This spring one of our Lead ‘Em Up squads brought home a state championship. More impressive than winning the state championship was how the North Muskegon Girls Soccer program did it.

We recently released a podcast episode with Head Coach Caleb Parnin that is a must listen for all coaches serious about building a winning team culture. Check it out here!  

Special culture played out

The North Muskegon girls soccer program has had a run of recent success but couldn’t quite get over the hump and get to the state championship level. In order to do so, they knew they had to come together, raise the bar, and lead like never before. Coach Parnin and his team set the foundation early on and once the standards were set the team locked in.

With the help of our foundational exercise, The Green Team, North Muskegon adopted the team motto of “All-In”. And it wasn’t just the team who did so. The parents and entire community did so too.

A common site among the team, parents, and community was the color green. Despite the team colors being blue and gold, players wore green head-bands and green dots as a symbol of their team’s standards and commitment to one another. Parents wore green wrist bands, decorated cars with green and the “All-In” motto. It took on its own life and became a unifying force within the community.

A special team like North Muskegon is built upon special leadership. Senior Hope Johnson provided just that. Hope showed up in a special way for her team, so much so that Coach Parnin nominated her for our national Green 13 award, and she won! In a special moment shared on social media, Hope was captured on video after learning she had been nominated for and awarded the Green 13 Award yelling to her teammates, “Chick-Fil-A on me!”.

Your best players have to be your best leaders. Great leaders not only impact their current teammates but they also leave a legacy for the future players. In our podcast episode with Coach Parnin he shared something truly special Hope did this past year. She shared the idea of getting donuts and writing birthday cards to future members of the program.

Getting players to perform at their best

In the state championship game North Muskegon dressed 25 players for the game. It’s impossible to play all 25, and the players knew that, but there wasn’t one complaint about playing time. Not once all season long.

One of the things that stood out and separated North Muskegon was the engagement and enthusiasm displayed by the team members all season long. Coach Parnin said his team had the loudest bench imaginable; and it was all player driven, player led. Each player felt valued by the coaching staff no matter what their on field contribution was, and in turn they poured their heart and soul into the team. There is a difference made when people feel loved and valued from all directions. Players will perform at their best when they feel loved the most.

North Muskegon was a team filled with contributors and they recognized the importance of celebrating the contributions of all. Not all 25 players played a ton of minutes, but the team recognized that contributions come in all different ways and dynamics. Coach Parnin and his staff did an incredible job of casting the vision and celebrating the players who fulfilled their role to the best of the ability.

Special teams are built by special people. It’s why we believe you build the people first and they will build your team. A great example of this occurred this year when Coach Parnin was approached by an athlete who wasn’t on the team previously, was a high level golfer, had a devastating knee injury the previous year, hadn’t played soccer in a long time, didn’t care about playing time, but just wanted to part of the team. That’s special. When you have special people, you can accomplish special things.

Another key factor was the intentional mentorship which took place. That which gets praised well gets repeated. Coach Parnin did a phenomenal job of not only praising the leadership he was seeing from his players, but doing so in a way that stuck. Instead of simply saying “Great job”, Coach Parnin was very intentional to praise what they did that was great. It’s a great reminder on the power of intentionality. Explaining to an athlete what they did, why it was great, and how it demonstrated leadership is so much more powerful than simply saying “Great job.”

The difference maker

The legacy of the 2021 North Muskegon girls soccer team will be their special culture which produced a state championship. It’s bigger than a game. When we hear about what took place with North Muskegon this year it’s on full display what took place was bigger than the game. The beauty of this is when you do the things which are bigger than the game, the game itself usually plays out better.

A team can’t rely on talent alone. Yes you need talent to be successful, but it takes more than just talent to reach your full potential. North Muskegon had more talented teams in previous years but they performed better this year. Building a special culture takes intentional work; from the off-season, pre-season, to the end of the season. Doing the foundational work, building the momentum, and then revisiting throughout the year goes a long way to building the culture North Muskegon has.

As our friend Mano Watso from PGC Basketball says, “The fastest way to shortcut success is through mentorship and advice.” Use this advice. Pour into your players from a leadership, character, heart standpoint. It becomes the difference maker.

It is the difference maker.

Success leaves clues and this podcast episode with Coach Parnin is full of them, we highly encourage you to take a listen. Having the right resources is crucial to building the winning culture you desire. The summer time is an optimal time to lay your team’s leadership and character foundation. Don’t leave your team’s potential left untapped.


We want to provide you a tool to keep your players engaged, growing as leaders and continuing to feel connected to their team/teammates; The 21-Day Leadership Playbook. 

This FREE 21-Day Leadership Playbook is filled with various Lead ‘Em Up exercises, uniquely modified for players to do on their own, as part of a team-wide exercise.

Download your free copy right here!