Team Building – When the Game Stands Tall



One of my favorite books (and movies) is When the Game Stands Tall by Neil Hayes. This is the story of Coach Bob Ladouceur and the De La Salle high school football program in California in the late ’90s and ’00s when they held the longest winning streak for a high school team at over 150 wins over 7 years. The book is about the coach and how the team did it. As I read, it I took notes on quotes or facts about what the author and coach felt made them successful. De La Salle is a Jesuit school and Coach Ladouceur was not only the head football coach, he was the Bible teacher. His perspectives on team building and young people I found interesting because their success was based more on building relationships within the team than it was on the type of offense or defense they ran. Below are some of the more interesting bits I ran across. There is so much good stuff here. I hope you enjoy.

“It’s a story about a school where coaches build extraordinary relationships with its students.”

“The purpose is to help promote perseverance in the pursuits of personal and team goals and to develop in its participants a recognition of personal achievement.”

“Pushing kids to accomplish what they don’t consider achievable is a long and painful process.”

“Coach Ladouceur has found a way to turn selfish teens into selfless teammates by making them step back and examine their relationships.” (Note: It is estimated that this football team spent more than 1,000 hours together as a team over the course of a year. That’s almost 12% of a calendar year.)

“Every team needs leaders to cut the path and followers who make it wider. Every great team has to have followers, kids who will say, “I believe in this other kid, I’m going to do what they say, I’m going to follow their lead, I’m going to be right beside this person, whatever he/she wants I’m going to give to him/her.”

“The key is to lead kids to do what they don’t do normally or have ever done AND to be willing to do it not primarily for the trophy but for their friends.”

“Team meetings (nonpractice time) was integral to building bonds between players and coaches.”

“We expected to win because of the hours of dedication, the closeness of the bonds, and the attention to detail to be excellent.”

“Being honest with kids about where they are regarding commitment, work ethics, attitude, skill development is necessary. But the key is not to knock their character. It’s ok to tell them the truth. It is not ok to tell them they are bad people.”

“Are you willing to be uncomfortable to be great?”

“It’s not about playing a position. It’s about playing for your friends.”

The following is a poem written by one of the players during the streak.

Sweat, tears, and fatigue,
Laughs and tears,
Pain and relief,
Struggles and progress,
Commitment and dedication,
Excellence and perfecting,
Persistence and repetition,
Bonds and brotherhood,
Teaching and learning,
Speaking and being heard,
Courage and endurance,
Respect and honor,
Sacrifice and determination,
Modest and humble,
Give what is possible of giving,
Always exceed expectations,
Forever to be a tool of inspiration,
Disciplined and tough,
Better conditioned and stronger.
This is who we are.

Again this, like the other emails, is food for thought. Feel free to incorporate some of these ideas into your work with our students.


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