If you were asked to pick the best, most successful college coach, who would you suggest? UCLA’s legendary basketball coach John Wooden easily comes to mind, as does Alabama’s football coach, Bear Bryant. Thinking a little more, Mike
Krzyzewski, Duke’s basketball coach, is a good guess as is Tennessee’s former woman's head basketball coach, Pat Summitt. Or, Dan
Gable of Iowa wrestling fame is certainly on the short list. But a
name that you would probably not have said is Anson Dorance.
Coach Dorance is the head coach of one of the most successful programs in the history of college athletics. He is the head coach of
women's soccer at North Carolina.
Coach Dorance’s coaching record is almost unbelievable. In 1979,
Dorrance worked with the Association of Athletics for Women to
establish a national women’s soccer program. The frst NCAA women’s soccer championship was three years later, won by Dorrance’s
NC Tar Heels. For his 33-year career as head coach of the lady Tar
Heels, Dorrance is 719-39-24 for an unheard of 93.5 percent winning percentage. He led his teams to a 101 game winning streak and
coached 20 players recognized as National Player of the Year. If
that’s not impressive enough, Dorrance’s teams have won 21 NCAA
So, what is Coach Dorrance’s secret? His success over time is
likely much more complicated than can be shared in a short article.
Having said that, there are three keys to his success that can provide
great insight into his winning program and also give us additional
insights into how we can be even more effective in leading safety
There is a legendary story about Henry Ford. He had two shifts
at one of his factories. These two shifts used the exact same assembly
line and had the same tools, work hours, number of employees, etc.
For some reason, the frst shift always assembled more cars than the
second shift. One evening, Ford walked on the foor of the second
shift, took a piece of chalk and wrote a number on the foor, 48 for
example. The number represented the number of cars produced by
the frst shift. When he walked in the next morning, he was surprised
to see his number was scratched out and a new number written, 54,
that was the number produced by the second shift. Ford left it there
and the frst shift then wrote next to it as their shift ended, 56. The
night shift would not be out done—they produced 58 the next night.
Coach Dorrance says, “Competition is key to developing players.
The only practice environment in which you truly develop a player
is a competitive arena. "What most teams consider drills, Dorrance
will chart then post for all of the players to see. It pushes those players who are on top of the list to stay there, and those who are not on
the top of the lists to work even harder.
I do not support the idea of competing for the lowest injury num-
bers since this could drive workers not to report incidents, which
is not the goal. But, this idea of competition is one to consider
for training exercises, safety rule knowledge, most safe acts, most
supervisory job observations, housekeeping inspections, and many
more categories. Post these lists and reward those on top—and your
organization will push to be even better.
A December 7, 1998 Sports Illustrated Article says that, “
Dorrance insists that players call him Anson. Before the last home game
of the season, he presents each senior with a red rose. On the wall in
his offce is this sign:
PEOPLE DON'T CARE HOW MUCH YOU KNOW UNTIL
THEY KNOW HOW MUCH YOU CARE.
When I was a safety professional serving a major mid-western
utility, I served more than 400 electrical line workers and substation technicians. One thing I did to make a connection is to write
a personal birthday note to each worker and supervisor, about 500
letters per year. After a few years of this I saw a birthday note that I
had written taped to a locker. I found the locker’s owner and asked
him why it was there. He simply said that in nearly 30 years working
for the company, receiving that birthday note was the best thing that
had happened to him.
Dorrance says, “This game rewards you for playing with huge
hearts.” For those workers who had received birthday notes, they
simply knew that I cared. So when I showed up to coach, teach,
instruct or correct, I mostly found open ears and workers willing to
listen—because they knew I cared.
Dorrance wants soccer games to be a day off for his team. What
he means by that is he wants practice to be so hard and tough that
his team is well prepared for any game. Practices are so stressful
that players have named Tuesday’s conditioning day as “throw up
"We've tried to design a system that's diffcult to play against,"
Dorrance said. "That system is predicated on work ethic and high
pressure. It's hard for other teams to replicate that in practice. Often
times, even when a quality team plays us for the frst time, it's a bit
of a shock.”
How do our work groups prepare? And, as supervisors and man-
agers, how do we prepare them? Are our training sessions, job brief-
ings and tailgate sessions, safety meetings, and safety committee
work really preparing our workers for the day’s hazards?
In the end, if we can infuse our safety programs with healthy and
appropriate competition, caring and preparation, we will fnd our
results to be elite—just ask Coach Anson Dorrance.
Matt Forck, CSP & JLW, is a safety speaker and former journey line worker who
specializes in utility safety. Eliminate shortcuts today through Bucket List, a motivational DVD package for your next safety meeting. Learn more by logging onto
How Safety Leaders Win
By Matt Forck, CSP and JLW