Products>Winning the Game of Belief: Cultivating the Cultural Grit that Defines America’s Greatest Coaches

Winning the Game of Belief: Cultivating the Cultural Grit that Defines America’s Greatest Coaches


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Charles Sullivan, one of the winningest coaches in the history of the sport of volleyball, is a physical education teacher and sports psychology professor at Springfield College by trade. His story provides the reader with a unique approach to winning in sports and success in life, employing a knowledge of psychology to define his program and craft an unparalleled record of success that reveals the power of culture. Rather than lecture his players about research and theory, Coach Sullivan most often teaches through metaphor and stories. These stories share his experience on the court while providing a unique lens that enables the reader to capture the core values that unite all iconic coaches. Kevin Sheehan shares the research on cultural grit, not only, bringing Sullivan’s success to life, but also providing a formula for successful leadership in any field or endeavor. There are lessons in this book that can change your life and cultivate a culture of grit in your organization that will lead to success that you could never have imagined.


Brian Magoffin

Introduction: The Magic of Stories

Research without Going to the Dentist’s Office

Brain Research: The Fragile Nature of Memory

Brain Function and the Magic of Stories

Who is Charlie Sullivan?

Five Take Aways from The Power of Stories

The Big Idea from The Power of Stories

Part I: Beyond Winning

Chapter 1- The Culture of Winning

Springfield Volleyball: A Culture of Winning

Winning Coaches under the Microscope

Why It Is Some Coaches Win All the Time?

Winning the Game of Belief

Five Take Aways from The Culture of Winning

The Big Idea from The Culture of Winning

Chapter 2- Welcome to the Game of Belief

Meet Charlie Sullivan: Welcome to the Game of Belief

The Power of Culture: You Were Made for This!

More than Pep Talks: Beyond Winning

Five Take Aways from Welcome to the Game of Belief

The Big Idea from Welcome to the Game of Belief

Chapter 3- Turning Obstacles into Opportunities

What Stands in the Way, Becomes the Way

Eighteen Pencils and a Lost Coin Toss

Lessons from a Lost Coin Toss

Less than Successful Playing Career: Obstacle or Gift?

Five Take Aways from Turning Obstacles into Opportunities

The Big Idea from Turning Obstacles into Opportunities

Chapter 4- The Power of Personality

NFL Draft Day: You Are on the Clock

Selection Results: Did You Make the Same Decision as the NFL?

The Birth of Grit: Angela Duckworth Finds Her Passion

What Makes Gritty Individuals Gritty?

Driven From Within: The Power of Effort and Will

The Tom Brady and the Power of Belief and Effort

Resume versus Eulogy Virtues

Five Take Aways from The Power of Personality

The Big Idea from The Power of Personality

Part II: Building Cultural Grit

Chapter 5- Core Values: Failing Well

Trial by Fire: Core Values Born of Struggle, Frustration and Failure

Winning Coaches and Core Values

Five Take Aways from Core Values: Failing Well

The Big Idea from Core Values: Failing Well

Chapter 6- Cultural Grit

The Unexpected Phone Call: Science Meets Sport

Making the Case for Cultural Grit

The Cultural Grit Pyramid

Level One: Shared Effort and Belief

Level Two: Striving for Perfection in Process

Level Three: Identity and Meaning

Five Take Aways from Cultural Grit

The Big Idea from Cultural Grit

Chapter 7- Belief

More than Pep Talks: Belief Borne of Consistent Effort

Belief and Effort: A Two Way Street

Data Driven Cultures Built on Feedback

Transformational Leadership

Five Take Aways from Belief

The Big Idea from Belief

Chapter 8- Process

Maintaining Focus on Process Over Product

The Power of Being in the Moment

Winning by Not Focusing on Winning

Focus on Product Begins Early: A Baseball Story

Five Take Aways from Process

The Big Idea from Process

Chapter 9- Identity

Which Ring?

The Power of Identity

Debunking the Great Player Myth

Team Identity Built on Great Communication

Collective Efficacy: The Research behind Team Cohesion

Fostering Collective Efficacy at Springfield

Five Take Aways from Identity

The Big Idea from Identity

Part III Maintaining Belief in the Face of Challenge

Chapter 10- Cultures Under Fire

The Haircut: Holding Fast to Core Values

Team First: Even When It Hurts

Maintaining Belief: Getting on the Bus with Elmo

The Initial Challenge: Maintaining Belief in Building Your Culture

Five Take Aways from Cultures Under Fire

The Big Idea from Cultures Under Fire

Postscript from Coach Sullivan- Raise Your Hand: Applications to Business


Five Take Aways from Raise Your Hand: Applications to Business

The Big Idea from Raise Your Hand: Applications to Business

A Baker’s Dozen of Big Ideas to Move Your Organization Beyond Inspiration

Appendix A: The NFL Draft: How Did You Do?

Appendix B: April Emails

Appendix C: Springfield Core Values


About the Authors

[This] book argues that winning teams are not always the ones with the best athletes. Rather, they are the teams that are best prepared, not only physically but especially mentally. According to this view, such teams exhibit a strong sense of belief, an unshakable character, and a foundational grit. Through stories and case studies, the authors explore common characteristics of legendary athletes and coaches, showing that the best players do not always make the best coaches. Sullivan himself, for instance, was not a volleyball player in college, and Bill Belichick was regarded as a better lacrosse player than football player at Wesleyan. But as argued here, the lack of an impressive athletic resumé may have driven each of them as a coach, making each aware that failure instructs more than success, supporting the authors' premise that encountering obstacles can lead to creative thinking.

This book is a must read for, not only young coaches, but for veteran coaches as well. Having coached for thirty-seven years, this book is just as valuable for me today as it would have been when I started out. The book will be a tool to reinforce to my current team the extreme importance of the culture of our program. In addressing this area, the book is without parallel. Kevin and Charley have truly shared the secrets to “A Winning Culture”!

I have known Kevin for years as a coaching peer and friend. He has coached at every level from youth to college, and clearly understands that there are consistencies that apply to successful coaching no matter what the sport or the age one is working with. His passion for coaching, his attention to detail, and his in-depth research into the field helps make him a perfect resource for those seeking success in any area of life.

This is a must read for those who want to succeed in this business or in any business for that matter.

Building belief is what we do as coaches do, and this book clearly articulates a plan for all of us, in any field, on how to create cultural grit in our organization. The lessons that can be drawn from the stories on these pages have impacted my coaching and my team in ways that are truly beyond belief and that I could not hope to share in such a limited space. I am confident that this book will have the same impact on your leadership, and the grit that you cultivate in your organization.

Product Details

  • Title : Winning the Game of Belief: Cultivating the Cultural Grit that Defines America’s Greatest Coaches
  • Authors:
    • Sheehan, Kevin
    • Sullivan, Charles
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • ISBN: 9781475849004

Dr. Kevin Sheehan is a tenured associate professor at Molloy College where he has served on the faculty for over a decade as well as being an internationally recognized coach in the world of lacrosse. In the lacrosse world, Kevin’s accomplishments are numerous including helping to coaching Adelphi University to three Division II National Championships, the Australian National Lacrosse Team to two Bronze Medals, and Massapequa High School to its first New York State Championship on the scholastic level. A member of the Long Island Metropolitan Branch of the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame, Kevin, believes that all of these coaching efforts have been shaped and influenced by positive psychology research that defines this book.

Charlie Sullivan will enter his 21st season as head coach of the men's volleyball team during the 2018-19 academic year, and will once again be an assistant professor of physical education at his alma mater. In 20 previous years at the helm, Springfield has established a pedigree of championship success and has an overall record of 396-181 for a .686 winning percentage.In addition to his role as the men's volleyball coach at Springfield, Sullivan has also had several stints with the U.S. National Team. Recently, Sullivan was chosen to receive USA Volleyball's All-Time Great Coach award in the Donald S. Shondell Contemporary Division for 2015.


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