of my professors taught the importance in that every one of your struggles and successes throughout your time, because trust me, both will happen regardless of the fact you’ve worked your hardest, are only shaping you to become the best possible person you can be so when you head into the real world, your ready and in a position to hit the ground running. Everything learned from the ups and downs only teaches and refines the skills to fight through, bounce back, and get back on top where each and every one of us dream to be.

While the amount of turmoil I went through growing up pales in comparison to many others, the field was always my therapy. You can’t ever run away from your problems, but you can at least avoid them for the two hours your on the field for either practice or game-days, in the weight room getting bigger and faster, or joking around with the guys in the locker-room. When you step on the field, it is almost as if life is perfect and all your problems have been resolved for the time being. When school and life gave adversity, lacrosse was the best counseling! There was always a reason why it was much easier to go to practice at 5 a.m. than to class and listen to a professor talk about things that made no sense.

Lacrosse will never cheat on you; Lacrosse never gets divorced; Lacrosse never dies. There is always a fresh smell of newly cut grass or carefully raked turf somewhere. There is always a goal to be shot on, and that first deep breath of cool air when stepping onto the field under the lights in front of 10-15 and even 20,000 fans is a feeling that can’t, and will never be topped.

Without lacrosse, my life would mean little. Without the people I’ve met through lacrosse, my life would mean nothing!

I would not be who I am without my unbelievable experiences as a lacrosse player, and I will forever live my life through the quote that I looked at everyday as a senior at Hopkins walking into my locker room. 

"We must find a way, or make one"

So to those taking the time to read this, keep chasing your dreams, take the adversity as it comes and just know that’s only making you a better human being in the long run. Keep bettering yourself. But most importantly, enjoy the ride and don’t miss a moment.

J. Greeley