Very interesting presentation on this podcast from Greg Carvel, the hockey coach at UMass, who took over one of the worst teams in the country and won a national championship 5 years later. Great insight into his culture and how he built it.

Some concepts that I really liked…

Command Respect

When he first took over the program, they came up with a purpose for the team, They knew they weren’t very good (they won 5 games his first year) but their purpose was to “command respect.” That is what drove them. Regardless of the result, they wanted to command the respect of their opponent based on how hard they played. A great purpose or mission for a rebuilding program.

Get Them To Say Our Standard

Hard. Fast. Prepared. That was the standard for UMass Hockey. They always wanted to play hard, fast and prepared. Carvel insisted to his team that they wanted to pursue those standards in such a way that their opponent actually said them out loud. He wanted to hear the opposing coach or players, in the press after the game, talk about how hard and fast they played, and how prepared they were. And he got his wish. Whenever he heard an opponent talking about their own standards at UMass, they knew they had the culture right.


Carvel has an interesting approach to dealing with tough circumstances. Any time they face adversity, the response is always “Good.” When a couple of starters went down with Covid right before the national semifinal, the response was “Good.” The approach is positive – this is an opportunity for us to get better and for others to step up and play a bigger role. The response to adversity is always “Good.”

Uniquely Seen

I really like this phrase. Carvel wants to make sure everyone of his players is “uniquely seen.” They are all different and he wants to make sure he and his coaching staff gets to know who they are through and through so as to be able to coach in the best way. Every player is different, and he wants to know and understand those differences. He says he felt “uniquely seen” by his coach in college and he’s always wanted his players to feel the same way.

Give It In The Gut

The phrase UMass Hockey uses to talk about being direct and honest is “give it in the gut, not in the back.” They speak the truth to one another. They tell it straight and they are unfailingly honest all the time. In their program their is no other way. They are truth-tellers who never dance around an issue.

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