Dear Athletes, Coaches, and Parents,

I am very excited to inform all of you about a completely free and amazing opportunity to learn from one of the top minds in leadership development! Currently, I am pursuing my masters at Harvard University and taking a class that is offered through their Graduate School of Education and Extension School. My professor for the class, Dr. Robert Kegan (bio copied below), is a leading researcher in adult learning and professional development. He has an endowed chair at Harvard and he is highly respected in the business world for his leadership development research and training. 
Dr. Kegan's latest book and training that he is offering people, "The Immunity to Change," was touted at number for Oprah's Top Ten Things You Should Do to Start the New Year Right in 2011! This process has been used extensively in leadership development and organizational change with great success with major corporations and high-profile CEOs. This training teaches people how to create the big changes that they sincerely want to make in their lives, but have been unable to do so. 
Kegan and his colleague, Lisa Lahey, are offering the "Unlocking the Immunity to Change: A New Approach to Personal Improvement," starting March 11, free of charge to anyone in the world. There are currently over 50,000 people signed up for the course! I am going through an abbreviated version of the workshop right now and I am benefiting from it greatly. I’m confident that this course could make a dramatic impact on your life too!
The main reason that I am bringing this to all of you is I believe that this transformational learning tool could be highly beneficial for athletes, coaches, and parents within their experience of sports and in their everyday lives. This is really what I am passionate about doing in life—I want to use sports as a container to support athletes, coaches, and parents in their growth and development. This course will be impactful for anyone at any age to make a beneficial change in their lives. I would love to take this course with some of you, get some feedback on how it went for you, and learn how you feel the work could apply to your life within athletics.
There are an infinite number of reasons for us to take this course! Athletes—maybe you want to learn to have more self-discipline, or motivation to practice more on your own, or confidence that you can make a clutch play, or learn to be a better teammate. Coaches—maybe you want to be a better leader for your players, or a better communicator with your parents, or be more organized, or stop yelling at referees. Parents—maybe you want to stop putting pressure on your child to succeed, or want to have more fun watching your child play, or get along with the other parents better, or be more supportive for your child’s passions and goals. Whatever the big change is that you want to make, whether it is related to sports or not, this workshop will show you how to do it.
Are you in for this awesome experience? If so, please follow the instructions below:
1. Optional online survey - support my educational exploration of how this type of work done by by Kegan and Lahey (2004) might apply those of us who are highly involved the sports world as athletes, coaches, and parents (all of your information will remain confidential and not be shared with anyone):


2. Online class registration - Sign up for the free online class here: 
3. Follow up survey - I will send you a quick follow up survey to see how this class benefitted you in your athletic experience and in your everyday life.
Many of us want to see athletics continue to evolve into a more well-rounded and educational experience for our youth. This is a great chance for us to learn from some top people in their fields and take what they have to teach us for our own lives and into our athletic community. Thank you for your support in this investigation and I look forward to hearing about your experience in this program!
Kind regards,


Robert Kegan

Robert Kegan is the William and Miriam Meehan Professor of Adult Learning and Professional Development at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.  The recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards, his thirty years of research and writing on adult development have influenced the practice of leadership development, executive coaching, and change management throughout the world.

At Harvard alone, he is regularly asked to teach in executive development programs in the Schools of Business, Government, Education and Medicine. His seminal books include The Evolving Self, In Over Our Heads, The Way We Talk, and Immunity to Change, which is now available to 2.2 billion readers in their native language. One of twenty--among Harvard’s 2300 faculty--honored by the president of the university for his outstanding teaching, Bob has been on the faculty of the World Economic Forum’s Davos Conference, and had his work featured in such diverse periodicals as The Harvard Business Review, The New York Times Sunday Business Section  and Oprah Magazine.

This fall he was the only thought-leader in the world asked to speak at all three premier conferences devoted to executive development: the Harvard Coaching Conference, the International Leadership Association Conference, and the International Coaching Federation Conference.

For the past several years, Bob has served as a trusted advisor to CEOs in the private and public sectors in the US, South America, Europe, and Asia. His clients are among the most recognized and respected leaders in the world. A husband, father, and grandfather, he is also an avid poker player, an airplane pilot, and the unheralded inventor of the “Base Average,” a superior statistic for gauging offensive contribution in baseball.


Lisa Lahey

Lisa Lahey is Co-director of Minds At Work, a consulting firm serving businesses and institutions around the world, and faculty at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.  

She teaches in executive development programs at Harvard University and Notre Dame, and she is regularly asked to present her work throughout the world, most recently in China, Kazakhstan, and New Zealand. Her seminal books, How The Way We Talk Can Change The Way We Work (2001), and Immunity to Change (2009) have been published in many languages. Lisa has been on the faculty of the World Economic Forum’s Davos Conference, and had her work featured in the Harvard Business Review, The New York Times Sunday Business Section, Oprah Magazine and Fast Company.

Lahey and long-time collaborator Robert Kegan are credited with a breakthrough discovery of a hidden dynamic, the “immunity to change,” which impedes personal and organizational transformation. Her work helps people to close the gap between their good intentions and behaviors. This work is now being used by executives, senior teams and individuals in business, governmental, and educational organizations in the United States, South America, Europe, and Asia. Lahey and Kegan recently received the Gislason Award for exceptional contributions to organizational leadership, joining past recipients Warren Bennis, Peter Senge, and Edgar Schein.

For the past several years, Lisa has served as a trusted advisor and executive coach to leaders in the private and public sectors worldwide. A passionate pianist and hiker, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and two sons.



“And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” - Batman Begins

Don’t get me wrong here. I love all of the players, parents and families that I get to work with in sports. I would not want to be doing anything else with my life! But lately, I have been bewildered by a phenomena that seems to be growing in youth athletics. There is a constant search amongst parents and players to be on the “best team” that wins the most games and tournaments. It is no longer enough for our children to play on a local youth or high school team and enjoy the experience of playing sports. Furthermore, it is no longer even enough for our children to play on a good club travel team that plays well together, is competitive with other great teams from around the country and has top-notch coaching. Rather, there is a “grass is greener” mentality amongst parents and young athletes who are on the constant lookout for the absolute greatest team to be a part of. 

There are a lot of factors driving all of this. It is partly due to the parent’s misconception that the better their child’s team, the better their chances for recruitment and success down the road (by the way, college coaches do not even know the scores of the high school games that they are scouting—they only notice who is 6’4”, 225 and runs like a gazelle in the Serengeti). I believe that this mentality runs deeper than that though and we have simply lost touch of what sports are all about. You know when you watch the people on a reality show like Honey Boo Boo or Swamp People and you say, “man…those people are nuts!”? Well, I hate to tell you, that is all of us in sports right now! We are those crazy people. And for the past few years, this perception of making sure our children win all the time and at all costs has become utterly mind-boggling. Every single game in sports, one team wins and one team loses. That’s just the way it works. It is completely narcissistic for us to think that we ourselves (or our child) should never lose. What fun would sports be if we knew that we were going to win every time anyway?

Every great athlete and coach that I know has had their fair share of ups and downs. Even though my claim to lacrosse fame is that I won two NCAA National Championships, a MLL Championship and a FIL World Championship with Team USA, I also got my butt kicked a whole lot along the way! My youth teams were disgraceful, my high school team had some serious rough patches, I can’t even count how many goals Syracuse scored on me at Princeton over the years and I was on the only USA team that lost in the World Championships since 1978 for goodness sake! Even Michael Jordan (who I apologize for even mentioning in the same paragraph as my athletic career) admitted in a commercial, “I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” The point is, that no matter what an athlete does in their career, they will have some wins and they will have some losses. Trying to control that is not going to change anything. Furthermore, there is actually something about the pursuit of always winning that is detrimental to our children’s development as athletes and as people. 

As I have pondered this mindset that we are witnessing in youth sports for the past few years, I knew something was wrong. I just didn’t know how to explain it, other than sounding like a grumpy old curmudgeon. The fact is though, there is scientific evidence that shows that we should actually want our children to lose! Again, as I have written time and again, I am not saying that athletes should not care about trying to win and just act like it does not matter. And I am certainly not an advocate for the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality. Our young athletes should care deeply about trying to win and be their best. And when they go into competition and want nothing more than to win that game, it will be absolutely fantastic for them when they lose! Before you think I have been hit in the head with too many lacrosse balls (which is completely factual), let me explain further.

In the past month, I have been fortunate enough to study under one of our country’s leading researchers on human resilience at Harvard, Dr. Shelly Carson. As soon as I sat in our first lecture, the lightbulb flashed on! I started to realize that when we want our child to play on the most dominant team, we are completely missing the boat on how sports build resilience for young men and women. This is not just me blabbing about it either. There is decades of research being compiled by people much smarter than me (surprising I know) that explains how we all develop resilience and how this leads to overall happiness, well-being and success. And isn’t that what we really want for our children?

I am starting to understand how sports are actually the perfect set up for resilience training as losses are very stressful and a challenging adversity for young athletes to face. From this perspective, you realize that no one is going to die, get seriously injured, get cancer, lose a family member, get dumped by their girlfriend (and if so, good riddance I say), lose their home, get thrown in jail, fail out of school, or face anything truly tragic from losing a game. And while I might be sounding trite here, the sad fact is that all of us will face one or several of these things at some point in our life. Nobody’s existence on this earth is perfect. We all encounter some serious adversity whether we like it or not. With that being the case, don’t we want our kids to learn how to deal with it in a skillful manner?

In the field of psychology, resiliency has been defined by Luthar (2000) as, “the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change . . . a positive adaptation within the context of significant adversity,” (as cited in Carson lecture, 2014). So, not only do the skills of resiliency allow people to overcome and recover from tragic experiences in their lives, but resilient people also flourish, grow and experience tremendous well-being and success in their lives. And that is exactly what we want for our children. I will take that over any win, any tournament championship and any trophy. The best aspect of athletics, in my mind, is that it teaches us resiliency, the ability to endure, overcome and find greatness in our lives. As coaches and parents, all we have to do is be positive and supportive of our children no matter if they win or lose. We just have to be there for them as they learn to get back up and keep moving on with their heads held high. That is how our youth can learn to deal with life on life’s terms and develop as strong individuals. What a great gift that is to bring our children and I cannot think of a more powerful way to do it than through athletics!

There are a lot of ways in which resiliency can be taught through sports, which I will go into some more detail down the road. For right now, I will pass along that one of the most effective ways in handling a stressor is utilizing "problem-focused coping", which means taking an active approach towards finding a solution. With just this one psychological skill alone, we can shift our perspective in how we approach athletics. As I tell my players and parents on our Denver Elite lacrosse teams, instead of finding a better team to play on, find a way to make your team better. This is how you can truly learn to win something of lasting value through the sports.


As I was reading an article for my Psychology of Creativity class this morning, I noticed something beautiful and unique about sports and competition. In the article, “The Roles of Creativity in Society” by Seana Moran, she writes, “Creativity involves uncertainty because it is difficult to know the consequences of something truly new.” As I read this quote, I realized that athletics (and team sports in particular) are an amazing co-creative process. Follow me for a minute…

This thought process started for me about a month ago, when I wrote a letter to my Denver Elite parents encouraging them to cheer for both teams (this is not an original idea of mine and I have seen it suggested by many thought leaders in athletics). Some of the behavior that I have witnessed on sidelines around the country the past few years has been nothing short of appalling. As adults, I believe that we are the ones responsible for creating a more positive atmosphere around youth sports.

So to get back to my point, we watch games all of the time as spectators and fans, and we usually want one team to win and another to lose. We will do anything for one outcome, namely a “win” for our own team and pray for another outcome, the dreaded “loss”, not to occur. But, what if we realized that the game itself was the awesome co-creation between two teams? What if we focused on the game as the end result in itself, rather than the score of that game?

When we go to watch a movie or a play, we tend to do the same thing. We hope for the hero’s success and the villain can go to hell, for all we care! And thankfully, almost every time our wishes are met and we go home happy. (I was going to reference the new movie “Gravity” here, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Go see it now!) The funny thing about is this, we will say, “Oh that was such a great movie! I loved it.” The interesting question to ask ourselves is did we really love the movie, or did we love the outcome? The importance of this question lies in the fact that Hollywood does not usually portray how life always works. Athletics though, can be a much more realistic example of our everyday existence, with uncertainty being one of its main characteristics.

If we can just enjoy the work of art that two teams create on the field together, then that is really something special. The best part is, it allows us as parents and supporters to create a more positive atmosphere for our youth, cheer for both teams that are working hard to create an excellent game and we can all go home happy. The co-creative process of the youth (as well as teens and adults) who play sports together (not against one another) is something to be cherished and not desecrated.


I know this blog has been infrequent these days, but between running our Tierney Lacrosse programs and going back to school for my masters degree in Psychology, I have not had too much free time on my hands! I am doing a lot of writing for school though, and will share some of those on this blog in the next couple of years. This is a research paper for my class in Psychology of Creativity that I thought some of you may enjoy.

John Wooden’s Generous, Intellectual and Philosophical Creative Traits 

John Wooden is considered by many to be the greatest sports coach of all-time. Between 1963 and 1975, Wooden led his teams to 10 NCAA National Championships, orchestrating one of the most dominant and enduring dynasties to ever be witnessed in the world of athletics. The creative abilities of a successful coach entail bringing teams together, motivating individuals and groups, organizing practice plans, devising plays and schemes, and instituting a team image and culture, among many other duties. In just this sense as a coach and leader of men, Wooden holds his own as a creative luminary. More than that though, it is through his self-defined roles as a gentleman, a scholar and a teacher, in which his creative traits of being generous, intellectual and philosophical (characteristics which have been found in many of the world's most creative people), stand out the most.

If creativity includes enriching the lives of others, then that inherently entails the act of giving. Without physically producing one’s creativity in the world, then there is nothing new for anyone to receive. In fact, one characteristic of Carson’s (2010) definition of creativity is that, “You can take these elements of novel/original and useful/adaptive and apply them to virtually any aspect of your life to increase your productivity and happiness.” (p. 5). One of Wooden’s greatest strengths was his generosity and constant giving of his time, energy and wisdom to others, a trait that is illustrated by his innumerable humanitarian awards. (Johnson, 2004, p. 9). Without his tireless generosity to those in his community and dedication to teaching young men, his creative energies would be nothing more than thoughts and musings, and his achievements nothing more than trophies collecting dust. Wooden noted that one of the most valuable pieces of advice that he learned from his father was to, “Be a doer...He who makes no mistake does nothing and contributes nothing and we are all here to contribute something, one way or another” (Johnson, 2004, p. 14). In the sports world, where many are accused of leading selfish lives driven by egotistical desires, Wooden’s altruistic path was defined by his passion for teaching and working with others.

Another criticism of coaches, is that they can be single-tracked or close-minded. In many instances, their world revolves around their sport, their team, and their win-loss record. Wooden’s disposition could not be further from this stereotype as he was deeply intellectual and a renaissance man in many ways. Johnson (2004) noted that Wooden earned his masters degree in poetry, was inspired by a variety of leaders including Lao-Tse, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Ralph Waldo Emerson (p. 193-199), his heroes were, “the great poets of history,” and he had a deep respect and admiration for Helen Keller (p. 29). Not surprisingly, this trait of open-mindedness and having a “multitude of varied interests across a broad spectrum of topics” has been shown to be an indicator of creativity as it is an important aspect of the “absorb brainset” that Carson (2010) proposes in her model of creativity. (p. 88). Wooden’s desire to be a student and learn continuously was what allowed him to piece together his own teachings for others.

The greatest creative gifts that Wooden gave to the world through his motivational writings and lectures came from his philosophical nature.  The most famous lecture that he gave around the world was entitled, “The Pyramid of Success.” This lecture and essay has been described as, “a philosophy for living, loving, achieving and understanding the human condition” (Johnson, 2004, p. 145). These creative pieces that Wooden produced are available through his books, essays and poetry and have made a significant impact on many people’s lives. Although the role of coaching may not be seen as creative in the artistic sense, Wooden certainly saw it that way, along with every other calling in life. One of his teachings that he relayed to his players and others was to, “make each day your masterpiece,” (Johnson, 2004, p. 118). This was certainly an ideal that he lived by through his generosity, intellectual drives and philosophical nature. These are the traits that made him not just a great coach, but a creative luminary in every sense of the word.

Carson, S. (2010). Your creative brain: Seven steps to maximize imagination, productivity, and innovation in your life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Johnson, N. L. (2004). The John Wooden pyramid of success: The biography, oral history, philosophy and ultimate guide to life, leadership, friendship and love of the greatest coach in the history of sports. Los Angeles, CA: Cool Titles.


Parents want the best for their kids. I totally get that. I don't have kids yet, but I have a French Bulldog with constant flatulence who does the opposite of everything that I say, and I would still go to the ends of the earth for him. If he had opposable thumbs, I would probably have him play wall ball for treats and try to get him recruited too (except at Cornell…anywhere but the Big Red). Anyway, I can only imagine what parents want to do for their kids who love to play the game so much!

However, the recruiting process is one of the first times when parents just have to let go. Every parent out there makes this process more complicated than it really is. The bottom line is that your son has to be a good enough player, athlete, student and person. If he is all those things, than a coach will find him and will ask him to come to his school. Period.

Everyone is very confused by the recruiting process, but it's actually really simple. The reason that we feel it is so complicated is because we as coaches and parents actually try to control it too much. We think if we write great letters to coaches, or use the right recruiting service or put together a great highlight video with cool special effects and great tunes, then that will somehow help. However, it is totally beyond our control.

There are two people in control of whether or not a player gets recruited for college. The first person is the player. That person controls how hard he works at the game, how passionate he is about it and how much he makes it a priority in his life. The challenging part about this side of things is that for this player to get recruited, he may actually have to commit to the game from a very young age, which is a lot to ask of a young man.

The second person in control of this situation is the college coach. The coach knows exactly what types of players and people he is looking for in his program, he knows the positional needs that he has to fill on his team, and he knows what he needs in each graduating class of players. Coaches take great pride in recruiting and they know exactly what they are looking for, so most of them will decide for themselves what players they like and what players they are not interested in.

Now, with all that being said, what do you have to do to get recruited?

1. You have to be the best player that you can possibly be. You have to be the biggest, strongest, fastest, most agile athlete that you can possibly make yourself. You have to be the best student that you can be in the classroom. You have to be the best person that you can be off the field. This first step is no simple task and takes years of hard work. Ever hear about the idea of 10,000 hours to mastery? If not, read up about it and start logging those hours.

Remember, Division I lacrosse takes the top one percent of all lacrosse players, so you have to be an excellent overall athlete and person to have any shot at making it. There are more opportunities than ever at DII, DIII and MCLA schools, but all those places have high standards for who they are looking for, as well. You will have to be the best of the best to get recruited anywhere.

We overemphasize so many other aspects of recruiting and we totally forget about this part. To be great enough to get recruited, it has to be your life and it has to mean everything to you. Don't get me wrong either. If it's not this way for you, and you enjoy other things, then there is nothing wrong with that! I have chosen not to be a college lacrosse coach because I do not want it to be my whole life either. But, it has become so competitive, it is kind of like a swimmer training to make the Olympics from the time he is five years old. It is becoming close to taking that type of commitment if you want to make it to the big time in lacrosse. That is a huge decision to make and I would only advise it for the people who are truly passionate about the game.

2. You have to go where the coaches are. Now, this is the tricky part. But, if you align yourself with a good organized club team that goes to reputable tournaments and you go to some good individual recruiting tournaments, then that should give you a chance to be seen by coaches. If you are a great player, the coaches will find you.

Do not worry about writing coaches emails before the tournaments. These coaches now are getting hundreds of emails per day and do not have time to even read all of them. Also, do not get concerned about if your club team wins or loses a game or tournament. The coaches barely know who is winning the game. They are just looking for players who they like for their program.

This step is a huge point of contention for the parents as they want to know where to spend their money. Find a club team that is run by people who you trust and who takes their teams to great tournaments. Try to get your son recommended to an individual tournament or two where coaches that are appropriate for his level of play will be.

And know one thing in all of this (and this is coming from someone who runs a club program in Denver Elite), this is a terrible investment if you think this will pay off with a scholarship. If you are paying for your son to have a great experience in high school, get better at the game and have a fun time, then you are spending your money wisely. If you think you are going to see this money again through a scholarship, you are better off going down to 7 Eleven and buying $5,000 in lottery tickets. Good luck!

3. The third step is seeing who has serious interest in you as a player. This part of the recruitment process is kind of like dating. You can go after a girl who is lukewarm towards you and give yourself a ton of headaches and uncertainty. Or you can choose the girl who clearly shows that she likes you and cares about you. It's your decision. (It took me until I was in my late twenties to figure this out with women, so consider this article killing two birds with one stone.) The same is true with coaches.

You will know when a coach wants you to be a part of his program. Many coaches are sending out letters inviting you to come to their camp. That does not mean they are recruiting you! Many coaches will ask you to fill out a questionnaire. That does not mean they are recruiting you! Many coaches will talk to you if you reach out to them. That does not mean they are recruiting you! You know what recruiting sounds like? The coach will say, "We want to recruit you. We want you to be a part of our team. We want to offer you a spot and maybe even a little scholarship money." That is when you know you are getting recruited.

Also, know that there is very little that anyone can do to convince a coach that a player is right for their program. So, if a club team coach tells you that he can get your son recruited, he is full of hot air. For example, we had one player on our Denver Elite team a couple years ago who will be a very good DIII player. Coach Bill Tierney called a few of his friends who were DIII coaches back east and told them how good he was, and they still did not take him! If coaches will not listen to Coach T, are they really going to listen to your club coach?

Club and high school coaches can be great support people and can be liaisons between the college coaches and the players, but don't expect them to be huge deal makers. NFL teams do not draft players because they have a good sports agent and the same is true for college lacrosse.

4. Respond back to the coaches who reach out to you. If a coach sends you anything like a camp invite or a questionnaire, then use that as an opportunity to reach back out. Send him back an email with a link to your highlight film. Video is an important tool for this part of the process and it makes sense to get some highlights from the summer after your freshman, sophomore and junior years. Think of film as like a calling card - it will not get you recruited but it will help remind coaches of who you are. Ask the coach if he has notes on you from the summer and what his interest level is in you as a player. Refer back to step #3 from here. If they are interested, they will make it quite obvious.

The important part of this step is to be responsive when coaches contact you and do not rule any options out early on. Also, it is important to understand the NCAA rules from this perspective on when coaches may contact you and how they may do so. Make yourself familiar with those rules to keep the confusion to a minimum.

5. Congratulations if you have made it this far! If you are at this step, that means that you have been lucky to get recruited to play college lacrosse. It's now time for you to choose a program and school that fits you well. It's important to make a decision that takes all factors into account and to choose a college that really fits you well as an athlete, a student and as a person. Many athletes who get recruited go to a school just because a coach puts on the full-court press and seems really nice. That same coach who tells you how great you are as a recruit is going to be telling you how terrible you are as a freshman. So, try to keep your wits about you as you get smothered in compliments and choose a school that is a right fit for you in all areas. Even if you have not been recruited, you still get to make these same decisions in finding a place that is a great fit for you and hopefully where you can play some lacrosse too.

Okay, so there it is! So simple and so challenging at the same time. It takes hard work and dedication to make all of this happen and it has to start from a young age or it becomes too late. But, this is how it works. All the other ideas that parents and coaches get in their heads that they think will make a difference really mean nothing.

This is an awesome and huge life lesson opportunity for these young men. We give them an opportunity to play a sport. If they love it and want to play at high levels, then we teach them that they must work really hard to get there. We help them find opportunities to be seen by coaches. And then…we let go. In doing so, we show our sons, our players, our young men, that they are the creators of their own lives and it is up to them to make their own luck. The best way to support them in all of this is not to try and control the situation, or the coaches, or the club teams, or the tournaments, but to let them know that we will love them whether or not they succeed or fail. At the end of the day, all of our games or careers end and we are go back to living as a human being. And you don't need to get recruited as a lacrosse player to be a great person and live an awesome life.


In the past week, a news story caught fire in the media about the Rutgers basketball head coach, Mike Rice, who was caught being verbally and physically abusive towards his players out on the court during both practices and games (you can read more and see video on this Bleacher Report link). His behavior and actions are completely unacceptable and he should have been fired long ago, when his assistant coach made the administration aware of the problem.

With that being said though, I am always deeply suspicious when these big stories come out in the media, when everyone is completely outraged and one person is demonized. Usually when a story attracts such huge attention, it is because it connects with people on a certain level. Also, there is the notion of witnessing the “shadow” within the collective unconscious, which means that we see the dark side that is a part of all of us.

The reason that Rice is being vilified, and rightfully so, is that he crossed the line of acceptable behavior in the sports world when he started to become physically abusive of his players by pushing them, punching them, kicking them and throwing basketballs at them. His verbal abuse was extreme as well, using homophobic language and attacking players personally. His termination is justified and his $100,000 bonus that he received on the way out is laughable.

However, many coaches behave like Rice in that they view the sports world as an acceptable place to vent their anger. It is deemed acceptable for coaches to yell at their players and referees. Some eyebrows might get raised and people might comment on it, but no one gets fired and the world keeps turning. Furthermore, many people in all walks of life behave like this, as they yell at their kids, partners, co-workers or flip off strangers as they drive on the freeway! I will fully admit that I am not immune to this behavior either, although I continue to work on it and grow past reacting in that way.

So, in getting back to my main point, how are we all the same as Rice, who we hold in such contempt? We are like him in that we are all violent towards other people when we react and blame others for our own anger. Anytime we feel angry and we project that outwards into the world, then we are being violent towards others. Whether we start a war, we kill, we punch, we yell at, or we insult, we are being violent towards another human being. Other than self-defense (which is another topic unto itself), there are absolutely no acceptable reasons, excuses, or venues for this type of behavior. None.

Here are some steps that we can take to grow and evolve past this way of reacting, and move towards a more powerful way of responding :

1. Mentally prepare. What are some ways in which we act angry in our lives? Do we get road rage? Do we yell at co-workers or our players or teammates? We can ask some people close to us what some of our behaviors are when we get angry, so we can catch ourselves in the act the next time around.

2. Breathe. To be able to be present enough in our body to witness our emotions, we have to come back to our breath. This is why meditation is such a powerful vehicle for personal growth. When we start to mentally notice that we are behaving in some of our angry ways, then we can try not to do anything other than stop and breathe.

3. Feel. After we are able to be present in our bodies, then we can actually feel what is going on in them. We can simply feel what it is like to be angry. Is there some burning in our chest or belly? Is their tightness in our body? When I feel angry, I feel a very tight constriction through my throat and chest and my whole body tenses up and gets hot. It is definitely not a pleasant experience, but one that I have learned to be accepting of. It is important for us to try and feel our anger as we breathe for as long as we can.

4. Accept that we are angry. We all have every right to get angry. The anger itself is not the problem. The problem is when we project that anger outwards into violence. Anger itself though is a completely natural and valid emotion within our human experience. Being with our anger unconditionally and not trying to “feel better” is the key to growth here.

5. Notice the trigger. The problem is when we take that anger out on the other person or issue that caused our anger, we are not solving anything. We are just reacting to the outside world and creating more drama. The person or situation that causes our anger is simply a trigger to the anger that already exists within us. Usually, the people who are closest to us or the situations that we care about the most, are the strongest triggers for us. When we say something mean, or yell at, or hurt someone mentally, emotionally or physically in any way, then we are being violent towards other people, and many times it is someone we actually love!

6. Rinse and repeat. Anger does not go away quickly. We need to practice this over and over and over again throughout our lives. I have been aware of this type of work for a few years now, and I continue to make mistakes with this process. I just come back to it time and again, knowing each time that I do, I am growing as a person and I am making the world a little less violent.

I have a lot of compassion for a guy like Rice (although I have more for his players). Underneath all of his anger, I am pretty sure that there is a lot of sadness. Most likely, someone was abusive towards him in the ways in which he is now abusing, which is very sad. That does not excuse him though, as we all must take personal responsibility for our anger and learn to respond to it in a mature manner. We are all capable of ending the cycle of violence, no matter how imbedded it is into our psyches.

When a story like Rice's comes out into the public, it’s really easy for us to be politically correct and self-righteous and say, “Look at that monster. I can’t believe what a terrible person he is!". Many people could also point at me and say, “Well Trevor, I’ve seen you get angry before out on the field and this is how you act!”. Or they might point a finger at my overly emotional father, a lacrosse coach who yells at referees all the time. There are countless individuals in the public eye or in athletics that could be called out. And you know what? They are completely right! I am certainly not perfect and I know that most of the people around me admit to the fact as well.

My point is though, how can we all commit each day to responding to our own anger? Can we all look in the mirror and see how most of us behave in the same way in one way or another? Maybe it is in a less extreme or more socially acceptable manner, and maybe it is behind closed doors, but almost all of us direct our anger out into the world, towards family, friends, acquaintances and strangers. That is violence, which is unacceptable in any form.

As we go through this practice of processing our anger, we will notice the difference between intensity and assertiveness, as compared to anger. On the sports field, we can shout and yell (to our heart’s content) out instructions or teachings to our players with a positive energy. We can assert ourselves and maintain healthy boundaries if someone wrongs us in some way. We do not become weak and “soft”, but become people who are strong, powerful, composed and confident. All of these experiences will come with time as we practice simply being with our anger in an unconditional way.

We all talk about wanting the world to be a more peaceful place. We all want to love others and be happy. A great way for us to start working towards these goals is just to learn to be with our anger without directing it into the world.


In the past few months or so, Under Armour launched their new company slogan “I Will”. This story, which has had a few twists and turns in the news, caught my attention from the very beginning as I saw the power behind those two words, “I Will”. It is such a strong slogan and so loaded, that it made me wonder who UA has working in their marketing department; maybe some highly acclaimed developmental psychologist, or quantum physicist, or maybe even the Dalai Lama? It seems to me that UA sees the evolution and direction in which sports can move for the development of individual human beings and athletes, and not just the inflation of high-profile sport stars. With the popularity and reach of UA, this one slogan could have a deep impact on athletes everywhere, if it is seen in the correct light.

So, you will have to bear with me a second as I share some history in developmental psychology. First, there is an ever evolving area in psychology with the fancy label, “Post-Autonomous Developmental Psychology”. Basically, this area of study looks at how people develop after the basic childhood stages that everyone learns about in PSY 101. Many of us believe that once we reach adulthood, then that is it and we are done growing! But, these psychologists, theories and studies in Transpersonal Psychology show that reaching adulthood is really only the beginning and that we can continue to grow and evolve towards higher levels of development throughout our entire lives.

In fact, this pursuit for each of us to grow individually should really be at the top of our  priority list in life as the future of our earth and our children depend upon it. Much of our society is stuck in the same level of development as most teenagers. This is what people are seeing when they ask, “Why is our Congress behaving like a bunch of children?”. Well, that is what many of those people are on psychological, emotional and spiritual levels. They ARE children in many ways! Changing them is not the answer, though. Changing ourselves and committing to growth and development is how we can make the world a better place.

So, what does this have to do with sports and Under Armour and “I Will”? There is no one short answer for that question. This is really my passion and becoming my life’s work as I want to examine how sports is a practice and a path towards higher levels of development for human beings.

For this discussion, let’s look at the words “I” and “Will” through the eyes of one of our forefathers in Transpersonal Psychology. Roberto Assagioli was one of the first human psychologists to ever propose higher levels of development in adults back in 1910. Assagioli proposed a two stage model for adulthood in which adults could develop to higher levels. First though, he had to define what was being developed within people. As a starting point in explaining his theory, Assagioli defined “I” as being “consciousness and will”. (So, actually UA could have saved some ink on their logo and just made it “I” but it’s not quite as catchy.) Assagioli has a multi-tiered explanation of consciousness on various levels, but on its most simple terms, he is interested in the “witness” behind the I.

So, when you lift your arm in the air, who is the "I” that is lifting your arm? When you hear something, who is the “I” that is listening? When you kick a ball, or swing a bat, or score a goal, who is the “I” that did that? Where is that “I”? Assagioli would say that the I is the witness of all that. So, when you breathe right now as you read this sentence, “I” is the awareness of doing those things as you do them. Assagioli was deep man!

So, the first part of “I Will” is the idea of consciousness, awareness and witness. Furthermore, Assagioli was also very interested in “Will”. Actually, he was so interested in it, he wrote a whole book about it, entitled “The Act of Will”. As described in an article by Stuart Miller, Assagioli’s concept of will is defined as, “The will serves, quite simply, as the directing energy for all other psychological functions.” These functions include, “intuition, thinking, emotion, sensation, desire / impulse, and imagination”.

Now, how does this relate with sports? Well, as Assagioli believes, “In most cases, the discovery of the will is not so dramatic, but we do discover it in action. When we are making a physical or mental effort, when we are working against some obstacle, we can feel a power, a special energy in us, and we experience the sense of will or willing. In these cases, however, it is often mixed with a welter of impulses, desires, hopes.” If that does not make you excited about using sports as a way to self-discovery and growth, I do not know what will! Athletics are the perfect path through physical, mental and emotional challenges that can allow us to discover our own will. In the process, we can also discover our true self more fully and grow and evolve through that discovery.

So, when Under Armour says “I Will”, the meaning that I see is that we can participate in sports in this amazingly deep and powerful way. Instead of just trying to win games, or championships or trophies to be dedicated towards for (although those are important goals for us to have in order to challenge ourselves fully enough), we are growing into higher levels of development as human beings, and therefore being a gift to the world that needs us the most. When we say, “I Will” as athletes, the slogan can mean something like this, “I will participate in my chosen sport from a place of power and energy within myself that comes from a deep connection to God or source or the universe (or whatever you want to call it) through complete presence, full participation and commitment.”

I’m not sure that is what UA wants it to mean (I actually believe that they made this slogan in a way that each individual can tailor it to themselves, which is brilliant), but the power behind the meaning is immense. It transforms sports from something you “just do” into something that grows and evolves you into your highest self and way of being. To me, that is what life is all about and athletics are just a practice, or a discipline in strengthening ourselves in that way. There is truly nothing more exciting to me than this vision for athletics and for our youth! If we can evolve sports more towards this focus and pursuit, then the power and excellence that athletes would walk out into the world with, would be revolutionary.


Welcome to my new blog and professional services website at www.trevortierney.co. I have been writing a blog for a couple years now in the lacrosse world and I felt like it was time for my topics to become a little bit broader. (My old TIER Lacrosse site will be coming down soon as it has caused a bit of confusion in the work that I do. I still continue to be heavily involved in the game through our Tierney Lacrosse LLC which runs camps, clinics, teams and tournaments, as well as coaching at the University of Denver.)  I am also currently working on obtaining my masters' degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology at Naropa University, after already having my bachelors' degree in Psychology at Princeton University. My goal in the next few years is to become a performance coach and counselor who works with athletes, young and old, to help them reach their true excellence both on and off the field. This new blog site focuses on that objective for all athletes, coaches and parents.

Athletics and sports are some of the most powerful physical, mental, emotional and spiritual practices that people can engage themselves in our modern society. For the most part though, we relegate our participation in sports as simply a means to an end and tie our entire identity into what we do as an athlete. We are programmed through our culture to play to win championships, trophies, awards, contracts, fame and the list goes on and on. There is nothing wrong with striving towards achieving these goals. However, the journey is more important than the destination.

As athletes, whether it is after practice, a game, or our careers, our sport ends and we have to participate in life. We have to be sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, colleagues, schoolmates and friends. We have to show up for those parts of our life, just as much as we show up on the field. These two motivations are interdependent, if not one in the same. The person who we are off the field shows up in our games. The athlete we are on the field shows up in our life.

My passion and pursuit is to explore this relationship within ourselves as human beings and as athletes. In doing so, I hope to discover how athletes can reach their highest level of being and performance on the field and in their every day life. As this exploration allows for me to grow, I hope to support others in the process.

Using sports as a practice in development can be an essential part of a young person's life. With that vast amount of information and technology that exists today, our younger generations are bombarded with confusing messages. Supporting them in making sense of it all, with a direct physical participation in their given athletic pursuit, can allow them to find great happiness and success in their lives. The same goes for older athletes who have never been given the same guidance, so they can find deeper meaning through their on-field victories and accomplishments and live a more fulfilling life.

This blog is dedicated towards that pursuit of excellence that resides in each one of us. We have this beautiful gift of life and it is our responsibility to make the most out of each and every second of it. My work is to first do this myself, and then in the process, support other athletes who are interested to do the same.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog! You can subscribe to this blog and have them sent to your email through FeedBurner. I look forward to interacting with you with any feedback, questions, comments or concerns that you might have through Twitter, Facebook or email.


"When you learn how to die, you learn how to live."
- Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

Two weekends ago, our University of Denver men’s lacrosse team lost to Penn State in our second game of the season. We played miserably on defense and gave up way too many easy goals. As a volunteer assistant who helps out with the goalies and the defensemen, it was a bit embarrassing. I felt like I had done a terrible job preparing them for the Nittany Lions and that I had let them down in a way.

After the game, I felt miserable. I have written about this before, but losing is just not a fun experience. In fact, losing is painful. I have played or coached in athletics now for almost three decades and the losses never get any easier! I always experience a fair amount of grief after each loss and after my experience this past weekend, I really tried to sit with that feeling and see what it was all about.

A good friend of mine, Rob McNamara, has written a soon to be released book entitled, “The Elegant Self”. In it, he discusses the idea of the annihilation of certain aspects of our selves and our egos. He writes, “The sincere experience of annihilation can surface in a an intense confrontation with survival even when safety is of no actual concern.” I read this line in his book as we were traveling home to Denver after our loss and immediately texted Rob, “Losing in sports is annihilation!”. I realized that athletics are a perfect practice for us to experience this confrontation in life, make some sense of it and grow through it.

Our athletic experiences can have some very clear parallels to a certain type of death. When we fully commit to a sport, we are trying to “survive” by winning. If we lose, we may not get to play another day in the playoffs. It is also interesting to notice our term for overtime rules in many sports, which we call “sudden death”. The idea of losing literally meaning death may stem back to when the Mayans played a ball game that was steeped in ritual and spiritual meaning. After their games, which attracted huge numbers of people, the winners were awarded a feast and celebration, while the leader of the losing team was actually sacrificed and killed!

Fortunately for us today (I would have been killed several times over by now if I had been a Mayan goalie), there are ways in which athletics provides a more symbolic and subtle level of a death experience. After a loss, we are humbled. Whatever ways in which we see ourselves as superior to others, or any part of our ego that puts itself above others, are quickly brought down to reality after a loss. We can poignantly experience this wake-up call and see that we are just as fallible as anyone else in this world and we are not perfect in many ways. These are beneficial deaths for us to experience as they maintain our humility.

Another way in which we can experience death after a loss is that it allows us to let go of old ways of being. Our world is constantly evolving and changing. We must continue to grow with the universe or get left behind. So, many times a loss allows us to look at ways of being - both playing and coaching - that we may have to let go of. Perhaps our way of doing things is not working anymore and we need to come up with new ideas or approaches in order for us to succeed another day.

In the past, I have also written, “Winning Does Not Matter” and I still believe that. In that blog, I wrote about how it is important for us to strive to be our best and not attach our identity to wins, trophies or championships. So, that may sound counter-intuitive to what I am writing about here and it is in some ways. The other night, I was discussing this idea of losing as annihilation with Rob and his fiancé Brooke, who noted, “Winning and losing mean everything and nothing,” and she was completely right!

We are fighting to survive when we decide to pour ourselves passionately into competition. When we win, our highest aspects of ourselves have succeeded and proved themselves to be great on that given day. When we lose, our less integrated ways of being have failed us in a way and those parts of ourselves are destroyed by our opponents. We are disappointed in not having displayed our talents from our most optimal way of performance. We must die to those ways of being and playing that have not allowed us to compete at the highest level, so we can have success later.

So, what is the practice? For everyone, it will vary greatly, but I believe there are certain steps that people can take to let parts of themselves die after a loss and become greater in the process :

1. Feel. What do we feel after a loss? By experiencing our feelings after a loss, it may allow us to grow and see blind spots within ourselves that are holding us back from greatness. For example, these feelings that we experience after a loss may be what we fear the most before going into a game. If we fear feeling sad, then we may fear loss like death! The more we can feel that sadness after a loss, the less we will fear it the next time around.

2. Do not run away!
This is one of the many reasons why it is important for athletes to practice staying sober after a loss instead of running out to a party to get wasted. The more present that we can be with ourselves after competition, the more we can learn through the experience.

3. Be suspicious of grandeur.
After we lose, it is the perfect time for us to reevaluate and grow from our mistakes. One way we can do this is to look at the ideas that we hold about why we are great at something. For instance, maybe a player thinks he is a great scorer, but could have helped his team by passing the ball more in that game. It is always in important for us to be self-aware so that we can continue to grow and get better.

4. Stay balanced. It is important for us to recognize that while we might be sad or disappointed about a loss, we can still be grateful for many things in life. Especially in a team setting, we are surrounded by our teammates, coaches, families and friends, who still love us, win or lose! Certain aspects of ourselves might be dying, but we can recognize those things in our life that are still very much alive!

We can use this same practice in all aspects of our life. We can constantly strive to be our best and offer ourselves to the world in optimal ways of being each and every day. Many times, we will succeed and many times we will fail, no matter what we do! We must risk everything and nothing at the same time.


How dare you Trevor! What are you some sort of flip-flopping politician?! Or have you just gone crazy? That's the imagined response that I believe that I will receive to this next blog, which I am creating a week after I wrote, "An Open Letter to Lax Bros : Respect the Game". Usually, I am a bit more critical of myself than others are though, so I might be overdramatizing it a bit.

It's seems in our culture that we are very prone to taking one extreme side or the other.
For example, on the issue of gun-control rights, one person might make the logical argument that there should be more background checks for gun owners. However, in our society, there is this huge backlash from that statement that says, "You can't take my guns! This is my second amendment right to bear arms!". From the other side, someone might make the logical argument that there our country needs to do a better job in the mental health department and be more attentive to the needs of people with psychological disorders. The huge backlash comes back at them saying, "Well crazy people wouldn't kill so many people unless they didn't have guns! So, we should just do without guns altogether!". The bickering goes on and on, people entrench themselves in their stances and nothing gets resolved.

By the way, PLEASE note that I am not taking one side on this gun issue one way or the other. That's the last thing I need right now. All I am saying is that we really seem to struggle having a sensible conversation in the middle ground. That sense of extremes seems to be reflected in our society in many ways. There are either staunch Republicans or liberal Democrats. There are drunks or teetotalers. There are jocks or nerds. Good people and bad people. Religious fundamentalists or hell-bound atheists.

The nature of life though, is that there is a middle ground in everything that we do, say, believe or feel.
Our limited amount of perception only allows us to witness so much that is going on in the world around us. For example, there is a wide spectrum of light, but our eyes and brains only allow us to take in a certain range of colors. There is an enormous range of sound waves that our ears are not able to pick up on at all. So, we might believe we have the right answer, but that is only a thought in our head. We might judge something to be good or bad, but that is simply our own subjective experience. Unfortunately, the consciousness of our own experience is not that simply explained.

So, last week when I wrote "An Open Letter to Lax Bros : Respect the Game", I received a number of responses. Some people wrote to me or commented along the lines of, "Trevor, thank you so much for writing that. I'm so tired of this lax bro culture in our sport. We need to end that whole thing!". I was appreciative of those responses as they seemed to be understanding my main point and wanting to change the negative attitude in the game. The only problem with that mentality is that it blames the lax bro, instead of noticing that there is a strong, but not all-inclusive, correlation between the image and attitude. Another response was basically, "Trevor, what are you, some sort of old fogey? This is just kids having fun and expressing their individuality and being themselves. Who made you God of how people should live in the lacrosse world?". I was appreciative of those responses as well as it allowed me to see some of the points that I may have missed and forgot to examine in that topic. However, those responses overlooked the fact that I can only write about so much in one blog and that I had actually touched on those topics in previous writings. But, you know what? Both sides are completely right! And they are also wrong. Just like me!

How can that possibly be? Well, there is always a middle ground. Never once in that article did I say that there was anything wrong, per se, with wearing certain clothes, or having a hair style, or talking a certain way, or being interested in certain things, or behaving in certain ways. Like I wrote in the first paragraph, that would be like the pot calling the kettle black as I certainly went through various trends in the game and ways of being as I grew and matured throughout the years. A third response that I received from guys who most people would consider well-known lax bros, was, "Thank you for showing that there is a difference between the outside appearance of what people think of as a lax bro and the mentality that has been used to define those people." Those lax bros who had actually lived the balance of both sides, were able to most clearly see the message that I was trying to get across.

My main point was that it is important to respect the game (as the title implies) and to care and play the game to the best of your ability. This does not mean that all players who look like lax bros do not care. The lax bro culture simply gets represented by that attitude many times. For example, many people look at Connor Martin as the king of all lax bros! He has long hair, he is from the west coast, he helped inspire and lead a company that sells crazy neon-colored apparel and he is the singer and songwriter for a band that is becoming very popular. His nickname is Con-Bro Chill! But, you know what? The real-life Connor Martin that I have met and gotten to know a bit, cares about lacrosse as much as anyone I have ever seen! He gives back to the game in various ways, he trains hard in the off-season to play in the MLL and he loves the game and plays it passionately.

So, when I wrote an open letter to lax bros, it wasn't to all lax bros. It was simply to the lax bros that were misunderstanding what this game could be about for them. And it's not because I think that I'm right on how someone should play the game. It's more from my experience and from the teachings of others, that when you pour your heart into something, you are going to get more out of it.

But, what if we were to turn this topic completely around and see what we could learn from lax bros?
Here are some of the lessons that we could learn from them :

1. Have fun with the game! Sports are fun to play, no doubt. That is why we start playing them when we are young, in the first place. When we lose our joy in playing, then our performance can suffer and the game can lose all meaning. So, if  a lax bro reminds us that we should be playing for fun, then they are right. But, be careful…having fun does not mean playing without passion or intensity or working hard in the game. And having passion and dedicating yourself to the game, does not mean making it an all-encompassing aspect of your life in which you have no other interests. There is a fine-line and balance in all of this.

2. Be an individual! Lax bros certainly seem to scream individuality at times. Different colored apparel, sticks, equipment. An attitude that tells the world, "I am my own man". There is the sense that you can be an individual within a team setting. We all have our own talents and personalities and it is important to bring those various traits to our team and still be in cooperation with the other coaches and players. At the same time, it is important to ask ourselves, "Am I trying to be myself? Or am I just trying to be like all the other lax bros?". Learning to bring our best foot forward as an individual to a team setting can be an invaluable lesson for us down the road.

3. Rage against the machine! There is a certain feeling of being counter-culture in the image of a lax bro that has always been an important aspect of every generation. Every decade witnesses a new uprising, especially among the more youthful people of the time, that allows us to grow and evolve as a people. Lax bros can bring innovation and creativity to the game that could get stagnant and boring. Imagine if we were still playing lacrosse like it was back in the 80s or 90s? (Not to say that was bad lacrosse by any means! I love watching old games.) But, it's important for everything to evolve and grow and remain fresh. It keeps things interesting and pushes us to greater heights.

So, with all that being said, I have a certain respect for the lax bro culture as well as having some reservations about it. One of my favorite lessons that I learned from a good friend and teacher of mine was, "Be suspicious about everything!". That includes are own thoughts, judgements and beliefs. When I started receiving all this praise and argument over my open letter to lax bros, I started to become suspicious of my own stances. I needed to clarify that for myself and now I am sharing that with any one who reads this silly blog as well.

The last thing I want to say about all this is that I write this blog for fun. Nerd alert! I would be writing these things whether or not anyone at all ever looked at them. I just enjoy writing and philosophizing on the things that matter to me the most. Please do not ever take these blogs as some sort of authoritarian voice on any matter. If anything, read what I have to say if you enjoy it and then formulate your own opinion. And then, question that opinion too.

The only thing we can sure about in this world, is that there is a lot that we don't know. There is a great amount of beauty in the middle ground, in the space of not-knowing, where we can learn and evolve the most from. As much as we might love or despise some things, it is exciting to realize that there is wisdom in everything.