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June 2006

The Legacy of a Coach

“She died because of an enlarged heart” reported ESPN.com, this beloved woman who coached with such heart. On April 6, 2006, Maggie Dixon, the 28-year old first-year coach for Army Women's basketball team, tragically died following a heart arrhythmia incident. A month earlier she had led the Army women's team to its first NCAA tournament berth.

The members of her team, along with 500 other attendees, filled the West Point chapel to mourn their beloved coach and best friend. Her time with them had been too short, but SO significant. Just six months after taking over the Army coaching reins, she guided her jubilant team to championship status.

It was her first head coaching job, and she was determined to turn the struggling Army team (its members did not believe in themselves) into winners. She was a civilian and the only female coach at West Point — she offered a different perspective to the young warriors-in-training. She taught them not only how to win, but how to live.

“After a loss, Maggie would come into the locker room and the first thing she would say was 'Keep your head up. We'll learn from this.'” explained Megan Vrebel, senior forward. Adding to the memorial tributes, Lt. General William J. Lennox, Jr., the Superintendent of West Point, said, “Here, where we develop leaders of character, Maggie was the consummate leader.”

Maggie Dixon left a legacy of leadership. What is your legacy? What are you known for? What would your co-workers say? What stories would they share about you? What lessons would they say they learned from you?

When you're starting off your career, you look forward to what you hope to become. At some point, usually at the end of your career, you start looking backward and are more concerned about “what I did and what people will say about me after I'm gone.”

However, I maintain that if you wait until you're at the end of your career to focus on your legacy, it's too late. You won't be able to leave a legacy of greatness unless you start living a legacy of greatness today. Every one of us should be thinking about our Leadership Legacy today. Your concern about the mark you will leave on this world should begin today.

Maggie lived a legacy of energy and spirit and optimism every day. Her life tragically over, her legacy lives on through her players, who will march forward into their own lives of leadership.

Book Review: The Education of a Coach
by David Halberstam

I hope someone writes a book about Maggie Dixon. Someone has written a book about Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots NFL coach and three-time Super Bowl winner.

David Halberstam, and arguably countless connoisseurs of professional football, consider Belichick to be one of the best football minds in the history of the game.

This book traces Belichick's development into a super coach, begun under the tutelage of his father — one of the first scouts to approach football as a science and not just a sport. Halberstam describes what Belichick learned as a lacrosse player and in his assistant coaching jobs working for, among others, the legendary Bill Parcells. Belichick was at Parcells' side as he led the New York Giants to two Super Bowl victories.

He describes how Belichick's lack of political prowess cost him his first head coaching job in Cleveland, but how his football nerdiness appealed to the New England Patriots owner, who gave him his next head coaching job. Belichick has led the Patriots to three Super Bowl victories.

At times, Halberstam's prose is ponderous, but if you want to learn about the discipline, devotion to learning and leadership required to be a successful coach — pick this book up.

Action for Results:
Tips and Tools for Being a Great Coach Today and Leaving a Leadership Legacy for Tomorrow

Maggie Dixon and Bill Belichick offer up these ideas for leaving a legacy as a great coach:


• Winners don't always win, so ask what you can learn when you lose
• Your energy and enthusiasm are infectious; never give up on your team
• Practice — practice — practice (in business that translates into After Action Reviews, Lessons Learned reflection sessions, Best Practices sharing)
• Take the lead — put forth a lofty vision
• Victory is meaningless without camaraderie and compassion
• Anticipate the opposition — the more you know about them the more you can predict their moves
• If your work requires a team — there is no room for individual star egos
• Complacency at the top of your game leads in only one direction — down
• Mastering all the details of the game adds up to victory

How do you measure up, Coach?

“We were all inspired by your presentation on 'The Leader's Legacy.' If you don't mind, I'd like to pass on some of your thoughts to the rest of the organization.”

Bonnie Lieberman
Senior Vice President
& General Manager
John Wiley & Sons, Inc


Lynda McDermott

Lynda is honored to be one of over 570
Certified Speaking Professionals
in the United States


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