FL girls’ hockey team adopts culture of excellence

Head coach Ryan Sauter congratulates the Grand Rapids goalie last Thursday after a Ranger win.
Head coach Ryan Sauter congratulates the Grand Rapids goalie last Thursday after a Ranger win.


Seven: the number of seasons since Forest Lake celebrated a winning season of 16-7-3, and the consecutive winning streak of the hockey girls this season.

Three: it’s the third season under head coach Ryan Sauter.

5-18-3: the win/loss record of the Ranger girls the past two seasons.

10-7-2: the current record of the Rangers  with six regular-season games remaining.

366: a part of the title of Bailey’s published work “366 Days of Excellence,” of which he and Sauter are using to teach their hockey players how to succeed both on and off the ice.

The Champion’s

Sauter brought Bailey in last season by introducing a new way of thinking to help turn around a struggling program. The plan centered around weekly meetings based on an online lesson plan called the

Champion’s Culture.

Comprised on daily lessons of character, principles and a strive for excellence in everyday actions, the Champion’s Culture is a guiding tool, not only for the hockey arena, but for life after high school. Examples include: movies of the day with underlying messages (i.e. The Pursuit of Happyness), inspirational videos, songs or speeches and messages like “Champions don’t wait for the ‘gifts’… they grab it” and “Can you at any moment sacrifice what you are for what you can be?”

Lessons also include how to handle social media tools, an everyday opportunity and liability in the modern-day athlete’s life. Even 2012 Heisman Trophy Winner Johnny Manziel received heat after posting a questionable photo on Twitter. Bailey and Sauter hope to avoid with their athletes.

The idea for incorporating Bailey’s Champion’s Culture came from Sauter, who took on as head coach at Forest Lake wanting to do more than improve just the win/loss record of the Rangers.

“This program has just been screaming for something like this,” Sauter said. “In the past, it’s always been ‘ah it’s girls hockey, we’re not going to come and watch you,’ and they’re tired of it. They’re tired of being called girls hockey players, they want to be called hockey players.”

Bailey’s background

With fifteen years of experience at every level of athletic play, from elementary-school to professional, Bailey’s life work is reflected in his “five pillars of excellence”: character, direction, discipline, relationships, and leadership.

As owner of the Institute for Character and Ethics and executive director at The Center for Athletic Excellence, Bailey spent time incorporating his pillars and mindset into high school programs around the metro area, including Roseville hockey and Mounds View golf.

Sauter met Bailey while working at Roseville back in the mid-nineties when Steve Sertich, now in his seventh year as the Bemidji State women’s hockey coach, hired Bailey to work with the Raiders.

While at Roseville, Bailey and Sauter helped Sertich take a struggling program they deemed unproductive and dysfunctional and over the course of 3-4 years, return them to winning ways on the ice.

“I was hired on in 1995, and we saw improvement by 1997, but 1999 was a huge shift for the program and those athletes were successful on and off the ice for years to come until I left in 2003,” Bailey said.“People wanted a quick fix but a culture of excellence doesn’t happen overnight. You have to establish the foundation first and you’re going to see your share of ups and downs, but it can be exciting to see where it ends up.”

Including Roseville, Bailey has worked with more than 2,000 athletes. Of those, between 80-90 have gone on to play at the collegiate level, and most impressively, 40-50 became captains of those collegiate programs.

Buying in

A necessity in implementing and nurturing a program like the Champion’s Culture is support, or what Bailey calls “buying in.”

“You really need, not only the players, but the parents and the community behind this culture,” Bailey said. “It’s a group effort to build a strong and successful program and it helps to have everyone on board.”

Bailey and Sauter worked in the off-season with this season’s captains, seniors Abbi White and Amy Enrooth, on how to get the team involved and to help implement the change in attitude.
Enrooth said it was overwhelming at first, but after the first meeting, she was a believer.

“Coach Bailey showed us 25 characteristics of a non-champion,” Enrooth said. “It opened up a whole new pathway into how I was thinking because I realized I had some of those characteristics. Once we all heard some of them, we were like ‘Woah, we need to change our attitudes in order to do what we want to do’.”


Enrooth and White helped the team determine goals for the season and made a poster for the locker room as an everyday reminder. The goals include: scoring 75-plus goals, winning more games than lose and winning their first section game since 2001.

Forest Lake is closing in on those aspirations with its record at 10-7-2, having already doubled the squad’s wins from last year.

“It’s a great feeling to be part of team that’s so successful right now,” Enrooth said. “I really think we could end up at Excel [Energy Center for state] this year, and I hope we get to represent Forest Lake in front of all of our fans.”

Beyond hockey, succeeding in everyday life is also a message Sauter and Bailey want to stress to the girls. They said the wins on ice can translate to better decisions off the rink.

With just six regular-season games left, the coaches have only so many meetings with their players. In the meantime, they hope the girls continue to utilize the interactive website even when hockey is over.

“As we go through the Champion’s Culture meetings on our own without guest speakers, we continue to talk about ‘What do you do when you face adversity?’ and ‘What do you do when someone doesn’t like what you’ve done and you are the person in charge?’” Sauter said. “It’s just little life lessons that we’re trying to teach, and most of the girls have been very responsive.”

The Champion’s Culture website is http://www.4champions.net/