6 Lessons Learned from Yale University

As a fan of competition, this is a special time of year. Last night the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse tournament field of 18 was announced and the 2015 Ivy League Tournament Champion Yale Bulldogs will play next on Saturday at 2:30pm EST at Maryland.


IMG_0100.JPGI had the absolute privilege to be on the sidelines with the Dogs in the Ivy League Tournament for their come-from-behind 10-6 victory over Brown on Friday night and yesterday’s back-and-forth 11-10 victory over Princeton for the title.

This week I want to share with you 6 lessons learned from working with this great group of men.



Great organizations, teams and individuals have a strong set of core values.  The core values of Yale Lacrosse are the foundation of the program and were on display all weekend by the players and the staff.  Values give you a direction, provide you with a foundation to build from, and offer a safety net when you fall.  The values of Yale Lacrosse are:


  1. Accountability
  2. Motor/Energy
  3. Physical and Mental Toughness
  4. Brotherhood
  5. Trust
  6. Confidence



Head Coach Andy Shay and his staff modeled the values of the program all weekend.  They reminded me of the importance of leadership having a motto to say to help refocus and rally the troops, and the importance of the leader being a model of values for others to see.



In athletics and in life, the tendency is to look forward to the result of what might happen.  The key to performing at your best is to stay committed and locked into the next 200 feet.  Remember, you can drive anywhere in the country you want in complete darkness if you simply stay focused on the next 200 feet of the road.  In lacrosse the next 200 feet is the next possession; in life it may be what you do in the next hour after reading this.  How good can you be at what you are doing in the next hour of your life?  Can you make it the best hour of your day?  Make this hour better than it has ever been before?  What is your next 200 feet?



On the eve of the biggest fight in what seems to be boxing history, the Bulldogs found themselves in the fight of their lives vs. Brown.  Down 6-2 early in the second half, Bulldog players kept their composure and reminded each other of the importance of working the cut.


In boxing, most fans look for the knockout.  What the champions (like Mayweather, Pacquiao and this team) know is that to win the fight you have to work the cut.  Working the cut is an analogy for staying the course, sticking to your game plan when you take a punch, and not letting the assault of your opponent take you out of your game.  You have to keep landing your jab (or in lacrosse, win ground balls), make simple passes and communicate – and as you keep working the cut, your opponent will get metaphorical blood in his/her eyes, and then you take the KO when it comes.


Working the cut is about small, simple wins along the way that lead up to the big finish and the desired result.  What is working the cut for you today to help you win the fight of being at your best today?


  1. WHAT IS vs. WHAT IF

When you care deeply about the people on your team and have your back against the wall, where if you lose and your season may come to a close, there is a tendency to focus on “What If.”  What if we win, who will we play?  What if we lose, will we play again?  What if I don’t play my best?  In competition, “what if” kills.  In competition, champions focus on “what is.”  They focus on the moment and recognize when their mind drifts away from the moment and they quickly reset back to the NOW.  Today, keep your mind in the moment and stay locked into what is to avoid the trap of what if.



Everyone wants results.  The problem is that when you think about results you sabotage your ability to perform.  Rather than focus on results, focus on reasons.  Why do you love doing what you do?  Why do you love who you do it with?  Why do you compete?  When you have a big enough reason why, you will always find a way how.  Start with why.


When you can answer why you do what you do, the results will come faster because you will be able to manage the emotions of the moment and deal with the adversity that makes life so great.


Make today special!


Your Peak Performance Coach,

Brian Cain