An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Chris Hartley, director of athletics

What does success look like for Lakeside Athletics? Do we focus on winning as many competitions as possible? Do we instill the belief in our student-athletes that a win is success and a loss is failure?

These were the questions I was asked to address at the opening faculty and staff meeting in late August. I was excited about the opportunity to change the way that people saw the athletics program and participate in the larger conversation about how we define success at Lakeside.

I began by talking about my experience as a high school and college athlete and as a young coach. Back then, I did focus on the outcome. I quoted a speech by legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi that I read over and over as a teenager: "There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that's first place. There is a second place final game, but it is a game for losers played by losers."

I approached my work as an athlete with this philosophy in mind and began coaching with this mindset. Thankfully, I had a mentor at the first school where I taught and coached who taught me a better way to approach my work with athletes. He had been coaching for decades and was the athletic director at my school. I was lucky enough to coach two seasons with him each year. Through working with him, I learned that success is a process, not a product. Though a final score can be an indicator that individuals and teams are working on the right things, outcomes of competitions should never be an individual's or a team's top goal.

This important lesson guides our work here. The program heads and coaches at Lakeside focus on process. If athletes learn something new each day, then we have been successful. If athletes trust their teammates more each day and the team gets better, then we are successful. Our goal is to string those days together into weeks, months, and a full season. It is hard work that must be led by coaches who are intentional in planning practices, communicating with the team, and working individually with student-athletes.

We aim to teach our students life lessons that reach into every aspect of their lives:

  • There is hard work that must be done, even when, at times, you don't feel like doing it.
  • Every person needs to know how to lead and how to follow.
  • A team's success is far more important than an individual's success.
  • Without trust, everything falls apart.
  • It is important to push to a place of discomfort. That is the only way to improve.

The world of athletics is based in competition. We pay attention to scoreboards and help our students compete with class and integrity. But, when our coaches list their top priorities, those items have little to do with wins and losses. Instead, those priorities are about growing athletes, and helping them develop skills and attributes that will lead them to be strong and resilient well after their middle school and high school athletic participation has ended.

After my talk, several of my colleagues told me that this approach on process resonated with the work they do in the classroom. Our hope is that, through all of our work, students receive an excellent education, whether they're learning in the classroom, in the studio, or on the playing field. That's what success looks like to me.