For The Love of the Game

When I was in high school, I was a member of the varsity lacrosse team.  Lacrosse was a relatively new sport in New York City, so there were only a handful of teams. This meant having to play teams from all across Long Island as well as the 5 Boroughs of New York City.

I am circled in red

I am circled in red

My coach was Pat Bernardo, a physical education teacher, Doctor of sports psychology, and former lacrosse player.  He was the kind of guy that loved to give the pre-game pep-talk and watch expressions change from flat to fire. On the other hand, not as enjoyable, he also gave the postmortem address to the team.  Bernardo was never shy to tell us how he felt, or more to the point, how we played.


Off the field he was a gentleman, a teacher, and a confidant.  When I was done with class for the day, I would check in with Coach Bernardo.  This was just a way for us to visit with each other for a few brief moments. I was able to get a sense of how he was feeling about practices, and where I stood in his universe.  For him, it was a way to see how I was doing with my studies, how my life was going, and an opportunity to impart valuable knowledge.

He dropped some knowledge that was relatively meaningless to me at the time because I couldn’t relate.  He said, “Lacrosse is like life.  The first letter of each word is L. Remember that.”  I had no idea what he meant at the time.

25 years later, I have come to realize that there are SO many similarities between lacrosse and life (and business for that matter).

Coach used to yell across the field at us, “Ya gotta have heart!”  Heart and drive lead to success.

Have faith in yourself.  You have the skills. You know how to get where you want to go. Believe in your ability to accomplish your goals.  Besides, if you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?

You can’t do everything on your own. It’s OK to rely on other people who can offer specialized skills.  You get further with teamwork than on your own, so Pass the Ball!

Be Strategic.  Lacrosse is more than a game of physicality. Studying your opponent and figuring out the best way to score is how you win.  Life is the same way. You won’t always be able to muscle your way through. It is often better to approach things with a solid game plan.

Be patient. Opportunities will come if you keep working hard.

Don’t be afraid to make adjustments. The game, like life, is fluid. Try changing gears and approach things a little differently, depending on the situation. Perhaps those opportunities will be more visible than they were before. 

Show your sportsmanship.  Lacrosse, they say, is a “savage sport played by gentlemen.”  I have always believed that. No matter how rough things get, and they will get rough, remain in control and keep a level head.  Life is going to throw some curve balls. You will, undoubtedly, hit points of emotional stress. Head back to the bench for a breather and recompose yourself.  With a clear head, resume the game according to your strategy.

When you get knocked down, get back up!  Life and/or business will hit you pretty hard. Don’t ever give up.  This is where you need to dig deep, find your heart and drive, and keep your legs moving.

If you lose a game, it is not the end of the world.  Maybe that deal you’ve been working on didn’t pan out as you had hoped.  When the game is over, and the final horn has blown, you need to move on.  There is nothing you can do about the loss, except to look forward to the next match.  Look at the next deal, the next transaction, the next client!

Do it for the love of the game.  For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of playing lacrosse, once you get the hang of the stick-work, it can become pretty addictive. However, like anything you choose to excel at, you commit yourself to the point of obsession in the hopes of improving.  You dedicate yourself because you love it. Life can be a lot like that too. Closing that big deal is a thrill. Making your small business reach new heights is exciting.  Like anything in life, it can be challenging, which is what makes winning so rewarding.  Whatever happens, don’t stop loving the game. Your passion will fuel the amount of heart and drive you put forth.  If you love it, keep those legs moving!  It will all pay off, in time!