The Wisdom of Coaches

Top local coaches—from Ozzie Guillen and Tom Thibodeau to Oliver Purnell and Kelly Amonte Hiller—reveal sacred truths about perseverance, motivation, the importance of hard work, the value of failure, and more

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Kelly Amonte Hiller, Northwestern Women's LacrosseKELLY AMONTE HILLER

POSITION Head coach, women’s lacrosse, Northwestern University
STATS Five consecutive NCAA national championships, from 2005 to 2009; women’s lacrosse national coach of the year in 2005, 2008, and 2009

You are either brilliant or you’re an idiot, one or the other. Ultimately, you have to have the confidence that nine out of ten times you are going to make a good decision. If I don’t trust my decisions, none of my players are going to trust them.

Today people let kids win to make them feel good about themselves. When I was growing up, my brothers [including former Blackhawks star Tony Amonte] never let me win at anything. I’d go home crying to my dad, and he was like, “Get up and get back out there!” I always had that never-say-die attitude from the environment that I grew up in.

I can’t expect my players to work hard if I’m not working just as hard as them, if not harder.

You can get bogged down in the day-to-day tasks of coaching, but you have to take the time to be creative, because that’s what’s going to take you to that next level.

There are similarities between coaching and parenting, but parenting might be a little bit harder.

You are going to get knocked down. It’s inevitable. It’s just a matter of how quickly you can get back up. That is the key to everything.

We always talk about Xs and Os, but the mental side of the game is so important. Every day before we get on the field, we do some type of a small meditation, visualization, or breathing exercise. You want to be in the moment to be able to perform at your best, and if your head is somewhere else, with schoolwork or with what happened last night, you are not going to be at your best. We try to clear away all of that stuff before we get going.


Photograph: David Banks/Chicago Tribune



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