Thank You!

During my 4107km drive from New Brunswick to Saskatchewan I had a good amount of time to think and reflect on the past five years.  So in really no particular order here are some of my reflections and thoughts that occurred to me on my drive that I wanted to share.

First, how thankful I am to everyone who I met and interacted with. I have nothing but positives to say of my time with Athletics New Brunswick, the University of New Brunswick, and the Saint John Track Club. Throw in additional involvement with Coach New Brunswick and the Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic as well as dozens of other coaches, organizations, and amazing people and I just can’t convey my message of thanks enough. It definitely isn’t “good bye” but a “see you later” but again, thanks. 

Second, my thanks to the athletes and coaches that I interacted with. For some I was a personal coach or a head coach, and to others just a coach in the region that always wanted to see them raise their level of performance and pursue excellence in the daily training environment. For those who I got to work with your confidence and trust in me was always so appreciated. We achieved some amazing things together and I am very proud of the achievements by all.

Third, my lack of closure. I am not sure if this ever occurs. No matter the athletes, teams, programs, roles, and events I don’t think I will ever come out feeling like all was accomplished. Just as the perfect performance isn’t possible I don’t think I will ever be able to fully say that I and all those above achieved everything. I think there will always be a feeling of greater possibility. Always be more left on the table. And always feel that more can be accomplished. However, that leads into appreciation and being thankful for all that was achieved, accomplished, and all that transpired along the way. I was blessed to work with such amazing people and have the support to pursue all of our goals in a committed and collaborative manner. I definitely don’t feel like I achieved all that I wanted, point being I probably never could, but I am very proud of what was accomplished. 

Lastly, it was reconfirmed how important relationships and communication are in life. I cried a lot on my last evening in Saint John. I can be very emotional and nothing brings this out more than when I think about the people, the relationships, and the role that I play in the lives of many (and the role they played in mine) within my role as a coach. While many people thanked me and expressed their gratitude I tried to express the same to them. Their counter role in the relationship is what made us all successful. Their support to the programs. Their belief and confidence in me. Their confidence in the program goals and all personnel involved is what made it all work. My success and ability to move towards a new position within the coaching profession is as much their success as it is mine and my mentors and supporters. In between tears I tried to share that I am not sure where and what I will continue to accomplish in my life but everyone in my life – past, present, and future – has and will play a role and should share in my success.

I’ll leave it there and again say thanks. It was a pleasure and an honour to work for and with such amazing organizations and people and I look forward to bringing that with me to the latest role at the University of Saskatchewan. I apologize for the poor writing this was a quicker posting and as always if this results in my some further discussion don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

2016 to 2017 Thoughts & A Book List

2016! What a year!

I was reflecting on one of my flights home from Bahrain about how I needed to do a year end review. I know its cliche at times as a large number of people seem to do their own as well but lets be honest the majority of personal websites and blogs are more for the writer than the reader…although I do always hope that those few who do read the posts get some benefit from it beyond just knowing more about me and what thoughts go through my mind.

Bahrain 01

Bahrain 01

Last month, while I was presenting in Bahrain, we discussed balance as a coach. No, not the single foot stability type but rather the juggling of ones life that includes family, physical health, emotional and mental wellbeing, goals, responsibilities, relationships, and the list continues for quite some time always being highly individual (with no kids my list was quite different than the majority of coaches in Bahrain) but still something that all everyone struggles with. Coach, brother, uncle, son, boyfriend, student, board member, and mentor are just a few and finding time to balance them all is something that I know I don’t do the best job of. Usually I find I empty the pendulum method of focusing in on specific areas. This not only allows me to make huge strides in a single area but also recharges the battery for the other side. Maybe not the best long term strategy but its working. I am happy, healthy (not including the few pounds I need to lose), and overall proud of who I am, what I am doing, and what I have achieved so far.

Insta Top 9

Insta Top 9

This year I was lucky to travel quite a bit: Toronto, New Jersey, Phoenix, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Saskatoon x2, Vancouver, Portland, Oregon, Burnaby, Richmond, Bahrain, and Bradenton, Florida. All of these trips fit into one of three categories….family and friends, track and field, or coaching. I separate coaching from track and field because I have been doing more and more in the coach development side of things and actually find that whole area invigorating. Don’t get me wrong I love being an athletics coach and my town spent around the oval office is something I love but when working in my general “coaching” mode I get the chance to think about sports, situations, athletes, teams, and environments that are new and foreign to me. This challenges me to think far outside my normal box and scope of thought. Bahrain was one of those experiences where coach development was at the forefront and I like to think I did a good job and will get more opportunities to be in that role in the future. I like to think that I have had a positive impact on those athletes, teams, and coaches that I have been privileged to work with but at the same time I hope they know that I benefit from the experience and appreciate the opportunity as well. While I am still brainstorming and thinking about my final masters project I am fairly certain that it is going to head down the coach development pathway.

ANB Awards

ANB Awards

One thing that I did set out do this year was read, a lot. The end result was 51 books. Apologies to those of you who were hoping I would get to 52. I slowed down through the fall and didn’t think I would get as close to it as I did and then ended up in Florida with two books that went by very quickly and wasn’t able to get my hands on the another. Some were amazing. Some were not so good. Others were some where in the middle. Reads that triggered some neurons but maybe nothing that shifted the paradigm too much. Here is the list. Not a ranking. Just the order from the first one I finished on January 2nd, 2016 to the last one on December 24th, 2016.

  1. Practical Sports Coaching – Christine Nash
  2. Developing the Leader within you – John C. Maxwell
  3. Mind Gym – Gary Mack
  4. Mastery – Robert Greene
  5. What Makes Winners Win – Charlie Jones
  6. Sports Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation – David Joyce & Daniel Lewindon
  7. 59 Seconds – Richard Wiseman
  8. Secret Tactics – Kazumi Tabata
  9. Riveted – Jim Davies
  10. Inside Running Basics of Sports Physiology – David L. Costill
  11. 3D Coach – Jeff Duke
  12. Run, Swim, Throw, Cheat – Chris Cooper
  13. Power – Jeffrey Pfeffer
  14. Best Practices Best Coaches – Andy Higgins
  15. You win in the locker room first – Jon Gordon & Mike Smith
  16. Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches – Yuri & Natalia Verkhoshansky
  17. The No Complaining Rule – Jon Gordon
  18. Fierce Conversations – Susan Scott
  19. Winning Matters – Frank Dick
  20. Training Camp – Jon Gordon
  21. The Hard Hat – Jon Gordon
  22. The Obstacle is the Way – Ryan Holiday
  23. Learning Leadership – James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner
  24. It should have been gold – Calvin smith
  25. Learning in Sports Coaching – Lee Nelson, Ryan Groom, and Paul Potrac
  26. Leaders eat Last – Simon Sinek
  27. How to win friends & influence people – Dale Carnegie
  28. Talk like TED – Carmine Gallo
  29. Sports Biomechanics: the basics – Anthony J. Blazevich
  30. Sports Training Principles – Frank Dick
  31. The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell
  32. Curious – Ian Leslie
  33. Just do it – Donald Katz
  34. Grit – Angela Duckworth
  35. How to say Anything to Anyone – Shari Harley
  36. Shift – Peter Arnell
  37. The Happiness Advantage – Shawn Achor
  38. The Team Captains Leadership Manual – Jeff Janssen
  39. Research Methods in Physical Activity 7th Ed – Jerry Thomas, Jack Nelson, Stephen Silverman
  40. Smarter – Dan Hurley
  41. Qualitative Research Methods in Sport, Exercise and Health – Andrew Sparkes and Brett Smith
  42. Sprints &a Hurdles – Gerard Mach (Canadian Track and Field Association)
  43. The Pressure Principle – Dave Alred
  44. The Imperfect Board Member – Jim Brown
  45. What We Need Is Speed – Henk Kraaijenhof
  46. Boards That Lead – Ram Charan, Dennis Carey, Michael Useem
  47. The Objective Leader – Elizabeth R. Thornton
  48. Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised in Brief – Henry Robert 3rd, Honemann, Balch, Seabold, Gerber.
  49. The 4-Hour Workweek – Timothy Ferriss
  50. Shoe Dog – Phil Knight
  51. The Slight Edge – Jeff Olson

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I am going to try and read less this year in terms of quantity but definitely not hold back on the quality side of things. I have a few larger books at home and the office that I kept on putting off but I feel that 2017 is the right time to crack them open. I would like to say that I won’t buy anymore until I read what I have but that just ain’t the honest truth so best not to agree to it.

But what else I have been working on a new YTP template for some time and am finally nearing the end of this iteration. As I continually learn and need to adapt them I am sure this will only be another stop along the way but as a tool I feel that this one is a big leap forward in terms of its application capabilities as an athletics coach in the sprints and hurdles events. If anyone ever wants to discuss just send me an email.

Then there is school. At the time of writing this, New Year’s Eve, I am still working on a paper and presentation for one my classes which ends with these assignments, then there is one more course, and then literature review and carrying out the final project which will hopefully put me in a position to complete my masters by the end of 2017 or perhaps early 2018. I know I could get it done but at the same time I am focused on producing something that is regarded as having credibility.

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But that is about it for this post. I have been trying to run while in Florida for training camp and so far have gotten 6 in but the goal is to continue this in 2017 and shed a few pounds that I am going to blame on my lack of mobility during the broken ankle period. We have had a great training camp here at IMG and have three more training days and five workouts to go until its back to Saint John we go where it is full swing into the indoor season with meets for 6 consecutive weeks from January 14 to February 25th then a week off before the Sport Nationals in Edmonton on March 9-11 after which all focus will be on the outdoor season and Canada Games.

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Best wishes and thoughts to all in 2017!  May the force be with you!

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Thoughts and Reflections on the 2015-2016 Year

Well another year of full time coaching has concluded. This past weekend I had athletes competing at the National Legion Champs and the Eastern Canadian Espoir Champs. A solid end to the season and thankfully leaves me feeling more positive than last year in regards to my performance as a coach. In baseball terms I’ll say that I am somewhere between 3rd base and home plate. Not quite the finish I was expecting (ie. a home run or the ever elusive grand slam) but a solid effort that I can hold my head up high.

It is at this time of the year when things tend to slow down remarkably. For most of the year it feels like I am in the deep end of the pool just trying to keep my head above water and then July and August come and the floor rises and it is somewhere around the ankles. This is the calm before the storm and I try to maximize it for all its worth. Reading, itineraries, plans, programs, plotting, scheming, presentations, guides, reports, and much more are all on the table. Get as much done. Fill the file folders with as much as possible so that it is done and then will only require small amendments later on.

And while a large chunk of that is all general administrative duties related to my roles as head coach for UNB, Team NB CSG in 2017, coaching director for ANB I can’t help but hit pause on it all to reflect on this past year as a coach.

I keep a rough tally of notable athlete accomplishments each year and this years looks as follows:
– At the NBIAA high school champs athletes won 6 Gold – 5 Silver – 3 Bronze
– For the UNB program athletes won the UNB XC Female MVP award, UNB Track Male MVP award, UNB Track Female Rookie of the Year Award, UNB VREDS Female Rookie of the Year Award, and the AUS Female Rookie of the Year Award.
– 3 Athletes were named to the provincial Legion Team
– 5 ANB provincial records were broke – youth girls 100m hurdles, midget boys 100m hurdles, junior, U23, and Senior women’s 400m hurdles. One thing I wonder though is how to record the fact that the senior 400 hurdles was then broken by a different athlete. So while she did break the record this summer she doesn’t hold it any more.
– Multiple event PB’s for more than 80% of the group
– No major injuries for anyone in the group. Won’t count my broken ankle either 😉

So…what does it all mean? I have no idea. Did I do a good job of coaching this year? I guess if the goal is to help guide the athletes to improvements in objective results in a happy and healthy state I would feel comfortable saying it was mission accomplishment. Hearing from parents the impact that I have had and the positive impact that the group has had on their son/daughter definitely is positive and is ultimately what my coaching at the present is about – positively impacting young adults and using athletics as a tool to help guide them and set them up for future successes into adulthood.

However, if I reframe the question to did athletes that I coach achieve the maximum performance level that they could have this year for their given developmental stage? Probably not. In this case I think I had a maximal impact on 3-5 of them who were maximized given the constraints that we had to work within while the rest of them where in the average to above average levels. This is where I get frustrated with myself. I feel partially responsible for their performance or lack of performance. And I know it isn’t just me and the individual athlete must take on a ton of responsibility for their performance but my leadership role as their coach provides me with the opportunity to make decisions that impact their performance and even though they make hundreds of more decisions in a week that are far more impactful or detrimental on their performance that mine this is the tough part. Work sheets, quotes, book recommendations, audio files, videos, and a large amount to personal discussion is in my tool box to try and stack the deck in my favour in regards to impacting the athletes. Do they read, listen, and do everything that I lay out for them – definitely not! Sucks but I know that and I am not naive to think they do. But this is my way of learning also. What tools have the biggest impact? What tools are actually used? What tools can I manipulate to have an even greater impact? And this is where experience matters. Bruce Lee said, “Do you fear the man who has practiced 1 kick 10,000 times or the man who has practice 10,000 kicks 1 time?” Well this is where coaching experience has its biggest impact. You are able to determine with greater accuracy which tools to use, how to use them more effectively, and who to use that specific tool with.

But through this process I feel like I am also learning to be more critical and able to see the answers with more clarity. For instance with one of my athletes she had a good summer. She won some medals, broke some provisional records, and place quite high at nationals. She also displayed and understands her race model for the event. However, what I feel my failure is/was is that I (maybe we) emphasized the first half of the race too much and neglected the specific physical requirements to achieve a higher level of overall performance that we had hoped for. Now, this does very quickly aid us in that it clarifies the developmental requirements for the next year. It is outlines the physical, technical, tactical, and psychological areas that we need to prioritize. This is because we have stabilized and have confident that the first half will be there when we return next year and that the relearning process will be quicker and more efficient ie. there will be fewer lessons to learn outright and more time can be spent refining the skills as they have already been developed.

So my/our failures also leads into optimism and confidence the in the future. The strengths that have been developed will stay and become even stronger with less work required allowing for an increased amount of time to develop the present weaknesses, which will hopefully result in an increase in objective performance level. And this analysis and process of reflection is what inspires, encourages, and excites me as a coach. It is the fact that the next challenge is built off of the previous. It will be new. It will have a past but it will be a new learning stimulus to be tackled. The questions and mysteries that we (athlete and coach) need to solve are based on all of our skill sets, experiences, and capacities and that is what coaching is about. Asking the right questions and developing plans through a problem solving process leading towards a constant process of revising the plans, asking and reviewing the questions, and continuing to problem solve.

Phew…I think that is what I was hoping to cover today. I feel much better now and that I have cleared some mental space that was thinking about this. I head back to Vancouver for school at the end of the month to start the second (and final) year of the masters program. This year I have learned so much both about the coaching profession but also about myself. I know I don’t have all the answers but I do feel that I have developed a greater understanding of the processes required to find and search out answers. Answers that might be correct for one athlete but incorrect for another. Answers that might fit for me but not for a colleague. Answers that might be correct now but not later. Answers that might be incorrect now but correct later. Answers that might have been answered previously or might not have ever been answered. Regardless of all of that I am excited for this next year of school although I have no idea what research topics/questions I want to look into. Seriously, after all that crap about questions and answers is there any doubt that I confused or don’t know what specific question to ask that will guide a large part of my studies for the next year.

But time to end it there. Enjoy the Olympics all. May the 2016-2017 year be everything that the 2015-2016 was and more. Cheers

Sharing Knowledge and Giving Thanks!

As my first year as a grad student in the UBC High Performance Coaching and Technical Leadership program is nearly completed (only one last presentation at the end of June remaining) I can honestly say that this year has been the most important to my coaching development. Maybe it was all the courses. Maybe it was the integration within my current coaching context.  But probably it was because I have gained just enough wisdom over the years to know that I don’t know all that much but also just enough to be able to complete the course requirements.  Now, I do have some regrets in that I wish I was this focused, committed to doing the work, and open to learning during my undergrad. Let’s just say my marks were significantly lower than what they are now.  Therefore I am very proud of my marks this year and its just a shame that all my post-secondary academics don’t reflect this quality of work, haha.  I’ll just call myself a late bloomer.

But in the spirit of sharing I have decided to post some images from two projects that I am the most proud this year.  I will say it is 5% pride and 95% hoping that someone likes the images and gets some benefit from it.  Perhaps it will stir up some dialogue and a coach may reach out to me to discuss, share ideas on how to improve them, and continue to build all of our knowledge. I will not take sole credit for these images either. As I didn’t complete any specific or innovative research this year they are merely amalgamations from various sources…I promise they were referenced correctly in APA format when I submitted them 🙂

These first two shots are visual representation of the Canadian Sport for Life Long Term Athlete Development stages and Athletics Canada’s specific Long Term Athlete Development stages incorporating key information related to the stages as well as the excellence stages (i.e. when performance becomes the focus for some). I found that this infographic and additional information really helped visualize and see the athlete development pathway within the sport.

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These next six images are taken from my Gold Medal Profile project. This project was specific to the women’s 400m hurdles and honestly was the most demanding but the most rewarding of all the projects this year. Doing this was a ton of work but I understand elite athlete development and the requirements for podium finishes at the elite level so much better than before – still not perfectly but much better.  However, it isn’t a perfect GMP either and I have already identified a few areas where I could adapt.  I have to state though that I reached out to upwards of fifty coaches from across the globe to gain insight on what they felt were determinants of gold medal potential across various events.  I gained so much and have to thank all of them for taking the time to talk with me on the phone and/or responding to my emails and Facebook messages.  Thank you!  I am very thankful for all of the friends, colleagues, and supportive individuals that I can call upon to share knowledge and help guide me as I continue to learn and develop as a coach.

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Also if you are reading this you are either bored, family or friend, or some sort of athletics or sport coach. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the post.  I know I have posted previously on blogs and podcasts but recently The HMMR Media Podcast hosted by Martin Bingisser (@bingisser) and Nick Garcia (@nick_g_garcia) has been awesome. They have had some great guests and continue to keep it on point. They are one of my favourite podcasts as it is  quite specific to athletics, coaching, mentorship, knowledge sharing, and other topics that you can understand are right up my ally. Additionally, The GAINcast with Vern Gabetta (@coachgambetta) and Martin Bingisser has been equally positive and insightful.  Lastly, a plug for Stuart McMillan (@fingermash on instagram) as he has been posting extremely interesting, deep, and reflection causing posts on a wide range of topics – keep it up!

While I doubt any of them will see this I’ll just say that it is useful, it is appreciated, and it is something that young, developing coaches such as myself really appreciate and benefit from!  So keep it up guys and thanks!

Next week I am off to Halifax for the 3rd ANB Coach Mentorship Camp. This will be the first one out of province but promises to be a great learning experience for all the coaches involved. Best part about being the organizer is that I also get to attend and learn from the our mentor coach, Rich Lehman. The guy is a great endurance coach, colleague, supporter of coach education, friend, and has already shared so much with the coaches. This is exactly what I envisioned when I start this program and I am very excited at what the ANB coaches will bring back with them.  I wonder what 2017 Coach Camp will entail?

Cheers and keep on sharing knowledge!

Weekend Off….Level Up!

It has been too long since my last post and I have definitely felt the desire to get some thoughts down but something has just always been in the way, physically and/or mentally.

Podcasts…..I listen to a few podcasts.  The House of Run is my favourite as it isn’t about coaching but more just water cooler track talk. It’s usually light and fun but every once in a while Kevin and Jason (and maybe a guest) definitely provide some amazing insight that gets me thinking.  But the majority of the podcasts that I listen to are coaching related and more practical (list at the bottom of this post).  However, as Steve Magness said in his Magness & Marcus podcast most of the time when I listen it is done passively.  I am in the office responding to emails, working on logistic stuff, or crunching some numbers related to school or work and I just listen.  I refer to it as osmosis learning in that sometimes things will permeate through but most of the time it just keeps me going and feel like I accomplishing more than I actually am.

Books….for the past 3 years I have been trying to read more. I just finished my 12th book of 2016. I was trying to think if I am on course of 52 books but when I take a look at my list of books in the cue I know that some heavy ones are coming up and the rate of completion will probably decrease.

School…since August I have been part of a graduate program at the University of British Columbia.  This first year is flying by and last night I recorded a presentation on my integrated training plan focusing on my yearly training plan.  Overall I was very pleased with how it turned out (will have to wait and see if the grade is as reflective). However, during the process of putting it together along with a few other school projects I am reflecting on my daily coaching and without a doubt becoming a better coach.  Stressful….yes.  Hard…yes.  Making me realize how much of a dumbo I was during my undergrad…..stupid Jason.  But at the same time I realize that my undergrad has helped me out immensely.  My understanding and beliefs as a coach/person have been built layer upon layer of what I have experienced.  On this last note I am nervous about the 2nd year of school (6 classes to 4 presently) but my ego says that I can do it but I’ll still focus on finishing this first year and the graduate certificate portion first then attack year two when it is time.

But back to my knowledge base.  My upbringing in the Reindl home in Saskatoon was an amazing foundation. I would actually state that I probably couldn’t have had a better upbringing in relation to my current profession but at the same time that might make my present level seem like I am under succeeding….darn can’t win that statement 🙂 But getting the chance to hear stories, discussions, and chats that my parents were involved in or a part of was almost too good to be true.  I think back to my dad’s role as invitational athlete director for the Knights of Columbus Indoor Games and having the chance as a 10 year old to chat on the phone, meet, and chat with Olympic Champions and their coaches gave me an understanding that is worth so much and throw in his still active role at at the Saskatchewan Athletics (provincial sport organization-PSO) and now my employment with a PSO (Athletics New Brunswick) and it is huge. However,  seeing my mother develop amazing relationships with her athletes that truly made the athlete development process so beneficial and how much she gave of her heart and sole to them has impacted me also and why I feel that my athletes are a part of my family.  I can say that most if not all of my mom’s athletes were definitely a part of the Reindl family…one of those individuals is now some of my closest coaching colleagues/friends. Funny how things work out.  I could probably and may one day write a book about coaching (maybe…maybe not) but I would probably have to start by filling hundreds of pages on just their influences on me…maybe I should call it “How my parents coached me”…..does have nice ring to it. The point is that I can’t thank them enough for all that they did, did that they didn’t realize I was learning from them at the time, and continue to do.

But back to the main point and title of the post…Level Up!  I am a nerd and used to play video games with my brother (Atari, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, N64, Playstation, Playstation 2 – Kyle’s, Xbox – mine) but haven’t touched a game for a few years now outside of Deal or No Deal at the movie theatre and the concept of gaining experience points that then resulted in a level up has resonated with me right now. I don’t want to sound cocky but I feel that my coaching has levelled up today. I am probably at level 9 with 90 more levels to go but the point that I was hoping to make is that it’s all about experiences.  Everything listed above and everything not listed adds up and maybe my reading could be more beneficial if I went slower or if the podcasts were listed to in a more conscious/ active state of mind I would absorb more but that isn’t my reality right now and would probably just frustrate me and decrease my passion for gaining experience points.  The point is that it’s a process. Just as some levels are spent exploring gives, finding chests of gold, and fighting zombies for points the same could be said for coaching. It’s a process….school, degree’s, pieces of paper, books, websites, podcasts, conference, mentorships, etc, etc are all just experiences that are additive.  I guess in the end it comes to a variety of experiences, learning sources, and being able to make connections and I feel that things are moving in the right direction.

Next week is the always exciting conference championships for the university program.  Preparations have been going great. Athletes are happy and healthy and feeling confident.  A few more light workouts this week to finalize preparations, prime the system, and then I get to sit back, give high fives, and let them bring out the magic.  However, it also means my voice is probably going to be gone and I will gain a few more grey hairs.  A small price to pay for two of the funnest days of the year.

Until next time!

J

 

 

Podcast List:

 

The Brain!

Just a short post from me today at least I am thinking it will be short but those who know me know I do have a tendency to go overboard with writing.  Currently I see this as a skill that I need to improve upon. i.e. get to the facts, make sure they are the important ones, and focus in on those.

So to the point at hand. The Brain.  Last week I gave what is called a Podium Presentation (co-hosted by Coach NB and the Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic) which is a free session in Fredericton on a topic by an individual to coaches/anyone looking for some learning and professional development.  So after a few discussions I finally got the call and presented on Coach Adaptability: Maintaining Control of the Uncontrollable. Now skipping to the important stuff. I had a power point. It was good and overall the presentation went well. No major screw ups or anything like that. Decent feedback also but I know I could have done better. I touched on a process that coaches should go through and how it comes down to understanding bias, having a philosophy, and a bunch of other stuff. Also got a great question which was answered well (probably the best thing I did that night). But I had made a note earlier in the day to use a specific example from the morning practice. It was 5:45am and I opened up the gym and soon enough the girls volleyball team was there and then the guys. OK, we always share on Wednesdays but as UNBSJ is upgrading new curtains, basketball hoops, etc the guys working were there early and my court was off limits and my group got tossed around a bit. Now, I really wanted to touch on this during the presentation because I could have reacted poorly. I could have gotten flustered. But I was aware that the simplest and best option was to just go with the flow, and go on the back stretch, deal with some volleyballs flying around, adjust practice (safety and all) and get on with it. We actually had a great practice and I was very happy with it. It was a fun, focused, and in the end a quality session with lots of learning. I thought this would have been the perfect example when discussion adapting as a coach. Maybe you show up for soccer practice only to find out that the field is double booked or maybe your dinner reservation for your team never found its way to the restaurant. But in the end my brain went blank. I was nervous. I was feeling it. I have presented quite a bit and I was a teacher back at the UofS for 2 years and in Korea for almost 4 years. Presenting isn’t a big deal. I enjoy it and to be blunt think I am decent at it but it has been a while since I presented to coaches and the last time I presented in a similar situation I was much younger and honestly too stupid to realize the importance of coaching education.  So my perfect example disappeared. Funny how the brain works when it is stressed and under discomfort. So good example but all for nothing. Stupid brain!

Lets take this thought to a broader topic. For my UBC Grad School right now my classmates and I have to do a online presentation (30-40minutes) on the podium pathway for our sports due next week.  So research, make a power point, load it all up on collaborate, give your presentation by yourself which will be recorded, and then the professor watches it and a few classmates watch it resulting in the grade.  Not a huge deal but this one has been on my brain for a while and more than a few of us have been feeling the stress of this one. Honestly I started working on it back in early October. I was pleased with the early work that I did but eventually started to hit mental road blocks.  Some of that was coaching, work, and life related but for some of those blocks it was just the material and my stupid animal brain.  Something was getting in the way and it started to snow ball. It became harder to think. It became a chore to problem solve and critically think about things because the project was always there like a fog.  A fog caused by lots of things but the end result was poorer cognitive function.  Well thankfully the last week has been great. I put in some bigger chunks and I am now looking at a power point that I am very happy with. I can see the podium pathway in athletics. I can see benchmarks, talent ID, anthropometric norms, transfer, and ways that the pathway has been altered.  It isn’t a grand slam but it might be a homer. So this is where my brain did something funny. The fog lifted. I began to get some focus back, some ability to problem solve and critically think. I found the resulting focus and energy to check off some to do’s that have been building up and that snow ball effect has lead to some great revelations.

But whats the point you ask?  Well when it comes down to athletes performance how often do we think that they might be in a fog? That they might be negatively impacted? I apologize for not giving credit where it is due (my mental fog….might be Stu McMillan) but I recall reading about decision making fatigue where individuals are impacted physically and mentally by the number of decisions that they have to make.  That reducing the number of decisions that an individual makes can have a performance enhancing effect . I also relate this as to why training/staging camps are most effective is because it removes much of the “crap” that is going on in their lives and they finally can relax and open up.  I think about exams, relationships, and everything else in their lives and while I am not asking my body to perform at a performance level  at the moment on the track I do ask my brain to perform at a higher level quite often. I know that my performance was negatively impacted for the last couple of weeks.  So if the mind – body connection is that strong how often do we as coaches work on helping our athletes by talking strategies that will allow their mind and in turn body to operate at performance level?  Is this something that others have dealt with? Is it something that can be implemented in a systematic function?  Now, in the above examples for myself I was aware and tried. I tried taking a movie break, I tried date night with the girl friend, I tried sleep and while all of those might have been part of the reasons I finally got my breakthrough (additive effect) with a week before the deadline they weren’t major and weren’t immediate.  While yoga or meditation come to mind I am not experienced enough with them to say if they would have helped me. They aren’t in the bag of tricks and honestly I can usually watch a movie and go brain dead and feel recharged after.

So here is the situation it is our first track meet of the 2015-2016 New Brunswick indoor season this Saturday, November 28th.  What is the state of my athletes? How can I assess this? What can I do about it? Are they aware that this fog may have a performance reducing effect? Are they trying to reduce the fog? Do they see the fog as a negative? Is their confidence effected by it? Is their confidence so resilient that they know their body is ready no matter what (I would love this to be true).  I am going to have a little discussion with the group around tomorrows practice on this topic and direct them to read this blog but this is a new thought for me and one that I am curious to look more into in the future. If anyone has some thoughts I am always game to eager to listen. So send me an email.

 

Also big shout out to the Japanese reader or readers who have posted some comments. I have thrown them in google translate and just want to say thanks for reading.

Coaches

A quick update from me as I think about the coach. Yesterday I watched a movie on Netflix called, Red Army (2014). This documentary was all about the Russian hockey team that dominated the game in the 70s and 80s. I highly recommended this movie to all coaches and hockey fans. As I am both it was a good Saturday morning. However, back to the point for a good chunk of the movie they talked about the coaching change from the creative, open, transformational style of Anatoli Tarasov and then into the more closed and transactional style of Vicktor Tikhonov. Now while I don’t propose to be an expert and am limited to what I saw from the movie (possible bias) what I can say is that these two coaches appeared to be polar opposites and the relationships that developed with their athletes/players developed from their styles. The legacy of positive knowledge, wisdom, and development that Tarasov created with a team that was regarded as the best in the world continued objectively with performance on the ice but failed to have the same lasting legacy as the team was lead by Tikhonov but appeared to fail in many regards.

The cover image for Red Army

The cover image for Red Army

I link this to a more scholastic approach to the coach. Recently Coach NB and the Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic in Fredericton had a one day conference titled “Coaching to Podium”. The key note for the day was Chantal Vallee. Chantal is the head coach of the University of Windsor women’s basketball team and in the past 5 years the team has won 5 consecutive CIS titles. She built the team up from a bottom dweller. Her two presentations on the day were very impressive and my few pages of notes are filled with coaching gems. Recently I have been reading more into Chantal’s work and was able to track down her masters thesis from the University of McGill (2002) titled, Building a Successful Program: Perspectives of Expert Canadian Female Coaches of Team Sports (just copy into google and I am sure you’ll find it). This was a great read and am very glad to have taken the time to read it and not just because I am back school and pursuing my own graduate degree.

Head Coach University of Windsor women's basketball, Chantal Vallee

Head Coach University of Windsor women’s basketball, Chantal Vallee

The thing that became clear in Chantal’s paper and speeches were that the role of the coach is a big one. During her speech she talked about how coaching is one of the only professions where anyone and everyone will comment and tell you how to do your job. It’s true too. Think of another profession and ask yourself if you have ever told someone who does X how to do their job. Now ask yourself to think of another sport, a famous game, etc. If you are a NFL fan think no further than the last play of this past years Super Bowl. I am fairly certain you made a comment or know many who commented to say “that was a stupid call. If I was the coach I would have done….”. I know I have never ever thought about telling a surgeon how to do their job….”idiot you should have cut the left ventricle first and not the right”…sounds pretty dumb doesn’t it because aside from my anatomy courses in university my experiences with an open chest is non-existent.

From her paper one of the subjects of her research commented on how coaches and professional coaches (full time employment) are expected to be experts in countless domains that go far beyond coaching (X’s and O’s) but into fundraising, media relations, grand applications, financial planning and budgeting, and the list goes on and on. While the NCCP coaches education is right in focusing on the most important elements that a coach needs to know it is right stress that a number of tasks are left to coaches who usually must jump in and figure it out as they go. I can only speak for myself but this has been a very big portion of my on the job education and while I have definitely failed more than a few times at tasks that I was thrown into I would like to say that I have done a good job of learning on the fly. I joke that a great presentation or topic for a conference would be “10 things that the NCCP never taught me” and through either a coach or a panel the coaches talk about some of their experiences highlighting the importance that these topics have but aren’t discussed.

Now coaches are tasked with a dozens and hundreds of subjects that they have to be informed of and have some skill in. Some are able to develop relationships with individuals and teams who help and assist. Others in smaller communities are tasked with doing more and some just don’t want the help. Sometimes no matter how many times you ask for help and want to delegate people won’t step up. So what does a coach do? Do they let the team and athletes miss out or do they roll up their sleeves and get the job done. Sure maybe a year or years later someone will step up and the support will increase but ask most coaches and most will tell you that they just do what they need to do. Personally I try to keep and open mind and take help when I can get it but I also know that if something needs doing I can always count on myself to give it an honest effort.

But I will leave it there. I was also lucky to be recognized during Coaches Week here in New Brunswick as the Coach NB Sport Coach Champion award winner. I was nominated by my athletes and was humbled to be selected as the winner. While it is never the goal to win awards as a coach I can say that it is nice, fuels the motivation, and lets me know that I am doing good work. There are days when I hate coaching and the profession that I am in (seriously who doesn’t have days when they hate their job) but thankfully those are few and far between and for 98% of the year I absolutely love what I do. We joke around at track about what would happen if I won the lottery. The short answer is pretty much the same in regards to my personal athlete coaching. That is fun and what I like. Maybe I would go for a round of golf or two a year but I suck at golf and would much rather be around the track 🙂

Receiving my award :)

Receiving my award 🙂

2015 IAAF World Championships Observation

As I sit on my couch and watch the IAAF World Championships I am stuck with a recurring thought…

“What did Andre De Grasse and Shawn Barber eat at the the AC pre-Camp in Jeju?” If it was me I know it would have been kimchi, soju, and galbi but something tells me that this wasn’t in the nutritional plans for these athletes.

As I watched Andre run through the rounds he continually displayed a sense of calmness and an ability to slow things down to the basic components. He has been quoted repeatedly as seeing the race regardless of the lane as being the same as all others (100m). In arguably the highest profile of events with the biggest story of the year against the biggest super stars of the sport he executed his race amazingly and came away with a bronze medal (tied with Trayvon Bromell from the USA).

Skipping ahead 24 hours and watching live on Monday morning the IAAF youtube stream just showed Shawn’s 5.90m clearance it was almost like it was 5.50m. He gave a quick fist pump, a nod to the stands, and that was it. The thing that struck me was how calm, cool, and collected Shawn acted. He has been through 5.90m a few times this year but in a championship pressure filled setting I would wager that the clearance height he had was one of his best jumps ever.

As always though I try and relate this back to my coaching and to the athletes that I have the pleasure of working with and immediately I see a gap. While the athletes that I work with are younger and more developmental in nature there is an aura of confidence and swagger that those who are most commonly winning display that mine just don’t seem to show. Now, please don’t confuse this with a 6th round come from behind jump or a 3rd attempt clearance to stay alive. Both of these occasions deserve some emotion – heck it is the emotion that athletes display that makes sport fun to watch.

What I am referring to is the 2nd round jump that results in a PB but still leaves the athlete out of medal position or the sprinter who runs a small pb in the heats and treats it like they just won an Olympic final. In my mind you smile, nod, give a quick fist pump, but then immediately start looking ahead. What needs to happen in the next jump to get into medal position? What does he/she need to do to be ready for the finals? How do they come down from that high?  How do they act so that it helps their performance not hinder it?

The quick answer and one that my athletes are going to work on a lot this year is just do what they did last week! Last week? Yes, last week and the week before because they have been there before. They have ran through these situations dozens of times in their heads through visualization. How does it look, feel, smell, touch, taste? How do they regroup from that big performance and use it? How do they balance energy with control? How do they embrace the fact that their body is rolling but not sabotage themselves through excess jubilation? I have this memory of seeing a video of a guy jumping for joy because he won something and then immediately losing his legs and going down. This type of full body excitement can have negative consequences and when we need to get back in the circle for the next attempt you have to have acted a little bit like its no big deal. Honestly, how many times can you have freak out levels of excitement in the shot put? I am guessing if you got 2 it would be a miracle and if you happen to do it in the first or second throw then you might as well pass the rest because you are going to be fried.

Back to worlds. Think about the above with Andre. After the season he has had could he have been in full excitement mode to have made it out of the heats (yep). Could he have been even doubly excited about making it through the semi (yep). But he didn’t. He treated it like he had been there a hundred times before. It was just another 100m race. Just like all the others that he ran this past year. Could Shawn have displayed more enthusiasm after his lengthy season after clearing 5.50m, 5.65m, 5.80m, 5.90m? Surely he knew with each successive first attempt clearance that he was getting closer and closer to the podium. Surely he knew that when the German missed at 5.80m he had an advantage and surely he knew that when everyone missed at 5.90m while he went clear that his podium finish was all but certain? But does any of that change what he has to do? Nope! Does any of that information change his performance routine? Nope.  Can he or any athlete control their opponents? No.  So then how can the athletes that I work with use it to their advantage? How can they act and move that makes winning seem all but a sure thing? How can they use that perceived display of utter belief and confidence to aid them in the competitive arena? Right now I see it as something that must be visualized time and time again. So routine that it becomes an expectation.  Not a question of if but rather when.

Lastly, even more impressive is that these two young men at 21 years of age did it on the day when it counted. They delivered on arguably the 2nd biggest stage rivalled only to the Olympics.  Why? Because it was exactly the same thing that they have been doing all year. Different day, different track, different fields but still 100m and still pole vault.

So back to the recurring theme…how do I narrow the gap and develop this ability in the athletes that I work with?

Coaching Philosophy

This summer, 2015, I have been reading at a ferocious pace. Having come to some personal realizations through in-depth reflection that I needed to expand my knowledge base and read. I have been reading anything and everything. Normal websites, journals, blogs, but then also books. The last couple of books have been Running Science by Owen Anderson, The Klingon Art of War by Ketih DeCandido, Sports Coaching by John Lyle and Chris Cushion, Anti Fragile by Nassim Taleb, and Leave No Doubt by Mike Babcock.

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Leave No Doubt – Mike Babcock

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Sports Coaching – John Lyle and Chris Cushion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Routinely I will jot down notes and come up with a few key phrases or thoughts. Put them in the notes section of my computer. Maybe compile them into a document save it away into my “knowledge” folder. I find that this reflection of the material is the important part. Back in the day I didn’t like to read. I didn’t like the material. I hated the fact that it was forced upon me with no choice. No after a few years and some wisdom I can say that I thoroughly enjoy it.

However, the most recent impact that all this reading has been having on me is in regards to my coaching philosophy. I have created a few coaching philosophies over the years. As a young coach it is one of the things that is required of you in certain courses. However, at the time it looked nice, sounded good, but I always felt that it was missing something. Maybe it was coaching experience. Developing my skill set. Refining what is important to me as a coach. As I started to put down notes and thoughts leading my latest attempt I can’t help but see it as an athlete philosophy. As this occurs more and more I wondered if this a common them amongst coaches. Is your coaching philosophy only for you or is it also a document that goes in partnership with an athlete philosophy? Is this statement if correct a negative, a positive, or just simply a reflection of how similar coaches and athletes are? Is it something that occurs because the process of coaching is directly linked to the athlete process? Or is it simply because I was once an athlete and just as I set goals then I continue to set goals now and by vary nature am a competitive person? Would the coaches philosophy then need to fit and be reflective of the variety of individual variations in the athletes philosophy.

Coaching Philosophy
5 P’s Purpose + Planning + Preparation + Principles = Performance

Excellence
Honour
Why
Learning
Adversity
Consistency
Simple
Technique

This new philosophy (if it can be called that) might only be applied to the 5 P’s but then the 8 principles allow far more of my personal ideals and values come to the forefront. I feel confident in that the simplicity of the single words can then be developed, expanded, and unique to the variety of situations that this philosophy could apply to. For instance on the principle of honour. It could mean honouring the sport, the history, your team, training partners, school, country, province, city, the event. If you honour all of those items that would mean not taking performance enhancing substances. It would mean respecting your opponents and that is for me as a coach but you can see how this could be part of an athletes philosophy also. The respect that I have for my fellow coaches and the athletes that they work with is immense. It is because of them that I know I have to improve my skill set as a coach. This honour also becomes a part of all the other principles/values. But this honour then leads into my educating of my athletes. My teaching of them to learn that they need to run through the line. That they need to be always in a position where will not bring disrespect to those who they are representing.

However, this is still just a snap shot of what this philosophy means to me. If you are reading this (thanks) but if you feel that I am way off base I would encourage you to reach out to me and help me out. Explain, educate, and help me develop areas that are missing or not developed enough. That is why I have this blog. Reflection and personal development.

But what else has been going on….

  • Heading back to school (UBC) where I am going to start my pursuit of a graduate certificate in high performance coaching and technical leadership, which then leads into the advanced coaches diploma, and then into a masters in coaching degree. Correspondence based for the most part so while a few trips to Vancouver will happen I am still living and coaching in Saint John, New Brunswick.
  • The season is winding down with a trip to National Youth Champs 7-9 wrapping up this 2015 outdoor season. Then it is all about reflection, debriefs, and planning the ever approaching 2015 fall preparation season.
  • Lots of continued personal bests for the athletes I have the pleasure of working with which have included a few provincial records this outdoor season.
  • Held my annual coaching mentorship program in Saint John where I got to interact, lead, and learn from 4 top notch coaches in NB.
  • Also got to spend time with my nephew (Kruz) and niece (Brielle) after nationals in Edmonton for a short couple of days.  I definitely don’t get to see them often enough so when I can it means the world to Uncle Jason.

 

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Piggy Back #1 with Kruz

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Piggy Back #2 with Brielle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Roller Coaster with my brother (Kyle)

 

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A few minutes of coaching which is rare when I am hosting in Saint John.

 

2015 ANB HP Training Camp

From April 29th to May 10th I was living the coaching life.  Now I guess for semantics sake I always live the coaching life but this 12 day period was a little more specific in that they were spent at a training camp in Clermont, Florida at the National Training Centre with 9 athletes from across New Brunswick. This marks my sixth warm weather training camp as a coach and fifth at the NTC and I can honestly say that this has been the best one yet.  Sun and fun around a track I say.

National Training Centre

National Training Centre

Coaches: myself, Steve Leblanc, Earl Church

Coaches: myself, Steve Leblanc, Earl Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is not to take away from all the other camps as they each had their own strengths but rather to point out that everything seemed to line up nicely for this camp with the biggest influencer being that we only had 9 athletes and 3 coaches in this provincial camp so the numbers worked out very nicely.  With myself I had three sprinters of which two I work with in Saint John all year round and the other I have a good relationship with her and her coach.  In the throws group coach Earl Church had 2 javelin throwers and one hammer/discus thrower.  In the third group coach Steve Leblanc had a multi-disciplinary group with two combined events males and a female who is primarily a pole vaulter but dabbles in a few other events.  We as coaches overlapped on occasion and swapped a few athletes around during some of the workouts but needless to say the 3 athlete to 1 coach ratio was amazing.  The quality, focus, attention to detail that we were able to provide the athletes with was second to none.  Both athletes and coaches benefited from this set up and with the weather being a consistent temperature of 27-31 degrees it never seemed too hot to take away from the work that we were trying to achieve.

I have a great professional set up but on occasion there is a bit of stress in that I am pulled in quite a a few different directions.  Administration, groups, programs, and a plethora of athletes across numerous event groups makes things tough.  But for this week and a bit I can honestly say that I had laser focus and I believe that the athletes benefited immensely from it.

2015 ANB HP Training Camp

2015 ANB HP Training Camp

In the planing stages for the camp coach Steve set up a schedule that resulted in two blocks of 4 days that had two sessions per day with a single session on the 5th day allowing for some added recovery and a relaxed evening on the fifth days. This format can be tough but is not horrible provided that the athletes make smart choices and coaches are on point in terms of reading their athletes.  The goal of camp was training so that is what we did.  An added benefit of having such in-depth knowledge of what my guys have been doing in the lead up to camp and what their goals and plans are for the rest of the summer really let me focus in on their plans for the camp.

Our established goal for the sprint group (athletes and coach) was to focus our work on the track.  We  decided to stay out of the weight room as any work done in the gym would take away from what we could do on the track.  An added note on that aspect is that while our gym set up at home is small it is always available and definitely a strength of our program (no pun intended).  This is in contrast to our lack of indoor facilities and variable weather during the spring outdoors so a focus on the track was key.

Dan Brown (400m), Nadia Wysote (400m), Coach, Jake Hayes (100m)

Dan Brown (400m), Nadia Wysote (400m), Coach, Jake Hayes (100m)

So with a plan in place and it being the third (Jake) and second (Dan) camps they knew what they were getting into and how to maximize their recovery between sessions.  I have to commend these guys. They did an awesome job.  Being in this situation is tough at times…a hot, bright sunny day, a good morning workout, and a few people in the pool laughing and having fun. Now, I am not going to tell them what they can or can’t do and over 10 days.  Looking back I think only once did they spend a bit too much time in between workouts being a bit too active.  Did this ruin their camp? No.  Did this ruin their day? No.  Did it make their single afternoon workout a little harder than it needed to be? Yes, but did they go to bed early and learn from it….absolutely.  And lets be honest you can’t be workout robots. Everyone has to turn off at some point and enjoy themselves.

Block Practice

Coach Earl Church working with his javelin throwers

Coach Earl Church working with his javelin throwers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The interesting thing for me as a coach was how this camp flowed.  We have been back in Saint John for a few days now and I can honestly say that this was the best camp that I have ever been to and while the number of athletes, weather, facilities, and overall group dynamic all played a part in that I think the biggest thing was myself.  My development and understanding as a coach about camps has improved.  My ability to monitor and adjust my athletes program has improved and thankfully due to the numbers my ability to focus was improved.  What I mean by this is that I was completely focused on the aspects of working with my athletes. I had plans.  I talked to the athletes.  I adjusted said plans.  In the lead up to the camp I told the athletes that my guess was that we would accomplish 50% of what we planned for in the weeks before camp and this number was fairly accurate.  We had a plan, a guide, a road map on the camp.  We increased, decreased, switched, swapped, and manipulated the workouts based on this plan even on occasion letting the athletes choose the specifics of the workout. Sometimes we swapped a morning and afternoon session.  On other occasions we played with other variables, for example how we started the reps with options being 3 point starts, flying starts, or block starts.  However, throughout the camp we kept the themes of health, wellness, and quality in place.  And now a few days past I think we accomplished all our goals for the camp.

While I can say that the camp was a success the objectiveness of our sport will decide that.  I feel confident that the guys are in a good place and when they get the opportunity to race this weekend, provided that weather and competitive demands line up, that they will perform well.  I don’t want to say that they are going to open up with personal bests but I do believe that they won’t be far off.

I guess the overall theme of this post is that experience counts.  10000 hours may not be the exact rule as it once was thought but I do know that every year I coach, learn, and study I am a better coach than before.  I believe that I am only scratching the surface of my coaching career so in a few decades I will look back at these words and laugh.   Hopefully I will also nod my head and be proud of that my young self was on the right track (pun intended).

Quality selfie in the sun

Quality selfie in the sun