Why a fictional TV coach is the patron saint of MOJO
| 6 min read
Vince Lombardi. Bill Belichick. Pep Guardiola. Pat Summitt.
All names synonymous with indomitable coaches who win championships.
At MOJO, however, we have a different patron saint: Ted Lasso.
Sure, he’s a fictional character from an Apple TV+ series. Yes, he won a make-believe national title with Wichita State, which hasn’t fielded a real football team since 1986. Yes, he’s a corny Kansan who shocks the British establishment when he suddenly takes over as manager of a pretend English Premier League club named AFC Richmond. And, of course, he doesn’t know a thing about football, as soccer is known across the pond.
But after watching the eight-part series, MOJO fell in love with Ted Lasso, played by real-life Kansan Jason Sudeikis. In our view, if Ted Lasso can figure out how to coach a down-on-its-luck Premier League club filled with difficult prima donnas and has-beens, you can definitely handle an unruly bunch of 8-year-olds for a 10-week season.
Just follow the secrets of Ted Lasso’s aw-shucks success.
1. Remember, they’re just kids.
Coaching at any level is intimidating and often stressful.
On the field for AFC Richmond’s first practice, Lasso feels anxious about his new team and a strange sport with odd rules. (“Ties and no playoffs? Why do you even do this?”)
Coach Beard, Lasso’s assistant and buddy from Kansas, reminds him of their early days together.
“Remember what you said to me our first day coaching at Wichita State?” says Beard.
“Lose the ponytail?” Lasso jokes.
“Relax. They’re just kids,” Beard answers.
Relax. They’re just kids. A perfect mantra when you walk on the field. Take a deep breath and remember: they’re just six years old. What’s the worst that can happen?
2. It’s OK to admit what you don’t know.
Sure, it’s tempting to pretend you know all the answers (let alone the rules of the game). But kids can tell right away if you’re bluffing. So take a page from Lasso. Disarm them with humility and humor.
“Let’s address the larger-than-average elephant in the room,” Lasso tells the skeptical British press at his first raucous news conference. “No, I have never coached the sport that you folks call football. At any level. Heck, you could fill two internets with what I don’t know about football.”
Lasso isn’t afraid to reveal his shortcomings. He knows eventually he will figure out the crazy offside rule. He also knows that his real superpower is building confidence and self-esteem, which is the whole point of youth sports.
3. Be a goldfish.
When one of his players, Sam, plays poorly after making a costly mistake on the field, Lasso pulls him to the sidelines, asking: “Do you know what the happiest animal on earth is?”
Sam shakes his head.
“A goldfish,” Lasso says. “Do you know why?”
“No,” says Sam.
“Got a 10-second memory,” says Lasso. “Be a goldfish, Sam.”
In other words: Forget about the last mistake. Don’t dwell on the score. Focus on the task at hand. Or the next challenge, like kicking the ball in the net.
4. Never forget snack.
Every morning, Lasso tries to win over Rebecca, the owner of AFC Richmond, with special home-made biscuits. Rebecca resists at first, but gradually crumbles. Such are the powers of shortbread and Lasso’s irrepressible optimism and charm.
The way to Rebecca’s heart is through her stomach. Same for your kids team. Let’s face it: In youth sports, snacks are everything. Offer delicious stuff after games or practice – and they will love you. No one can resist good bites – especially kids.
5. It’s not about the Ws.
At a spicy Indian dinner with snarky reporter Trent Crimm from The Independent, Lasso reveals his core philosophy: “For me success is not about the wins and losses. It’s about helping these young fellows be the best versions of themselves on and off the field. It ain’t always easy.”
It really is as simple as that.
6. Get your steps in, Coach
When the AFC Richmond team slacks off at practice, Lasso orders them to run laps and then takes off in a gallop, challenging them to a race around the field. It’s game on and the players chase after Lasso, determined to beat him.
The more you put into your team — including running and playing — the more you’ll get out of it. And so will the kids.
7. Don’t stop the party.
Lasso’s claim to internet fame is a viral video of an exuberant victory dance in the Wichita State locker room. The team is going crazy after the game – and he lets loose with moves that would embarrass most adults.
The team – and the world – love Lasso’s uninhibited gyrations. And the lesson is important. Everyone loves a crazy dance and a coach who joins the party. Don’t stand back. Don’t withhold. Don’t be afraid to shake it with your team.
8. Believe in believe.
Some day in your coaching journey, you may end up with a team that can’t seem to get its act together. It can’t score a goal. It can’t get a hit. It can’t make an out. But if you believe in your kids – if you show you care about them, if you are committed to their improvement – then anything is possible.
“I have a real tricky time hearing folks that don’t believe in themselves,” Lasso says at one point.
“I believe in hope,” he says. “I believe in believe.”
We won’t spoil the series if you haven’t watched. But we’ll just say that Ted Lasso wins over the team and even the incredulous reporter from The Independent.
“His coaching style is subtle,” Crimm writes in the newspaper. “It never hits you over the head, slowly growing until you can no longer ignore its presence.”
“If the Lasso way is wrong,” he concludes, “it’s hard to imagine being right.”
That’s why MOJO doesn’t just believe in believe, we believe in Ted Lasso. Always optimistic. Always kind. Always mindful that they’re just kids, filled with promise and potential.
And always ready with a snack.