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