Penn State Women’s Soccer Coach Erica Dambach on Standards

From Mike Poorman at

Erica Dambach has been the women’s soccer coach at Penn State for ten years. They have won the Big Ten conference title in nine of those years and won the national championship in 2015. This is a conversation she had about how she set the standards she wanted on and off the field for her program. A couple quotes stuck out to me:

It is illuminating to see how many elite programs kickstarted their success by identifying a few pillars that would point to true north for the players and coaching staff. Football coach Pete Carroll went through this process after being fired from his first pro football job, and Steve Kerr did the same when he started coaching the Golden State Warriors three years ago. Here are Dambach’s pillars:

We looked at each other in the eye and said, “Our championships will be won with these pillars: Attitude of a champion. Blue collar mentality. United family. And those are the three pillars we are going to live by. If we can win a national championship living by those pillars, then we have achieved our potential as coaches. If we have to sacrifice one or the other and the championship doesn’t come, then maybe we don’t belong at this level as coaches.”

And we have that conversation every year, and we have it about every recruit, in terms of staying true to ourselves. We may have to pass on players who may appear to live up those standards, but really don’t.

We’ve had a lot of tough conversations through the years, like with the star who may have missed a class and now has to sit. It comes up every day. But we were convinced we could do it the right way. And to have it validated was incredible.

Also, this anecdote about the 2015 national player of the year Raquel Rodriguez is an amazing attitude worth emulating.

One of things that made Raquel Rodriguez so special is that every day she walked off that training field she thanked us. Her gratitude was beyond anything I’ve ever experienced, and that was because of her background. She came from lesser means (in Costa Rica) than most of the other players.