Dan O’Brien Head Coach
Santa Clara University Baseball
- Entering his 4th year for the Broncos, 18th year as a Head Coach
- Has won eleven ‘Coach of the Year’ awards over the last five years
- Previously the Head Coach at UC San Diego and was by far the winningest coach in program history, holding a career record of 454-283-1 (.616)
- As a player, led the Tritons to a 33-8 record and 3rd place at the College World Series. He led the team in home runs, was a 2x team captain and won the John Rolph Memorial Award
“He is a phenomenal baseball coach, but an even better person. He embodies the type of values Santa Clara holds so dear, and that manifests itself in his coaching style and philosophy. He is quite accustomed to running a successful baseball program at a top academic institution and is lifting the program to new heights.”
– SCU Athletic Director, Dan Coonan
Dan O’Brien was appointed Head Coach of Santa Clara Baseball with a very specific directive: to transform the team and its culture. Within three years, the team has achieved a winning season record and their best in a decade.
His first step in creating change was to remove all references and symbols of the previous culture, even the clothing brand was changed. This signified a clean sweep of the way things used to be, as the entirely new symbolism paved the way for a new beginning.
“Team culture is everything to us. I believe that when we win championships we are going to do so because of our cohesiveness and our ability to work together as a unit. Not because we worked harder in batting practice or we were really good as a coaching staff with strategy, but more because we focused on the human relationships in our program.”
When Dan was a player, coaching was different. He played at a time when it was the norm for coaches to dictate to their team with an autocratic style and one-way communication: “do this because I said so”. He realized that he had to coach differently than he was coached himself.
“Any research you do on the generation we’re coaching now shows that model simply won’t work. More than ever we want to have the best relationship possible with our student-athletes. As a coaching staff we want to find better ways to communicate with our athletes and how to get them to perform better. That is why it’s so important for us to get to know our players.”
“On top of performing better as a team, we just have a lot more fun together, we understand each other, we accept each other for who we are. We know that we all have strengths and we all have things we need to work on. This helps us recognize that while you might not agree with somebody, you now look at them for their strengths rather than for the things they do that you don’t like.”
Dan takes his role extremely seriously and prefers to see himself as an educator rather than a coach. He believes it’s his job to help his student-athletes develop critical life skills and ultimately use the time within his program as an opportunity to positively affect their lives.
While truly connecting with one another has always been a priority in Dan’s programs, over this past season they made a concerted effort on the critical relationships that exist within a baseball team. There were more one-on-one interactions, more team activities away from the field and more meetings to discuss team dynamics. This is also where Dan feels he has the biggest influence. “It’s fun to compete, I love to win, I love that my job is outdoors. However, I truly believe that our meeting rooms are where we can really have an impact on lives.”
“Right around the time we started working with Bo Hanson and his company, I changed my focus from winning games to really caring about our student-athletes. Ironically as soon as I started caring more about our student-athletes we started winning more games, we started being more successful. Athlete Assessments really helped us connect with one another. Bo did an outstanding job helping our staff and players understand how important the team dynamic is to be successful.”
– Dan O’Brien
See more in the online video interview.
This article was featured in our latest People+Sport Magazine: Team Success Edition which is available to read online and in PDF here.
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