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America’s Coach: What I learned from Herb Brooks

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself. In light of this, twice a month I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is America’s Coach: Life Lessons & Wisdom for Gold Medal Success: A Biographical Journey of the Late Hockey Icon Herb Brooks by Ross Bernstein

SUMMARY OF BOOK:

“America’s Coach” is a biography of Herb Brooks. Herb is best known for coaching the 1980 US Mens Olympic hockey team to a gold medal against Russia. It is claimed as the “Miracle on Ice” and arguably the biggest upset in American sports history. Ross Bernstein was a good friend of Herb Brooks and tells us the story of Herb from childhood to becoming an iconic coach. Below I share with you some of the leadership lessons I learned.

LESSONS I LEARNED FROM THIS BOOK:

People do not remember how you failed, but they remember how you respond

One of the most memorable days of Herb Brooks life was when his dad told him “Looks like coach made the right choice” referring to him being the last guy cut from the team. Sitting in his living room at the age of 21 Herb Brooks had a choice. He could wake up the next day and sulk in his sorrow about not being part of that USA gold medal team, or he could use this a tool to learn from and motivate him to achieve his life long dreams. Well, for Herb we all know what he did next. He made a choice to move forward. He ended up playing and coaching in more Olympic hockey games than any other hockey players in history.

Don’t Worry about losing, or winning. Focus on being the best version of yourself at the moment

After that moment with his father, Herb, like I mentioned, went on to finally win that gold medal he so desperately coveted. However, he explains that early on in his career he was always driven from not wanting to lose, and determined to get that gold medal. He wanted so badly to prove his father wrong. But what he ultimately learned was that what got him to finally win that gold medal was not worrying about winning or losing, it was about focusing on the moment right in front of him. Being the best version he could of himself at that moment.

Slow Down to Speed Up

Herb was a master motivator. After hearing from his players you find out that he had this incredible instinct to push the right buttons at the right time. His main philosophy for motivation though was simple, in his mind, he believes that when things were going well, he could and should push the team harder. When things were not going well, he found a way to pull back and let them ride it out. For Herb, it was a simple concept of “slowing down, to speed up”. By pushing them harder when things went well, it was his opportunity to help them push past limits. When things were not going right, it was an opportunity to reset physically and mentally.

Build your team around value systems

A common trait between Herb and many legendary coaches is their commitment to focusing on the right players, not the most talented players. Herbs main goal was to focus on kids who had a strong value system and had come from many different backgrounds. He never wanted the most talented guy, but the guys who were open-minded, and highly educated to be able to adapt to a new style of play. As a leader his philosophy was simple, there were no stars on the team. He was the coach, and that whether they won as a team, or lost as a team. They were all one group who all believe the same values and achieving the same common goal.

If you found value in today’s post and want to learn more about Herb Brooks please feel free to purchase the book here.

Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One.

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