3 Principles of Success from the Most Accomplished High School Coach in American History

(with David Houle)


David grew up one of 11 brothers and sisters. The family only had three bedrooms and one bathroom. Early on, his mom taught them to get along and share. His mom also taught David and his siblings to do what they love and go all out with it. When David was 12, he asked his dad if he could coach. Everyone was being drafted and they didn’t have any other options, so they let him, coach. After his own practice, he would coach the six- and seven-year-olds, and he fell in love with it. He kept coaching until he got to college. There, he ran track, cross country, and played football, and David convinced the basketball coach to let him be his assistant. He ended up becoming the head football coach at 22 years old, the youngest head football coach in the state. He got the job only four days before the first football game, and they were playing the defending state champions. His goal was to keep the game close, and they ended up losing six to seven. David progressed and started setting records. He set a goal to win at least one state championship in his life. He went on to win 68 of them.

We Must Take Risks to Succeed

David is often teased that he doesn’t know what it’s like to lose, but he has lost the state championship 22 times. We often forget about the failures of successful people. Instead, we focus on all their wins and put them up on a pedestal. Michael Jordan, a former professional basketball player, said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Nobody remembers Michael Jordan for the shots he missed. We remember him for the shots he made. So often in life, we’re afraid we’re going to miss the shot, so we don’t take it. We don’t take the risk. But if we don’t take the shot, it’s impossible for us to make the shot. Wayne Gretzky, a former professional hockey player, said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

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Finding and Motivating the Champions

When David started coaching the track and cross country team at Mountain View High School, there were only six kids on the team. His goal was to build the team, so he started recruiting anyone with legs. One day, he was walking through the hall and he saw a shy girl named Laurie. David said, “Hey Laurie, have you ever thought about running cross country?” She said, “Um no.” David told her she ought to come out. It was track season then, but he told her they’d get her in shape for cross country. Laurie came out, and she got lapped so many times. She was last in every race she ran, but she started to work hard and didn’t quit. When track season ended, David told the team he’d meet them every day at 6:30 in the morning to train. Pretty soon, he heard that Laurie was running twice a day. When David asked her about it, she said, “I believe in your workout, so I just do it again at night.” She worked hard and went on to win the state championship. She became an All-American and led the team to the state national championship, gaining a lot of confidence in herself along the way.

David’s Secret of Success: Love

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Key Takeaways

Thank you so much David for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode: 1. As David did, we should go after what we love and pursue it with everything we have. 2. To succeed, we must take risks. We miss all of the shots we don’t take. 3. There are champions on every team, in every field. We must find them and help them become something great. 4. The secret of success is love. Whatever we do, always do it with love. If we treat our teams with love, they will be more willing to listen to us and we will be more united.

Connect with David

To learn more about or connect with David:

Next Steps

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