As I drove on to campus on Tuesday morning I watched the football team going through their morning practice before their afternoon scrimmage.  I realized I hadn’t been on a campus with a football team in over 15 years, and it was exciting.  The energy in the fall is a little different when their is a football team in camp, getting ready for their first game – especially a championship football team like the one we have in Orono.   You can really feel the energy within the athletic department from all of the teams at UMaine.

I am very lucky to be a part of a great athletic culture at the University of Maine.  The energy that everyone in the athletic department has is contagious.  All of our programs can feed of one another, and I’ve been really impressed with how invested each coach is in the success of the entire department.

Sharing best practice is something that can really help you as a coach and I’m not sure coaches do enough of it.  How many coaches of different sports make it a point to sit down together and seriously discuss what they do that works the best?  A lot of coaches are so focused on their own team and their own program that they don’t reach out to other coaches in the department to see how they handle the same challenges, what type of leadership approach they use, and how they build their team.  There is so much that can be learned across different sports, and some of the best leadership resources you can find are right there in your own department.

On the day I got the job and was driving up to campus, Red Gendron our hockey coach reached out and called me to welcome me to the department.  He said that UMaine was one big family and that we were all in it together to help each other.  He said we were more than welcome to come by practice anytime or stop by the office.   He’s won 2 national championships and been a part of a Stanley Cup winning organization?  Do you think he’s got a pretty good approach to building a winner?  How much can I learn from a guy with his experience?

Jack Cosgrove has been running a championship level football program at UMaine for over 20 years.  He’s won league championships, played in the NCAA playoffs five times and coached a number of NFL players.  Do you think he knows something about building a championship team?  Coach Cos is always open to having us visit practice, spend time in his office, and to share his philosophy and approach.  Just yesterday I stopped by his office after their scrimmage to see what he thought, and we talked about his team for a little bit.  He’s always interested in talking about what works and what doesn’t in coaching, and he’s had consistent success at UMaine.  Why wouldn’t any coach want to learn from someone like that?

Richard Barron built an Ivy League Champion at Princeton and is on his way to turning the Lady Black Bears into an America East power.  Steve Trimper has taken his team to 2 NCAA appearances and coached almost 20 guys who have been drafted.  Both of them reached out immediately to say if we needed anything they are their to help.  Aren’t those two terrific resources for a coaching looking to build a championship program?  I’d be nuts not to learn what I can from how they run their programs.

Everyone has a different leadership approach and every sport is different, but that is part of the value of being in a great athletic culture.  Preparing and motivating a baseball team or a football team is a lot different than preparing a basketball team, but in general it’s still building a team.  There are so many different approaches that you can learn from within an athletic department, so why wouldn’t you take advantage of it?  I don’t feel like college athletic departments take advantage of their own resources as much as they should.

I’m lucky to be at UMaine for a number of reasons, but one of them is being surrounded by great coaches who are wiling to share their best practice.  Everybody is pulling for each other and eager to help and share ideas.  It’s really cool to see guys as experienced and successful as Red Gendron and Jack Cosgrove so energetic and bought in to the success of everyone when they could easily just keep to themselves and run their own programs.  There are great coaching resources in the same building all day every day, and I’m excited to learn from all of them.

Sharing best practice is a great way to improve, and a resource I don’t think coaches use enough.  Whether your are in high school or college you are surrounded by great resources with different approaches that you can learn from.  When was the last time you stopped by soccer practice to see how the coach communicates with his players and how they respond?  Or asked the women’s coach what her approach was to discipline for an individual rules violation? Sometimes we get so focused on our own thing that we don’t realize it, when learning a different approach is just a conversation away.  Share you best ideas with the coaches next to you and ask them what they do that works.  It’s a simple way to get better and there are great resources next to you every day.

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