Charley Toomey | Crain's Baltimore

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Charley Toomey

Background:  

A Loyola University Maryland alumnus, Charley Toomey played for the Greyhounds and was a two-time All-America selection at goalie. Now in his 12th season as a collegiate head coach, Toomey has built the Greyhounds lacrosse program into one of the nation’s top units, and led the men’s program to the NCAA Division 1 Championship in 2012. The team recently won the Patriot League division for the third time in four years, securing an automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA Championships.

The Mistake:

When I first became a head coach 11 years ago, I thought it was more about the wins, so I pushed our team very hard to do more about the fundamentals of the game, and more about the X’s and O’s.

I’m a graduate of Loyola University, and as a student athlete at Loyola I probably didn’t integrate into the mission of Loyola as much as I should have. Being at Loyola for over 20 years now, I have a good feeling of what Loyola’s mission is and what it stands for. That has impacted how I coach and how I recruit.

When I first started, I wanted to get the best athlete and the most talented lacrosse player I possibly could. We didn’t make the playoffs very often when I started, and now we see ourselves as a team that should be in the playoffs every year. But we wouldn’t be the team we are now, if some of those early recruits didn’t win big games — we had big wins that got the recruiting pipeline started.

We weren’t as consistent, but they were talented lacrosse players. We were able to win games against highly ranked opponents, but just not consistently. But because of those guys, and the foundation they built, we’re able to be a more consistent program.

We’re not an athletic factory.

The Lesson:

Now I make sure that we’re recruiting a young man who understands what we’re about. We’re not an athletic factory — we’re here to push them to be the best version of themselves on and off the field. Over time I talked less about lacrosse, and more about making sure Loyola’s the right place academically and socially for them. If they’re happy in those two arenas, then they’ll run through a wall for a coach.

The mission of Loyola, cura personalis, means development of the whole person — mind, body and spirit. I push our guys to be leaders in the campus community and to get involved with social clubs — they do a terrific job of that. They understand that they’ll be held to a high standard, not only on the field but in the community.

I wasn’t half the student that our athletes are. I was probably a decent lacrosse player and I did everything I was supposed to do in the classroom, but Loyola has so much more to offer than just going to class and being an athlete.

I’ve also learned to embrace the Patriot League’s founding statement: “Today’s scholar athletes, tomorrow’s leaders.” We get these guys for five years, and with recruiting I might get to know them for six. They’re going to leave here with diplomas, and the dream would be a national championship ring, but these guys are going to be fathers, business owners and productive members of society.

That to me is what’s it’s all about. It’s not so much about the wins and losses, as it is about pushing them to be the best versions of themselves.

Loyola University Maryland is on Twitter at @LoyolaMaryland, the men's lacrosse team is at @LoyolaMLAX and the athletic department is at @LoyolaHounds.

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