Culture and Character: The Legacy of the 2023 U.S. Men's National Team


This column by USA Lacrosse CEO Marc Riccio appears in the current edition of USA Lacrosse Magazine. Join our momentum.

I sat in the suite at Snapdragon Stadium next to U.S. Men’s National Team coach John Danowski. We watched the lacrosse on the field and talked strategy. Not X’s and O’s, but rather culture, character, team, trust and love.

“In a close game,” Danowski said, “I like to think those things make a difference.”  

He was so right.

The 2023 U.S. Men’s National Team came together in a way that was transformational for those athletes, coaches and USA Lacrosse. I spoke with players and coaches at the victory party after they beat Canada 10-7 to win gold. There were two consistent takeaways:

1 Team first. The name on the front of the jersey was more important than the name on the back. The small plays that mattered and didn’t land on a social media feed, the mentoring and friendships that developed between veteran and younger players — it was very clear the men in that room cared deeply about each other and they bought into the system.

2 › Gratitude. Players and coaches consistently thanked me for the opportunity. They were sincerely grateful to represent the USA, grateful for this transformational experience, grateful to be part of history and this team. Gratitude is a powerful force. There were no attitudes of expectation or superiority. There was genuine appreciation for what they had all just accomplished.

This coaching staff delivered a master class on how to take great players and mold them into a great team. Not an easy task in any sport (or business). And it starts with culture, character, team, trust and love. Each player wanted to compete and win not for his personal success, but for his teammates. 

And for that, I am the one who is grateful to these athletes and coaches. Thank you for caring more about the name on the front of the jersey. Thank you for putting team and USA Lacrosse first. You have taught us all valuable lessons.

The legacy of the 2023 U.S. Men’s National Team has not ended. It has just begun. And it is culture and character, along with great skill, that has made them world champions.


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