On Wednesday, May 4 in Wilson Hall's Ball Auditorium, Assistant Athletic Director and Director of Lacrosse Program Brendan Dawson presented his Best for Boys talk on "Education and personal growth through athletics." His talk guided parents and guardians through tactics for continually seeking growth through improved processes.
“Coaching is a calling and teaching lessons through sports is my passion,” explained Dawson. He shared two career stories that made him the coach he is today, starting with one from his first job at thirteen years old, spreading mulch for a nursery. The struggle to build a post and rail fence for the nursery frustrated him enough to quit his job soon after, to his father’s disapproval. The elder Dawson returned his son to the nursery, compelling him to request his job back. In that moment, Dawson saw that his poorly-constructed fence had been promptly removed. “That was one of the most influential things that happened to me in my life,” he reflected. “I didn’t realize it at the time. I didn’t come around to thinking of that until I was in my mid-twenties and had started coaching.” Reflecting on his own motivations as a child helped him connect to his players. Dawson’s second career lesson came when he found quick success selling group insurance. Living the mantras of his former Salisbury University lacrosse coach, Jim Berkman, helped him when pursuing sales. When the company rewarded Dawson’s efforts to “leave no stone unturned,” Dawson realized the profound effect his coach had had on him. That’s when Jim Berkman called him, pulling Dawson from the corporate world and back into the world of athletics. Dawson accepted Berkman’s offer to join the Salisbury coaching team.
In his own coaching methods, Dawson honors the coaches who have gone before him. Dawson admires the legendary baseball coach Augie Garrido, whose impassioned huddle talks convey important messages of dedication and respect. Dawson remembered Dickinson College’s Head Men's Lacrosse Coach Dave Webster’s inspirational conference talk on shifting team conversation from “me or mine” language to “we, us, or ours.” Dawson applies that to the Haverford lacrosse team, knowing that “they don't play for me. They play for the Haverford School and they play for each other."
Coaching requires adaptability. In the age of technology, Dawson recognizes that “these guys want to know ‘why.’ ‘Because I said so’ doesn’t work any more.” As he explained, "If I don't include them in the process of building our values as a team, then they won't be invested." Four of this year’s Haverford lacrosse team captains—Patrick Gillin, Will Costin, Chuckie Cacciutti, Sam Gerber, all Form VI—joined Dawson on stage to demonstrate their investment in the team’s values of passion, respect, and daily improvement. They spoke about how they want Haverford lacrosse to be viewed, “not just within our program, but in our community.” They are determined to uphold their team’s values on and off the field, in their kindness to staff and to each other. Every year, the Haverford lacrosse team collaborates on fresh definitions for their team values, promoting commitment among the players.
A reminder sits on Dawson’s desk: “What you reward will be repeated. What you neglect will decay.” Crafting fresh definitions for team values and frequently revisiting goals help the Haverford lacrosse team cultivate a culture of passion, respect, and daily improvement. At the end of his talk, Dawson conversed with the parents and guardians in attendance, saying, “We will not always agree, but the end goal is the same: preparing boys for life."
About Brendan Dawson
Brendan Dawson joined The Haverford School in 2018 and is Director of the Lacrosse Program. Previously, he was the men's lacrosse head coach at Haverford College and was the 2018 Centennial Conference Coach of the Year. He led the college to its first postseason appearance in seven years in 2018; the team was ranked in the top 15 nationally.
Prior to Haverford College, Dawson spent five years as head coach at Widener. His teams made the Commonwealth playoffs during each of his years at the helm, with two appearances in the conference finals. He was named the Commonwealth Coach of the Year in 2014 and 2016. Dawson also started men’s lacrosse at Aurora University in Illinois. Named head coach prior to the 2009-10 academic year, he led Aurora to 11 wins in its inaugural season on his way to being named the Midwest Lacrosse Conference Coach of the Year.
Dawson had a four-year career at Salisbury, helping the team to Division III National Championships in 2003 and 2004 when he served as team captain. He was named first-team All-Capital Athletic Conference in 2002 and was a member of the school’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Over his four seasons as a student-athlete, the Sea Gulls notched a 58-7 cumulative record. Dawson graduated from Salisbury in 2004 with a B.A. in history and political science. He got his M.A. in teaching from Salisbury in 2008.