Leadership Lessons from TB12

By Angela McMahon, Head Coach, University of Massachusetts Amherst, @UMassLacrosse

Being cliché Boston sports fans, my 5 year-old daughter and I were prepping to watch the Patriots take on the Texans and she asked me why Tom Brady was at the front of the line as the team walked through the tunnel. It got me thinking about all the great lessons athletes and coaches can learn from the ultimate winners (actually… I’m lying, I think about it all the time and profess my undying love for them by sending non-stop articles to my team. When my Giants-loving goalie stopped in the other day, I told her Eli Manning wants to be like Tom Brady so she should too). Nevertheless, here are some key tendencies and characteristics of a great leader from THE Tom Brady:

Photo courtesy of UMass Athletics
       Photo courtesy of UMass Athletics

Work Ethic

Tom Brady: Trains 2-3 times a day, six days a week in and out of season. When he returned from his four week “vacation,” he didn’t miss a beat and his trainer said in that time, they trained harder than the sport demands.

Athlete: There’s nothing less than 100% when you’re practicing, running, lifting or doing anything that will help you improve, no matter whether someone is watching you or not. While you may have good and bad days, it should never be because you’re not trying your hardest.

Coach: Constantly praise those players that go all-out on every play, especially if they aren’t your best players. Effort is not a skill.

Be Humble and Confident

Tom Brady: Always deflects any praise he gets onto his teammates and coaches, and values Championship trophies more than the MVP ones, but is confident in his abilities because of how he prepares.

Athlete: Lacrosse is a team sport. Focus on the “we” and less on the “me,” but also know that whatever role or skill-set you have is important to the team’s success. Believing in yourself and your teammates is critical.

Coach:  Constantly and consistently communicate and integrate a “team first” mentality. Praise the off-ball movement or critical ground ball to gain possession just as much as goals. Have players identify strengths and weaknesses and create a plan to improve the weaknesses to build confidence.

Connect with your teammates and coaches

Tom Brady: With the inconsistency of NFL team rosters, it’s amazing the way Tom connects with his teammates, especially his receivers. When someone goes down or is traded, he seamlessly transitions to executing with another player because of the relationships and work he puts in with them both on and off the field, regardless of the varying personalities and backgrounds. He also sets and enforces standards established by the coaches.

Athlete: Take time to get to know your teammates… ALL of them. If you want to be a team leader, you need to know the people you’re leading. What’s their communication style? What motivates them? What things do you have in common? How can you help them get better and achieve their personal goals?

Coach: Take time to talk to your players off the field about things other than lacrosse, especially your team leaders. Different team building activities and buddy systems always help young players adapt to the culture. Recognize who is connected to whom, and encourage leaders to reach out to anyone that’s isolated.

Stay Positive and be Mentally Tough

Tom Brady: Tom has had plenty of reasons to be doubtful and negative, most significantly when he didn’t get drafted until the 6th round of the 2000 draft, when he floated in and out of a starting role his senior year at Michigan, or when he tore his ACL in 2008. Through all the obstacles he has faced, he stayed positive, believed in himself, and used his experiences as motivation to get better.

Athlete: You’re going to have good days and bad days on the field and in life. Identify the problem, do the necessary work to improve, and keep moving forward. A positive attitude is contagious and allows you to enjoy the process. As a leader, you’re a role model and have a lot of influence on those around you.

Coach: Try to find a silver-lining even on the worst of days. If the ball is hitting the ground more than staying in the air, at least they’re getting extra fitness in by chasing after the balls, right?


Tom Brady: After every loss, Tom is his harshest critic and takes responsibility for mistakes, whether they were his fault or not, and follows it up by putting in extra work or making changes to fix the breakdowns.

Athlete: No one is perfect and mistakes happen all the time. Take accountability for it, create a plan to fix it, and move on. You won’t be able to lead in the present if you’re focused on the past.

Coach: No one is exempt from mistakes, so if you make one, acknowledge it, fix it, and move on. If you and/or your assistants could have or should have done something differently, identify it, solve it, and move forward.

Play with Passion

Tom Brady: Nothing is better than seeing him spike the ball hard after scoring a touchdown, jumping on top of his wide receiver to congratulate him on a great catch, or pacing on the sideline screaming words of motivation at his teammates.

Athlete: Celebrate great plays with your teammates. Showing you’re passionate shows you care, and showing you care makes others feel good about themselves. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to show your emotions when you’re excited.

Coach: Allow and encourage your players to celebrate (within reason). It will make practices and games that much more fun. Getting in on some of the celebrations yourself will show your players you’re more than just a whistle that yells “get on the line.”

Whether you’re a Tom Brady lover or hater, there are plenty of other great leaders that share similar traits as Tom… they just won’t be winning the Super Bowl this year!

LET’S GO PATS!!!!!!!!


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