When John U. Bacon played for the Ann Arbor Huron High School River Rats, he never scored a goal. Fast-forward to 2000, when Bacon took over the school’s downtrodden boys hockey team. They were the worst team in America at 0-22-3, having not won a game in over a year-and-a-half.
There was nowhere to go but up.
Bacon used the team’s underdog status as motivation, which inspired players to work harder than ever as the team excelled beyond its wildest goals.
How did all this come to be? It’s a true Ted Lasso meets the Mighty Ducks underdog story, one Bacon discussed as a keynote speaker of TCS Live 2022.
Bacon, a Michigan product who earned an honours degree in history from the University of Michigan in 1986, and a Master’s in Education in 1994, has a resume as long as Santa’s nice list. If you thought your LinkedIn profile was impressive, get ready for this: Bacon has worked nearly three decades as a writer, public speaker, and college instructor, winning awards for all three.
In 2005-06, the Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellowship named him the first recipient of the Benny Friedman Fellowship for Sports Journalism. Over the years John earned numerous state and national awards for his work, including “Notable Sports Writing” in The Best American Sports Writing in 1998 and 2000.
Since becoming a freelancer, Bacon has contributed to more than two dozen national publications, including stories on Formula One racing in Australia for The New York Times, Japanese hockey for ESPN Magazine, and Hemingway’s Michigan summer home for Time. He has authored 12 books on sports, business, health, and history, five of which are New York Times best sellers, including Let Them Lead: Unexpected Lessons in Leadership from America’s Worst High School Hockey Team, the topic of his presentation.
Tickets to TCS Live 2023, taking place June 22-24 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor are ON SALE NOW! Click below for details.
With all due respect to Bacon’s other accomplishments, he’s likely best known as the real life Ted Lasso for his unconventional coaching methods that turned around the Ann Arbor Huron High School River Rats.
“The first order of business I had after taking over was to change the attitude,” explained Bacon. “Four months before the season began, I sent a letter out to every in-coming player congratulating them on their upcoming tryout for the hardest working high school hockey team in America.”
Bacon put the players in charge of team goals, team discipline, and in his third year, he let them coach an entire game. He coached the team his way and in just three seasons, Huron High had surpassed 95% of the nation’s teams and finished with the best record in school history.
This is a very special TCS Live presentation, one leaders of all kinds can embrace to motivate their teams to work harder, work together, and take responsibility for their own success.
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