Colby women’s lacrosse is headed to the NCAA tournament at Middlebury this weekend, where their first opponent, in Sunday’s second round, will be the hosting Panthers. We checked in with head coach Karen Henning to learn the secrets of their success.

Congratulations on a really great season. What’s been the “secret sauce” with this team?
The 2017 Colby women’s lacrosse team has three amazing things going for them. First, we believe—in ourselves and in each other. Every single time we step on the field, we are determined to prove ourselves. It does not matter whom we are playing, or where we are playing, we want to play our best. Two, we are fully committed to each other and show it every day. We truly care about each other on and off the field. Lastly, we “never take a play off (Jon Gordon, The Hard Hat).” We are always ready to give 100 percent. Every second, every play, every single time we step on that field we are going to give it our best effort. Our team has an amazing bond and it will never be broken.

Coach Karen Henning works with the team in advance of the NCAA playoffs.

As you head into NCAA competition, what are some priorities for the team?
We are working with a sports leadership consultant, John O’Sullivan. He has done a great job helping us stay focused all season. He continues to remind us to remember why we play and to enjoy the amazing journey we are on together. Heading into this week, he asked us to write our own story to keep us focused and on track leading up to the weekend. We are sharing these stories each day to remind us of who we are and why we play. We want to stay focused on what we have been doing each and every day to get us to this point.

You’ve been a remarkably successful coach. What are the most important things about coaching you’ve learned over the years, and how do you implement them with a team?

Trust is crucial to success. Coaches need to trust the players, the players need to trust the coaches, and we all need to be able to trust each other. This all starts with knowing yourself and being yourself. If I try to be something I am not, the players will know.

I am probably not what most people would describe as the typical coach. Not to say that there is one type of coach out there, but the media likes to portray more of the loud boisterous coaches as the norm, which I am not. I am relatively quiet, do not like to be the center of attention, and tend to stay very calm on the sidelines. I am not always calm, but compared to most I would say I am.

What I love about all the teams I have coached is that they have accepted me for who I am, and I have accepted them for who they are. Each team needs to know I am in this with them and I am willing to work just as hard to help them reach their goals.

Believe in yourself and believe in those around you. When we set goals with the team, we need to believe with all our hearts that we can achieve them. Once we establish our goals and believe they are possible, we need commit to doing all the little things that can make our goals a reality.

Lastly, hard work! If we want to reach our goals we are going to have to work hard. No one is going to give us a win; we are going to have to earn it. It will never be easy and at times we may want to give up, but if we want it bad enough we will keep working to achieve our goals; to make our dreams a reality. Colby Women’s Lacrosse values hard work and we will never quit.