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Laxicon002: Interview with Mike Murphy, Head Men’s Lacrosse Coach at Colgate University | Leadership

Nov. 7, 2015

Mike Murphy of Colgate show notes

“Lead from the point of friction” In essence what he is telling us is that leaders are needed at many different points on the team. Sometimes it is important to lead from the front (commonly known as “lead by example”), but often times the best place to be is where the team is struggling the most.
Mike is the son of a marine corps colonel.
Mike spent the first two years at Colgate assessing his players character-wise and then started to put together a more formal service to the community program. One of the things that he instituted, along with Steve Heller a 1993 USMA grad and Adam Silva, Chief Development Officer of the Wounded Warrior Project, is they started an event called “Faceoff for the Cause” which is a fall lacrosse tournament to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. It is a 6-team, 2 game per, lacrosse event that the boys raise money for with the intent of building a legacy of philanthropy into the lexicon of the boys so that hopefully they carry that forward and continue to do it throughout their lives. They also do events to raise money for pediatric cancer research.
A more hands on community service event that they do is an “adopt a classroom” program and they go once a week to the two classrooms they have adopted, a first grade class and a second grade class, and spend time with those kids doing whatever their teachers think will help motivate the children to learn and grow. The players love it because they are like “rock stars” in that environment, and the kids really respond to the attention they give them.
In terms of a formal leadership development program, Coach Murphy doesn’t have a formal program but the concepts of leadership are imbued in everything they do. He doesn’t name captains until the end of the fall in order to give every upperclassman a chance to prove himself by stepping up to lead an event that needs led during the fall thus giving them an opportunity to lead “through osmosis”, by giving them a mission to accomplish and letting them work their way through the event.
They do have a thing called the “Leadership Academy” which is a program they participate in that is part of the Janssen Sports Leadership Center and run by Greg Shelley PH.D. a professor at Ithaca College that helps his players with understanding leadership concepts and how to make better decisions around how they will lead their teams.
Coach Murphy takes the mentorship of his players very seriously. He gives them room to grow and understands that they will make poor decisions at times, but he is always there for them.
At the end of every fall, he sits down with every player and that players position coach, and they discuss that players strengths, their individual goals, and the teams goals. The meeting takes 30-45 minutes. Goals that are set are challenging but realistic. “Everyone wants to win the National Championship, I want to win the National Championship, but at the end of the day only one team can win the National Championship”. They talk about the goals frequently, almost daily, the remind them on their goals. “A goal not written down is just a dream”, Coach Murphy believes goals should be written down.
Coach Murphy believes that athletics is a great training ground for young men and what they will run into in their professional lives. He says “there is a reason that the service academies stress athletics”
You need to be involved in your players’ lives, you need to talk to them about things outside of lacrosse and create a trust between you.
Coach Murphy believes that standards are developed and reinforced in practice. Using 1 handed ground ball pickups may be appropriate at certain times and not others, same thing with wrap checks and behind the back shots/passes. Coach calls it “situational awareness”, players need to understand the situations where these things are appropriate and whe...

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