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  • Writer's pictureLance Tyson

Coach Mark Taylor On Working Hard Vs. Competing

Updated: 6 days ago

In this episode of "Against The Sales Odds," Lance Tyson has a conversation with legendary college hockey coach Mark Taylor, back-to-back national champion and National Coach of the Year. As the Head Coach of Hobart College Ice Hockey, Mark has transformed the team into a national powerhouse despite turning over nearly 25% of his talent yearly. Mark shares his journey, coaching philosophies, and the strategies he uses to build a winning culture at Hobart. This episode is packed with strong messages, life lessons, and invaluable leadership philosophies that have impacted hundreds of student-athletes and prepared them for their next steps. Tune in for an inspiring conversation filled with actionable insights!

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Coach Mark Taylor On Working Hard Vs. Competing

I’m so excited about this episode. I have the honor of interviewing somebody that I’ve gotten to know over the last five years from afar and a couple of good conversations from the side. He has made good recommendations where to get pies in upstate New York and also where to have a beer to drink in it and a glass of wine in France. I’d like to welcome Mark Taylor, the Head Coach for Hobart College. Mark is a back-to-back National Championship Coach in 2023 and 2024.

If you follow me, my son had the honor of playing for Mark for five years. He went back after COVID. A couple of stats here. Coach, I know you probably heard these a lot. Under Coach Taylor’s leadership, Hobart has gone to 406 wins, 176 losses, and 65 ties. That’s a little below the winning percentage of 700 back-to-back national championships, two-time coach of the year in 2023 and 2024, seven conference championships, and multiple different conferences that Hobart’s played in.

Here’s another bigger stat, 13 NCAA appearances and 9 consecutive. I’m not sure if that’s a record, but it’s pretty damn close. This is the most important to me, 21 All-Americans, 52, I believe, All-American scholars. Not only are we winning on the ice. We’re winning off the ice, which is huge. Mark, I’m going to call you coach because you’re in my house you’re Coach Taylor. I was standing outside, I was on Gilmore Academy’s campus on the East side of Cleveland in the summer.

Two of my sons were playing in this summer's elite league. It’s like pro-NCAA hockey players in the summer. All these Cleveland kids and my one son had played for the Cleveland Barron. He’d asked Zach to come and play. We walk outside and Zach is talking to this guy. He’s talking about Hobart. This was right as my son had committed to play for Hobart. His name is Kyle Whitaker. He was a little older and he played on the team with the boys. They’d call him Old Man Witty because he was a little older.

Old Man Witty Kyle pulled me aside. He goes, “I understand your son is going to go to Hobart.” I said, “Yes, we’re pretty excited.” I said, “Tell me about it.” He goes, “I can tell you about Coach Taylor. Life lessons.” I go, “What’s that mean? What are life lessons?” He goes, “There’s not a week that goes by in my life that I don’t think about something Coach taught.” He looked at me and said, “I didn’t play a ton. I wasn’t like a four-year starter. I played some. It was on a new lineup, but I always think of Coach Taylor.” He goes, “Your son made a good choice.” I was like, “Okay.” It’s a crowd shooting. Who knows? It’s a life choice. Coach Taylor, welcome to the show with that big introduction. Thanks for coming.

It’s great being here and Witt’s a first-class person. He was a captain here, so he was being a little humble there.

Was he?

He earned it though. He’s one of those guys who earned every inch that he got but certainly left here a very important player. He’s a great young man.

Early Coaching Career

That summer, we were excited to come in. As I was thinking of this, I was like, “That’s probably what this conversation is all about.” As we’re doing our pregame and this is interesting, you could first maybe establish what got you to a point that you’re the head coach of Hobart. A real quick on that journey. Where did you start? Where did you go? What does that look like?

I always say, I never played for a coach I didn’t like. I got super value and I love my time with my teammates. For me, I never left the game, so to speak. I went from playing to coaching. I started at Middlebury after playing over in Europe. I had a chance to jump on with Bill Beaney, who is one of my top mentors. I went from there to Brown, to Vermont, to Cornell, to UMass Lowell as an assistant. 

In my last year at UMass Lowell, I decided it was time to see if all the stuff that I’ve been learning through the ranks and every coach I coached with and coached under was coached the year, respectively wherever they were at, whether it was Cornell or Brown.

At that point, it was time to be a head coach and Hobart was open. I was excited to take it because they weren’t winning a lot there. I started at Middlebury when Bill started at Middlebury. I took a program that wasn’t a perennial power and made it a perennial power. I thought, “Maybe I can do the same thing.”

What was it about Bill? I’ve heard you say that before. What was it about Bill Beaney that made him your mentor? Why does he stand out from the other coaches?

If you peel back his resume, he’s one who no matter what he does is constantly thinking, learning, and growing as a coach. Very humble in his pursuits, but he’s constantly thinking and learning the game. I learned that coming through. You read a book. You read Scotty Bowman talking about taking the summers off, recharging, and learning more than trying to re-invent himself. There are a number of people who will say that why he was so successful is that he constantly reinvented himself. He won as his old self and he won as his new self.

Working Hard vs Competing: A great leader constantly thinks, learns, and grows.

That’s interesting. No matter how many leaders I get on this show, whether in business or sports, that lifelong learner is part of the value system. Bo Schembechler, the famous Ohio coach. He was born in Ohio, but he coached in Michigan. He said, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying at the end of the day. It’s either move forward or not.” That’s interesting you say that. Is Bill still with us? Are you still in contact with Bill?

Yes. I was in touch with him a lot. He won five national championships in a row in Middlebury, then took some time off and came back and won three. As we’re pursuing our second in a row, you knew who was on speed dial. The beauty of Bill is he’ll never just give you the answer. He’ll leave enough tidbits out there and make you dig for it. That’s the right way to do it. You have to figure it out yourself. In that process, you know what you’re doing.

The beauty of mentorship is that it leaves enough tidbits out there and make you dig for them.

If you think back to the two national championships, you’ve reached out to him. Does anything stick out to you where he said, “Mark, think of this or think of that?”

There were things about staying on the course. Don’t deviate too much from what you’re doing but also keep things fresh and new. You’re going to have to make some changes, but don’t constantly try and reinvent the wheel. Stay focused on the on the main things. Stay focused on the details that did it before or not let any of those things slip.

Building A Winning Culture

In your first national championship game in 2023, I was sitting with my family. It went into overtime and everybody I was sitting with was nervous. I couldn’t even imagine what was going on in the locker room. My wife looks at me and she goes, “What do you think?” I go, “We got this.” She goes, “We’re going over time.” I go, “We got it.” She goes, “Why can’t you even say that?” I go, “We don’t lose it over time. This is us now. It’s done.” Zach told me what you said. I’m trying to grasp. What did you say to the boys in the locker room? Whatever it was, it was very profound. It wasn’t this big motivational speech. It was something very calming, wasn’t it? Do you remember?

It’s what you said. We had been here before. We know what we have to do. We just go to go out and do it. I felt the same way. I felt confident with the group. I thought if we stay the course, play the way we play, and do what we do, it’ll take care of itself. I’m a big believer that if you focus on the process and the integrity of the process, the wins will take care of themselves.

Working Hard vs Competing: A predictable process yields predictable results. Stay consistent.

A predictable process yields and predictable result every single time, no matter what. Who do you hand the scaffold to? Let’s go to that for a second, Coach. We were talking in the pregame and I’ve said this to so many of my clients and a lot of them tune in to this show. We talk about predictable processes and predictable results. There’s some art to it also because you have different personalities. I said this in the pregame and I want everybody to think about this for a second. I’m going to set this up.

If you coach college or high school, your talents are your most important asset in any organization. On the business side, it’s the biggest investment or expense. It’s people. Maybe not on the college side, but in terms of time, it is. The amount of time you put in them. Every year, a college coach like Coach Taylor will turn over and have a forced turnover of about 25%. Depending on the size of the class, it’s 25% of all its talent.

This would go for any college coach, whether it’s Joe Paterno or Harbaugh out in Michigan. Whoever it is, they’re turning over at least 25% depending on the size of the class. About every four years, you’ll turn over about 100% of all that talent. That means as a business, I’m praying that I don’t lose any more than 5% because I know how much time it takes to put in a salesperson or administrative person or a new vice president of sales. What is it about how you lead or the process that you’re able to take a new group? Do you change the process to them or do you integrate it into a process? What does that look like for you?

The one thing you have to do is remember, you got these guys for four years. You also have to keep them fresh. It can’t just be the same old same old every year. For one, you want the players that are returning to embrace the love of ownership that they’ve got to get the new guys owning what we’re doing as fast as we can. They have to get those guys into the fold. 

It’s not just me getting the new guys in. It’s the whole team getting the new guys in. You also have to reinvent that every year so it makes it fun for the returning guys that you’re changing the culture. You’re saying a lot of the same stuff, but you’re tweaking it every year. It keeps everybody fresh for those four years.

You’re saying that the culture evolves a little bit around the new group.

It’s a new group every year. That’s certainly one thing that I’ve learned through books, other coaches, and through Bill. Just because we won the first year, how we’re going to win the next year? How was the dynamic going to be and the personalities and all that? Everything is going to change. If you’re cooking, you have to change the spice a little bit. Everything gets changed around a little bit. The formula is going to be a little bit different.

You go after that every year but the biggest thing is you got to get those new guys to have ownership. I’ll hear people say buy-in. To me, it’s ownership because you can buy something and trade it. If you buy it and keep it, you own it. For me, I try and go beyond the buy-in and say, “We have got to get everybody to buy in.” To me, I want everybody to have ownership. Those first-year guys have to buy in the first semester. That second semester, they better be part of ownership of the program.

Building a successful team means selling your ideas and getting talent to buy in.

I say to them, “I’ll let you have your naive stage of being a freshman, but come the second semester. Come to the playoffs. That senior at the end of the bench, he doesn’t care if you’re a first-year or a third-year. He wants to win. It’s his last hurrah so you better have ownership.” To me, it’s like the difference between working hard and competing.

You said something profound. I’m with you. I want everybody to hear this and I want to feed you back what you just said because buy-in is transactional. You can trade it and it can evaporate quickly. Ownership though, you think of cliches that go with that. There’s a pride of ownership too. Words like pride and anger get it done at different times. That’s an emotional thing and there’s that ownership to it. There are a lot of things written on it.

I listen to Jocko Willink a lot. I don’t know if you ever listen to his podcast. He was a SEALs team instructor and he was on Task Force Bruiser in in Iraq. He wrote a book on leadership called Extreme Ownership. There’s an extreme ownership and that’s how you get that cover move stuff. Those SEAL teams’ success is because everybody has ownership of their role. It's ownership of the role. I love that. What is something tangible? Think of the audience for a second. What are the things you’re trying to get them to own? Is it responsibility? Can you think of anything specific?

It’s everything. If I gave something specific, it would be like walking into the dressing room and you’re seeing your captain vacuuming the floor because it’s a little dirty even though you have the janitors and housekeeping do it. Maybe they miss something or whatever. That is a message from a guy that has taken ownership of the program. That’s a little thing, but it does set a standard.

The little things are everything, aren’t they? My dad used to say, “If you take care of the little things, the big things take care of themselves.” He also used to say and you’ll appreciate this, “What you lose in the bananas, you make up in the grapes.” They had to do with the same thing, but it was about those little things. It’s the little tiny things that they did.

It’s how the guys load the bus. It’s every little piece. Within the team, how we play. If a guy has taken a bad penalty, somebody else is going to say something to him. You see it in practice. My leaders over the year and my veterans over the years were winning because of the culture and how that’s carried over year after year. The one thing that I can say to a parent is your kid is going to be in the room with other quality young men. For me, I’ve been a big believer that better people make better players. Better people make better performers. There’s no question of that to me.

Better people make better players and better performers.

It’s interesting you say this and I don’t know the X’s and O’s at all like you do, but I’ve had the opportunity with my other sons to all play college hockey at a certain level. I watched what you did and I’ve watched one of my other sons. I’ll just keep it at that. I watch the coaching. I watch it carefully. It’s not like with hockey. Parents are like, “How are you doing?” That’s all you say. You don’t say anything. You don’t have a say in it.

Leadership And Tough Decisions

I’ve watched you for five years take the most seasoned vet. Even with my own son, as well as he did there, it’s settled. There’s an implication. I’ve watched organizations not have the success and that’s consistent across the board. When you look at very high-end organizations, your first liners could be anybody has stepped up. I see lower-performing organizations that stick with the same people. There’s no implication. Can you talk about your philosophy around that? You’re not afraid of that at all.

I’m going to be my hardest critic. We didn’t win in ‘09 and we didn’t win some other years. I thought we should have won. I don’t even look past the guy in the mirror. There are always things you can do. For guys who are captains for me and are veterans, the farther up your goal, the more credibility they have with me. Also, the more responsibility they have with me. If you’ve got one of your best players and the leader of your team not doing it right, you got to have the character to write that right off the bat because he’s the one everybody else is looking at. That got validated for me by one of my best players. Greg Gallagher was a captain here.

Working Hard vs Competing: Be your hardest critic. Always look in the mirror first.

Is he from Boston?

He’s a Boston kid.

He was from Framingham, wasn’t he? I met his mom.


She was working out at Marriott and I got to talk to her. He played a little pro too, didn’t he?


Small world.

He was our first Hall of Famer. It was all American here. Quick story, we’re playing a team back-to-back the first night. We’re going to beat them and we’re much better than them, but he floated through the game. It was a terrible game for him. Quite honestly, I couldn’t play in the next night and not play the guy farther down the totem pole.

The principle was you didn’t come and try to play your best hockey. I’ve had guys that perform fifteen nights in a row pretty darn good. They try to perform on the 16th night, and it doesn’t happen for them. They’ve earned credit. They’re going to get another crack. Gals didn’t. I walked in, sat him down, and said, “We got to talk. I got to make a tough decision here.” I didn’t even finish the sentence.” He said, “Coach, I don’t deserve to play tomorrow.” That’s what he said to me.

That’s extreme ownership.

“I don’t deserve to play tomorrow. I stunk and I’m embarrassed.” I moved on. What’s funny was Andy Brennan, who was a freshman at that time, later to be one of the captains to take us to the final four. He saw that and he brought it up years later because he talked to his dad. He says, “Holy God. He benched Gallagher, our captain, our senior captain because he didn’t play well.” His dad said or he said, “It doesn’t matter who you are. If you’re not going to do it to a certain standard, then it doesn’t work.” It’s tough to do but you got to make tough decisions. If you’re not willing to make tough decisions for the team and the flip side. I’ll hear people say that the kids are a different generation now. That’s a cop-out.

 I agree 100%. I had this conversation with a senior team at the Phoenix Suns.

I’ll give you two examples. I read the captain votes every single year. The way I do captains, they’re going to put a name on a piece of paper. They go to write the name down and they go to write why. If they don’t write why, I don’t pay any attention to it. That hasn’t changed in 30-some years of doing this. The guy is still writing down who they have a ton of respect for on how they work and how they conduct themselves, even guys that they don’t get along with.

That guy that maybe doesn’t want to work and the guy that’s jamming him in practice to work harder. He’s still voting for him as the team MVP or as the captain. He’s still picking the character guy to put up on a pedestal. I addressed this at a lecture I did for a bank of managers of a North Country Bank. Before going to it, I read an article that talked to some players who were going to the training camp for the Kansas City Chiefs.

In the article, to make it short, it was about how tough that camp was and how old school that training camp was. You had this pro bowler now talking about it because when he went in, he was like, “Why are we working so hard? This is stupid.” After he went through it and saw where it got him, the Super Bowl victories. Years later, there’s another young superstar coming in from college saying, “Why are we working so hard? We don’t have to do this.”

It shows you that there might be some pushback when it’s all said and done. The right type of guys want to do it the same way that we’ve all learned it has to be done. You have to earn it. It takes hard work. It takes all those things we talk about. We’re all human. We’d like to get it a little bit easier, but there’s not one of us who’s satisfied with a job well done and well earned.

It’s interesting. Weeks ago, I was there. Buffalo Bills were building a new stadium. I was up there doing some training. There’s a company called Legends that’s helping the bills sell the new stadium. I had all 40 salespeople for two days in their leadership team. A couple of the leadership teams I work with said, “Bring back old-school Lance and hard-ass Lance.” I said, “Okay. Make sure you’re good.”

I try to protect them a little bit. They watched me do and say these things. Not that we’re demeaning anybody. They said, “These kids now, these younger professionals are different.” I go, “They are not different. The same as you guys when you started. They haven’t changed. You’ve changed.” I said, “I’ll do an exercise at the very beginning of the session.” I stood up. I asked the leaders, “When you started in pro sports, how many people did you start with?” Each one started with 15 or 20 people. 

There were only 3 that were left out of the 15 or 20. I said, “You’d probably agree that some people left because they were showing the door, and some people left because they wanted to leave.” They said, “That’s right.” I had the top performer stand up. I had six of them stand up and a good group. They all had worked in pro sports. I started to ask them a question. For the top guys, I said, “What’s your number?” He got humble and I said, “What’s your sales number? Where are you on your board?”

He goes, “I only get $4,000,175.62.” Not to be exact. I go, “Where’s the next closest person to you? Just say it” He goes, “They’re within $250,000 away.” They’re less than $250,000. I said, “Do you know exactly what the score is?” I went down the next three people and there were 40 people in the room. The next three top people said the same and they knew exactly what their number was. Top performers keep score, and that’s no different than what I was or you were. We keep score.

We know where we are. We know where we stand. People haven’t changed. You can expect a lot from people. I want to comment back to Gallagher for a second. I don’t know if I told you this before. I don’t want the audience to think that you and I have sat down and had monster cups of coffee. We’ve had conversations and passing. I may have said this to you before. If I recall correctly, Gallagher had a chance to play pro hockey early or make his graduation. If he went and played, he missed that last part of his senior year, hanging with the guy and graduating. His mother will never forget the advice you gave. What did you tell him?

I can’t remember. That was quite a few years ago.

I didn’t mean to put you on the spot. I remembered. Wasn’t it like he stayed?

I think he pointed out like for him at that time because everybody’s different. That’s not a perfect answer in terms of the end of the year like that. With Gal, that year, he was pretty banged up. We went to the final four. He was there. I wasn’t sure how much juice he had left. He had done enough that I didn’t think he needed to go at the end. He didn’t need to miss the experience with his buddies. I didn’t think it was going to do anything better for him professionally. I also was being honest with him. Sometimes, you have to take care of your players in the sense that you try and put people in a position to succeed and not fail, or you keep him out of a risk to fail.

His mom will always remember. What his mom said to me, she wanted him to experience the rest of college because he played so much hockey. I went back to where she was working and I stayed there not long ago. She just retired. It was an interesting story like that six degrees of Mark Taylor. Somebody that knew you. For the audience, this is 500 miles away. I had just run to this very nice lady who worked at a Marriott at we just got talking. In her experience with Hobart years before my son and before I met, but I thought that was an interesting story that ties into all this too.

Let’s tie back a couple of more questions, then we’ll paint the picture a little bit to what we’re on because you said ownership. I’d said I never saw you ever afraid, regardless of the status of the player. You seem to make decisions. At the Naval Academy, they teach what’s the difference between the ship and the crew. At the Naval Academy, they don’t teach the crews more important. They said the ship was the leader, and then the crews built around it. It sounds like you make decisions sometimes for the crew and the ship. You’ve got to be both.

For me, you’re here to protect the program. The players are the program and the program is the players. I’ll say it to young assistants. There are times you have to make decisions and it can’t just be what’s the right thing here for this one guy because you have other guys on the team. People say, “How do you get good goalies year after year?” I said, “For one, I don’t look at goalies any different than defensemen or forwards. I don’t treat them any differently. They’re in a different position. They have different challenges of the position than other positions.”

As I say to the goalies, “The decision I’m going to make with you is no different than the decision I’m going to make with a defenseman. I have to look at the big picture.” Exactly what they do in the Navy is how I do it. It gives me guardrails to operate on too because you’re human. You got feelings in there. You also have to say, “What’s best for the program?” Usually, if you stay within those parameters, you’ll be making decision for the group.

Even though I’d like to play this guy here, you still got to remember, there are eighteen other guys out there. Who do they want playing? You have to balance that together. Sometimes those eighteen guys want you to play maybe the guy that deserves a shot. Maybe there’s a guy that talent-wise, you think is a little bit better. You feel the group wants the guy that deserves a shot to play. If that’s the case, you play him because you’re using the same equation as what’s best for the group. For me, I’ve always been there with it. Even like you were saying that overtime game. Part of me was I believed it. The other part was these guys had done so much. They couldn’t fail me. It was so easy to be so calm in that game.

I felt calm as a spectator.

If we lost, I wouldn’t have felt. You can’t say you wouldn’t have felt any different, but the level of satisfaction I had for the group that I was with wouldn’t have changed my thought of them because to win, you go to be good. You go to have some very special mojo or chemistry or whatever you want to call it, and you go to be lucky. For me, going into the overtime game, the one game this year that went into four over times.

That would have been tough. That’s right.

I don’t think of all the stuff we did to lose that one. I would have felt bad for the guys. I don’t know if that makes sense. As a coach, I feel like if they’ve given you everything, win or lose. That’s where I want to be as a coach. I know what it’s like in ’09. We lost and I thought we deserved to win. That was an awesome group. We didn’t have a locker. We didn’t have the mojo that the other team had. That was a special group. They’re a special group to me. Win or loss, I look at them the same way. That’s a championship team in my book.

It’s interesting as I watch things now as I got older, you go back to that ship or crew conversation. I went to a lot of games and I watched every game for 4 or 5 years. That’s as much as I watch anything. I do a lot in pro sports. Our business does. Sometimes I don’t go to games anymore because I get tired of doing stuff, but there’s a thing about trust. I was wondering if you could comment on this because I always find leaders are in 1 or 2 camps with the word trust.

There’s that group of leaders that will give you all the trust first, and then the people that work with them get pulled back over time. Some leaders will only give you a little bit of trust and you have to build it up. What camp do you fall in? Do you give people the benefit of the other first or do you have them earn it? What do you think there?

I would say I’m probably in between there. There’s a level of trust. For me, I have the privilege. I’ve recruited the guys. I don’t think it’s any different in the business world if you’ve hired someone. If you can’t give them a little level of trust coming in the door, you’ve done a pretty crappy job of hiring them. In recruiting, the same thing with me.

Nobody is perfect. You’re going to make mistakes hiring someone. You’re going to make mistakes recruiting somebody and people can change within months and life can change people. Things can happen. The bottom line is they should have acquired a level of trust in that process. When guys come in, I have expectations and I have trust in them already, but they still have to keep earning them more. Every time they earn it, you have to give it to them.

I was thinking also, Coach. I’ve watched your teams on the ice. I’ve been watching hockey for a while. I don’t know how to play hockey, but I watched it. I watched guys' coaches pinch and only show a level of trust. I’ve watched you consistently and maybe I’m reading this wrong. I think it was 2019 or 2018 and you’re in the frozen forward, Steven Point.

You’re playing your fourth line all the way through. Fast forward to the championship game years ago, the national championship game. The fourth line scored game one in goal and overtime. When I think of trust with you, I don’t watch you pinch down. You suited them up. I’m trusting you. I watched you wear teams out because you play four lines. Everybody plays. Can you talk about that piece a little bit? There are two different philosophies. That carries over to business too.

I don’t want to say one is right or the other one. For me, I did the camp that I was brought up in. Especially in our team, how we go about things is everybody matters. Everybody as a piece of this. This group, their celebration for each other, and the joy they had in each guy’s success was infectious. For me, you can’t say everybody matters and then show they don’t matter as much.

True leadership shows when everyone matters and everyone knows it.

It’s like, “Everybody matters,” then the guy gets up to take his tee shot and you say, “You sit back down,” and let him shoot. You’re being a hypocrite. Even the players know. As you said, everybody keeps score. Those fourth-line guys know who the first-line guy is and vice versa. When that first-line guy is on the bench, he’s rooting for that other guy. When that first-line guy stepped out, maybe to score that tying goal, you want to make sure that fourth-line guy is rooting for him and that he’s going to do it.

That’s a two-way street. As you said, in the business world, everybody is keeping score. Everybody knows where they fit, but everybody has a big piece of it, especially in my world, these kids have watched enough pro sports. They’ve seen enough. The guys on a third line score in the Stanley Cup winner. They know it could be them.

One time, it was said to me. I don’t know if it was my Coach Terry Martin or if it was Brian McCutcheon. One of them said, “You’re all first-liners. If you’re the fourth line going against the fourth line, you got to be the better first line, fourth line.” It was confusing at the time but I knew what he meant because if you’re matching up line A versus line A, line B versus line B, and line C versus line C, each line has to outperform the other line.

In the end, which one is more important? Maybe the two first lines are equal. The two second lines are equal. I’ve always been a big believer in the sense that if your third and fourth lines are better than other people’s third and fourth lines. You’re going to win a lot of hockey games. That’s not a Mark Taylorism. Brian McCutcheon, who I played for and then worked with at Cornell, we used to have a line that we would practice and they would wear green.

Three guys would call them the money line. They weren’t always a draft picks. They weren’t always a super line, but game in and game out, those guys delivered a consistent level of play. They were a money line. They weren’t the high scoring guys, but they were a money line. A lot of times because game in and game out, they were always earning money.

All that ties back to ownership and the culture of every ship and crew just like we talked about. The reason I brought up ship and crew is because we teach it a lot in our methodology. I have a lot of things in my house that are interesting things that have come from Hobart. When you graduate from Hobart, you get an oars.

I also have another interesting oar in my house. I don’t know if the Tyson boys are all skilled laborers or not. You also have given probably some gifts to seniors that mean something on their journey. This has to do with ownership, but this has to do with these life lessons we opened up with. Would you expand a little bit on what I’m talking about? I can’t say I can pull it all together. I’ve heard boats, oars, and tools. I have them and I’m not allowed to touch them.

Certainly, that championship year, what I try and do with the guys is every year, do something different in terms of a team theme. Some place for them to go mentally that’s different than the same old talk. That year, we’re building a ship. In order to build the ship, you got to start with a certain type of wood. It’s a way of all the things you need to do as a team.

The easiest way to probably describe it for the audience is we did it one year ago for building the house. You got to dig the hole. You got to do the foundation. You got to do the foundation right. Otherwise, the house won’t be any good, so on and so forth. We built a ship. Your son’s last year. Before the playoffs, we said, “Now we need oars.”

We bought the wood. The guys had to carve their own oars. Some guys did a good job. Some guys did a terrible job, but the bottom line is there’s that mental state for them to get lost in that reinforces all the principles of how you build something that’s going to be very successful. It makes it fun. I remember when I was working at Cornell and Joe Nieuwendyk would come back for the summertime.

As a young rookie coach, I’d ask him, “What are you guys doing in the National Hockey League for drills and stuff?” Joe was like, “We do the same stuff.” As time goes on and you’re around more high-level athletes, everybody just wants to have fun. I don’t think it makes any difference when you’re in the corporate world. You want to have fun coming to work. We have that sign over our locker room door, “Nobody has more fun than us.”

Although, you know my expectations for working. It’s not working. It’s competing. Our guys have an extreme level of work and compete, but they have a fun time doing it. They love coming to the rink. To me, that’s a recipe you got to have even in the work world. You want people coming through your office store, excited for the day, and willing to compete but having a blast with all the people they’re with every day.

Building Tools For Life

Everybody wants that. I would agree, whether we’re engaging in the brains, having a contest, or whatever it is. I agree with that. Talk about the tool belts because that’s another life lesson there. My mom was like, “That is the most profound thing you’ve ever seen.” My mom is a super fan of Hobart’s. I think she’s super proud.

Again, it was that mental thing of, “Give them a tool belt, then over each year, they added different tool to it.” That’s what you’re doing life. You’re getting a tool belt. As time goes on, you keep acquiring these life skills. To me, they’re signified by a tool. Also, I looked at it as it’d be something neat when these guys are 50 years old. They’re going to hang up a picture in their new house and they grabbed their old Hobart tool belt. It reminds them of the good time they had with their teammates.

I had a very special time in my childhood and my hockey experience. I keep it simple. As a parent, your responsibility is to provide a cherished time and your child’s life. My coaches did it for me. They provided a time in my hockey playing life that I cherish. I don’t pretend like in stats and stuff like that. I pay more attention to stats of players I’m recruiting than my own. I’ve always looked at it because every now and then, I’ll get stumped.

Somebody will say, “What’s your record?” I don’t know. I take the approach of, I’m not a great golfer, but I love golf. If I focused on the birdie that I got in the last hole, I probably won’t have much luck getting the birdie on the next one. For me, I always focused on the next soul. At the end of the round, I’ll look back and say, “I did all right.”

If you go back to everything you said, we started with life skills and life lessons. We talked about culture, that ownership and that trust, ship versus crew, and then that theme back to the individual again. I was just thinking, “What did my dad leave me?” I still have the toolbox. When I got married, he bought me a toolbox. I had to handbrake and I still have it. It’s a great toolbox. I’ve never gotten another toolbox. That’s my toolbox.

That’s what it’s about. You certainly can’t argue like that going back to what drives success and when your most important asset is people. Back to what we originally talked about, you’re turning those people over, so they have to buy into this process. The buy in is the first step because it’s transactional, then it becomes about ownership. That ownership is handed off from class to class until it completely turns over.

There’s that ownership that’s still with the culture. To me, that was so profound. It is simple, but simple is genius at the end of the day. That’s what it’s about. It’s not life and complexity. It’s life and simplicity. It is what it’s all about, isn’t it? My last three questions, ready? First things first, if you are gifting a book to somebody, you said you’re a learner. If you got to gift one book, what book is it? What are you giving away?

I don’t know if I could just gift one.

You go to gift one. You go to make a decision.

I’m going to give you a category, Unbroken. I don’t know if you’ve read that book. You saw the movie. That one probably moved me as any book. Now, if I was giving it to a young coach, the book Simply the Best is a great book to learn. You mentioned staying out of Marriott with Mrs. Gallagher and The Marriott’s Way.

I read that book. It’s a great book.

A lot of good stuff in that. Those would probably be three and there’s so many more. We’re talking about ships. It would probably be Unbroken because it’s a heck of a character story.

He was a naval officer or something.

When he was shot down and imprisoned. The whole story was wow to me.

I got that book marked down.

That one there probably moved me as much as any book has ever moved me in terms of saying, “I can be way better.”

You’re up against that. I love that. Song in your head. You got that song like going into the big game. It’s the song you put in your head. I’m sure you hear all kinds of music at this point with generations of players have but what’s your song?

Probably Country Road by Johnny Denver. That’s the one that drives my wife nuts that I play over and over. I’m just kicking around the house.

Defining Success

We have a cabin down South Ohio, and as soon as we get into the foothills of the Appalachians, I play that song. I’m with you. I don’t even remember when that was popular or me even liking it. For some reason, it’s on my playlist now. If you had to say grandchild, niece, or nephew that’s 6, 7, or 8 years old, “Uncle Mark, what success mean?” You say what?

It’s giving your full effort to the best of your abilities and doing it the right way. That’s a piggyback copycat of John Wooden’s recipe for success. Some play for me. It’s what we preach. Full effort and complete character. I learned that as a kid. I grew up, I was shoving out the gutters in the barn. You’re shoveling cow manure and make sure the gutters clean. You’re mowing the lawn, make sure the lines are straight. You sweep in the floor, sweep it clean. You take it to the extreme when you’re doing something very special. You do it to that same level.

For me, it’s an easy recipe. If you give something your best effort and you do it with the right type of character. You don’t try and shortcut. You don’t cheat. You have a good attitude and good character. I don’t think you can mess up. I know that even if you get a C in a class because for me, people say, “A’s and C’s.” I’m like, “I’ve got more respect for a C student that’s capable of C’s giving me a C than a kid that’s capable of A’s giving me B’s.” Give me what you’re fully capable of. I’ve seen so many of those people that give what they’re fully capable of and didn’t never hurt some.

I have a brother that’s a professor and an older sister that’s a retired teacher. I went through it. I had some great teachers and they were proud of you if you gave everything. It wasn’t the highest grade, but it was your highest grade. Those good teachers thought the same way about you. To me, that’s all I asked for the guys. If they give me everything, win or lose. People say, “What was the turning point for you guys this year?” I don’t know what it was, but it was Babson. My guys played awesome.

We outshot them 3 to 1. I don’t know why we didn’t win that game. I saw much of my alums were at the game. I saw them and they’re like, “Coach, you won those games, you just got to walk away from.” I said to the guys, “We get back on the bus.” After the game, I saw the Babson coach and one of his players. His dad was coming home from hospice.

My player, Artie had gotten word that his dad was getting closer to the frontline in Ukraine. I remember saying to the guys, “That Babson’s kid father’s coming home to die.” Artie, your father’s still fighting. Maybe the hockey gods felt they needed it more than we did.” That was it. That was the last time we talked about that game and we never lost again.

That was the trend. That was it. Coach, thank you so much for your time. I cherish the time with you. Many good lessons in here. I appreciate the investment you made in my family. Thank you so much.

Great seeing you guys again and we’ll be in touch. Take care.

Thanks, Coach.


Important Links:

About Mark Taylor

Edward Jeremiah Award (AHCA Division III Men's Coach of the Year): 2023, 2024

Edward Jeremiah Award Finalist: 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2022, 2023, 2024

NEHC Coach of the Year: 2022, 2023, 2024

ECAC West Coach of the Year: 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2015, 2016

Just the fourth man to lead the Hobart hockey program, Mark Taylor continues to add to his reputation as the most successful coach in Hobart hockey history. In 23 seasons, he has compiled a record of 406-176-55, including back-to-back national championships in 2023 and 2024, the first two titles in program history. Taylor has guided the Statesmen to 13 NCAA tournament bids.

The two-time AHCA Division III Coach of the Year, Taylor was inducted into the Hobart Hall of Fame with the Class of 2023. He is a 10-time finalist for the National Coach of the Year award and has been named conference coach of the year nine times.

When Taylor was hired to lead the Statesmen in July of 2000, he inherited a program that had suffered seven consecutive losing seasons. In 22 of his 23 seasons, Taylor has registered at least 10 wins. He has produced all 10 of the programs 20-win seasons. Taylor’s team won a program-record 29 games on its way to claiming the national title in 2023.

A tremendous motivator and recruiter, Taylor has mentored 72 all-conference selections and 27 all-rookie team selections. All 21 of Hobart's All-Americans have come during his time in Geneva. Six Statesmen have been named conference player of the year under Taylor’s leadership, including Craig Levey ’05, Shawn Houde ’08, Matthew Wallace ’11, Mac Olson ’16, Luke Aquaro ’25 and Artem Buzoverya '24.. Aquaro and Buzoverya were the runner up for the Sid Watson Award in 2023 and 2024, respectively. Taylor has had four players earn conference defensive player of the year recognition and eight players named the rookie of the year.

Taylor's charges have also excelled in the classroom, boasting 241 conference all-academic team honors, 52 AHCA All-American Scholars awards and two CoSIDA Academic All-Americans.

Committed to enriching the lives of his student-athletes, Taylor supervises a team trip overseas to Europe every four years. In 2004-05, the Statesmen traveled to Germany and the Czech Republic, in 2008-09 the team visited Switzerland and France, and in 2012-13 the Statesmen traveled to Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Germany. In 2016-17 the team explored France and Switzerland. Along with experiencing the countries culture’s first-hand, Hobart played exhibition games against local teams.

Last year, the Statesmen recorded their eighth 20-win season in the past 10 years. Hobart won 28 games, second most in program history and captured its second consecutive national championship with a 2-0 win over Trinity. The Statesmen ended the year on a program-record 14-game win streak and were unbeaten in their final 25 games of the year. Hobart was 16-1-1 in New England Hockey Conference play, winning their third consecutive NEHC regular season title. The Statesmen captured their third NEHC tournament title, defeating Skidmore 5-0 The Statesmen finished the year with a program record 0.97 GAA and a .958 save percentage. The 30 goals allowed this year are the fewest in program history. Hobart's 13 shutouts this season matched the NCAA Division III record for shutouts in a season. The Statesmen's penalty kill set a NCAA Division III record allowing just three power-play goals on 95 attempts. They killed off 96.8 percent of their opponents power-play opportunities.

In 2022-23, Hobart recorded their seventh 20-win season in the past nine years. The Statesmen finished with a program record 29 wins and captured the first national championship in program history with a 3-2 victory over Adrian in overtime. Hobart was 16-2-0 in New England Hockey Conference play, winning their second consecutive NEHC Regulatr season title. Hobart then rolled through the NEHC tournament, defeating Babson 5-1 to capture their second NEHC tournament title. The Statesmen finished the year with a then program record 1.14 GAA and a .947 save percentage. The 37 goals Hobart allowed were the fewest in program history at the time.

In 2021-22, the Statesmen recorded their sixth 20-win season in the past eight years, finishing with a record of 20-6-3. Hobart earned their seventh straight and 11th overall bid to the NCAA tournament. Hobart advanced to the quarterfinals after earning an at-large bid. The Statesmen were 13-2-2 in New England Hockey Conference play, winning their first NEHC Regular season title.

The 2019-20 season marked Hobart's fifth 20-win season in the past six years. The Statesmen earned their sixth straight and 10th overall bid to the NCAA tournament. Hobart finished the year ranked sixth in the final poll, posting a 20-5-3 overall record.

The 2018-19 season marked Hobart's fourth 20-win season in the past five years. Hobart The Statesmen earned their fifth straight and ninth overall trip to the NCAA tournament. Hobart advanced to the national semifinals after earning an at-large bid. The Statesmen ranked No .5 in the final poll and fourth in the final poll.

In 2017-18, the Statesmen logged their 16th consecutive winning season. Hobart captured the NEHC Tournament title in its first season in the league. It was the Statesmen's fourth straight conference tournament title and fourth straight and eighth overall trip to the NCAA tournament. Hobart ranked No. 7 in the nation in the final and polls of the season.

The 2016-17 season marked Hobart's third straight 20-win season. Hobart captured the ECAC West tournament title for the third straight season and earned the program's seventh NCAA Tournament appearance. The Statesmen were ranked ninth in the nation in the final poll and 10th in the final poll.

In 2015-16, Taylor led the Statesmen to another 21-win season and the sixth NCAA tournament appearance in program history. Hobart posted a 12-3-0 conference record, garnering the ECAC West regular season and tournament titles for the second year in a row and fourth time in program history. Hobart downed Neumann 3-0 and Utica 5-0 to capture the tournament title.

In 2014-15, Taylor led the Statesmen to a 21-win season, earning the fifth NCAA tournament appearance in program history. Hobart posted a 12-3-0 conference record to finish first in the ECAC West regular season standings and then topped Neumann 2-1 in overtime of the ECAC West tournament championship to capture its third ECAC West tournament title.

In 2013-14, Taylor guided the Statesmen to a 14-9-4 overall record and advanced to the ECAC West tournament semifinals. It was Hobart's 12th consecutive winning season.

In 2012-13, Taylor guided Hobart to a 19-5-2 overall record and a share of the ECAC West regular season title. It was the Statesmen's 11th consecutive winning season. Only two teams in the history of the Hobart hockey program earned more victories than the 2012-13 team.

In the 2011-12 season, Taylor guided the Statesmen to a 16-10-1 overall record and captured the ECAC West Championship for the second time in program history. Hobart finished the season ranked No. 9 in the poll, No. 13 in the poll and No. 8 in the NCAA East Region Rankings.

An active member of the hockey community, Taylor has coached in the USA Hockey Development program for several years, most recently the 2003 Select 14 Development Camp in Rochester, and mentored monthly clinics for Geneva Youth Hockey.

In the summer of 2005, Taylor was a featured coach at the A.P.O.C. Aboriginal Prospects Opportunity Camp, in Quebec. The mission of the summer camp is to expose Cree and Aboriginal players to Junior A and college coaches.

In 2023, Taylor guided the United States to a silver medal at the FISU World University Games in Lake Placid. The U.S. hockey team went 5-2-0 in the tournament picking up wins over Great Britain, Korea, Kazakhstan Hungray and Japan. The Americans won Goup B and won just their second medal in the the tournament.

Prior to joining the Hobart family, Taylor served five seasons as the top assistant coach at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. With the River Hawks, he was involved in all aspects of coaching and was in charge of recruiting. A highly successful recruiter, he attracted five players to the program who were selected in the NHL draft, including the Montreal Canadiens 1999 first round pick (13th overall), Ron Hainsey.

Prior to joining the staff at UMass-Lowell, Taylor spent five seasons as the top assistant coach at Cornell University. Under the supervision of then Cornell head coach and current Buffalo Sabres Associate Coach Brian McCutcheon, he helped guide the Big Red to an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Taylor began his coaching career in 1987 with single-season stints at Middlebury College, Brown University, and the University of Vermont.

A 1985 graduate of Elmira College, Taylor was the Soaring Eagles MVP and an All-ECAC selection as a senior. He transferred to Elmira after a pair of National Junior College Athletic Association Championships at SUNY Canton, earning All-American defenseman honors for the Northmen. Following his graduation from Elmira, Taylor played two seasons for Ange in the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation.

A native of Canton, N.Y., Taylor and his wife, Lauren, have three sons, Alexander, Dylan, and Jonathan.


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