A couple of years ago, I was reading the book "Reach for the Summit" written by the legendary Tennessee Lady Volunteers Basketball Coach Pat Summitt, when I came upon an interesting recruitment tool she uses.
It seems that Coach Summitt was meeting with a local businessman, owner in fact of several car dealerships, when the topic of recruiting salesmen came up. The businessman explained to her that before he hires an individual to work in sales, he always has them complete a "personality profile" exam first. The results would confirm whether the candidate had the right "stuff" for a high-pressured sales position.
Learning of this exam Coach Summitt made some adaptations and began using a similar personality profile exam to filter out those recruits who would lack the drive, toughness and commitment required playing for the Lady Volunteers.
Isn't that interesting you say but what does Pat Summitt's recruiting tool have to do with "lawn mowing" and lacrosse? Quite a bit, read on.
Coach Wilson and I were waiting for the start of practice a year or two ago when we began discussing a theory I have had for some time. It is been my belief that one difficulty we face as coaches today is that fewer and fewer players seem to possess a work ethic. You remember the concept; you asked your mother or father for something of value and their response was always "save your money." So you began to look for any kind of job you could find, you picked strawberries, mowed lawns, baby-sat for the neighbors, washed cars, or maybe you even sold "farm fresh eggs" as I did.
Little by little you started to amass some savings for that little goody you wanted. Perhaps it was a new bike, a summer camp experience, or money for the prom and maybe, once your mother and father had seen you display a certain level of commitment, they would at the last minute surprise you by pitching in a few dollars towards your goal. But it was your "putting out", making a sincere commitment to the goal, that created personal ownership in the results. You took greater care of the bike, for example, because you worked hard for it. It meant something to you!
That afternoon at practice, we gathered the players and asked them to raise their hand if they mowed their own lawns. Once again back to my theory that there is a correlation between an athlete's burning desire to succeed, his ingrained work ethic and whether he has chores to complete at home. Mowing your yard is an excellent example of a household chore that is just no fun, particularly on a hot, humid Saturday afternoon in July here in upstate New York.
As it turned out, less that half the kids "surveyed" in our "personality profile" exam mowed their yards. That acknowledgment was revealing. No longer am I surprised that we struggle to teach hard work at practice. No longer does it surprise me that many days I feel as though I want it more than the kids do. Our boys just don't understand the concept of struggle, of work, of having to fight for something, or of wanting something so badly you are willing to sacrifice anything to achieve a dream.
I think of the kids from Penn Yan who year in and year out play the game of lacrosse with such passion. These are kids who are tough. When I have mentioned my admiration to the Penn Yan coaches, they have told me that their kids play with reckless abandonment simply because lacrosse is their life. The reality is that for those who don't make the team the alternatives aren't fun (i.e., finding a job and going to work).
I have to say however that in many respects our kids are fortunate to live in this community. Started in 1977, The Panther Lacrosse Program has evolved tremendously over the years and we have seen our share of successes. More kids are playing than ever before, they are being coached by individuals who are knowledgeable and extremely dedicated, they have new equipment and get to go to some of the best camps in the country but what is lacking is the work ethic, the passion, the competitive desire.
Having household chores to complete helps to develop a work ethic. When a child performs a family chore, their efforts are for the betterment of the family. In some cases there are causes and effects, you mow the lawn, we'll share the family car with you. Mowing the lawn also requires the youngster to endure some degree of pain. Pushing the mower around on a July afternoon is not fun but if he can endure that pain chances are that when we need him to pick up a ground ball during the Section Five finals held in late May, he'll be up for the task. The lessons learned from performing chores do, in fact, transfer to the field.
We don't have the luxury of recruiting our
team. Pat Summitt can use her "personality profile"
exam and determine which recruit has the "right stuff".
We simply check to see who mows their own lawn.
Coach Bryson can be reached at