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.

 

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

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 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

A week in Santa Barbara

Simplicity. Basics. Fundamentals. These things have popped up on my coaching radar time and time again over the past year. In the past 12 months I have been around North America taking notes, studying, talking, coaching, and learning. Through out them all has been an interwoven thread of simplicity and the sophistication that comes from that. Point blank…..coaching and athlete success is all about simplicity. It is not about making things exciting, new, different, or one of a kind. Rather it is about being able to understand and do the simple things exceptionally well.

Ashton, myself, and Brianne

Ashton, myself, and Brianne

This past week I got the chance to witness simplicity at its finest through the Canadian Athletics Coaching Centres Combined Events Mentorship Program which had us watch two of the greatest athletes in the world, Brianne Theisen Eaton and Ashton Eaton train in Santa Barbara. World medals, commonwealth gold, and Canadian records for Brianne and Olympic gold, world records, world titles and countless other accolades for Ashton. But this wasn’t just the athletes on display as the week also included about 12 hours of contact time with Coach Harry Marra. Now full disclosure is that this week was extra special as I was many years ago in the same training group as Brianne when she and the rest of the Humboldt crew drove to Saskatoon (my home) for practice. Then when I retired from my own athletic pursuits in 2006 and started coaching full-time I got to help her out a few times as I was assistant coach to the group led by Todd Johnston. So when she took me for a tour of Santa Barbara and pointed out the breath taking views, celebrity homes, and a bachelor tv show location we were able to catch up, chat about the past, future, and reflect about our starting points back with the Saskatoon Track and Field Club. I have been extremely impressed by her for years and continue to be very proud of her. But back to coaching and this amazing week.

Brianne recieving some feedback after a rep over the hurdles

Brianne receiving feedback after a rep over the hurdles

Some take aways and a few key notes from the program:

The program that these three work in (Harry, Brianne, and Ashton) is extremely unique.

The focus and intensity of their practices was impressive. No moment was off limits for improvement. Simple shadows would be on the schedule. However the focus, intensity, and significance that all placed on the drills was huge. Technical development, physical and mental connections, and overall event mastery were on display all the time.

The interaction between coach and athlete and even athlete-athlete-coach was also very unique. The dialogue was back and fourth. It was supportive. It was flowing in all directions. I have heard Dan Pfaff talk about elite athletes needing PhDs in their events and hearing the conversations between Harry, Brianne, and Ashton makes me believe that these two are definitely well on their way…that is if they don’t have it already which they probably do.

Homework, debriefs, and self reflection where motor patterns are further developed are also an integral part of the program. On occasion these debriefs are simple emails, short and to the point, while at other times stretching a page or two incorporating technical cues, feelings, thoughts about the past, goals and ideas for the future. A great display of athlete ownership and personal responsibility.

Ashton working on the shot with Coach Marra keeping a close view.

Ashton working on the shot with Coach Marra keeping a close view.

I didn’t see anything new and I didn’t expect to, however I did see a few different applications of exercises and routines. For example I knew that medicine ball routines were a frequent warm up modality for Brianne and Ashton but never really understood how it fit in. But after being able to see it first hand I can definitely see the benefits. Will it be implemented into my program immediately? Doubtful, but will I give it more thought and look further into the process and implement it when it really makes sense? Definitely!

You can’t be afraid to develop and train for goals. You can’t be afraid to put yourself out there for all the world to see. While it is true that if you don’t put yourself out there you won’t be a failure the ability to then achieve success would be severely impacted.

I love getting together with my coaching colleagues. Sean Baynton from the CACC was the organizer of this event, Les Gramantik was our Canadian mentor coach and then the following were fellow apprentices: Simon Louise-Seize who coaches out of Laval (also my roommate for the week), Kurt Downes from Windsor, Ming Pu Wu who used to coach in China, then Montreal Lake Saskatchewan, and now Winnipeg, Nick Stoffberg from Edmonton, and Gar Leyshon from London.

2015 Canadian Athletics Coaching Centre group (Back - Kurt Downes, Nick Stoffberg, Jason Reindl, Sean Baynton, Gar Leyshon; Front - Ashton Eaton, Harry Marra, Les Gramantik, Brianne Theisen-Eaton, Simon Louis-Seize, Ming Pu-Wu)

2015 Canadian Athletics Coaching Centre group (Back – Kurt Downes, Nick Stoffberg, Jason Reindl, Sean Baynton, Gar Leyshon; Front – Ashton Eaton, Harry Marra, Les Gramantik, Brianne Theisen-Eaton, Simon Louis-Seize, Ming Pu Wu)

Chats on the way to the track, at the track, during the awesome lunches at Westmount College, at the beach, the hotel, over dinner and wine sessions (it is wine country after all) were all productive and insightful. There were also tons of laughs and great stories over tapas and wine. No matter the topic or who was speaking at the time there was something to be gained. A note to be made. A tidbit to be rememberd. A previous idea or application of knowledge that could be built upon. The cross pollination between us all in terms of experiences, ideas, background, education, etc makes us all able to contribute. The brainstorming and idea generation was huge and just getting together with these guys was an awesome coaching education experience.

The combined events are awesome. I have had a huge respect for the event and the athletes who choose to accept the challenge that comes with it. As an athlete I trained with many decathletes and heptathletes and as a coach I quite enjoy the variety that comes with it. I also competed or practiced in all the events at one point in time (thanks Saskatchewan Legion Camp) so I do get it. But the number of events that Brianne and Ashton covered in a day was an eye opener. This wasn’t just touching on the event to say you did it. This was a deliberate focused practice. While the time in minutes may have been short it was still purposeful and effective. In my vocabulary I would refer to it as micro-dosing. This concept although not foreign to me was displayed in a new format and made immediate sense.

Building off of this micro-dosing was the continuous display of motor learning. Coach Marra is a true master coach. His experiences pass over 5 decades and his understanding of all the individual events is something that I aspire to one day achieve.  He embraced teaching opportunities but also let the athletes work through it alone at times. He connected events, movements, and how the body interprets it all. But this leads me to the thought that expert coaches help bring about continuous displays of expert level athletic performance. What I mean by this is that it is far easier to have a flash in the pan. To get an athlete to have a great year. But to do this safely and in a manner at which the athlete can be at the top of their game for multiple years and cycles in a much more difficult situation.

Coach Harry Marra

Coach Harry Marra

Egos. Harry is a great coach and Brianne and Ashton are two amazing athletes but they all know they aren’t perfect. They know they aren’t maxed out. So what do they do? They seek out help and listen when opportunities present themselves. The week prior to us being down the group utilized the skills of coaching legend Tom Tellez. Also the interactions between Les, Brianne, and Ashton were embraced by Harry. At times coaches can be very possessive and almost psychotic about the interactions the athletes that they work with have with other coaches. Now I am not naive to think that everyone is as fundamentally respectful and as honest as Les was in this situation but I doubt that this group would shy away from listening and learning if it presented itself. In the end while everyone has an ego I was able to see humility, honestly, and a desire by the coach to turn over all stones and search for ways to help the athletes that he works with.

Les providing some insight during the training session.

Les providing some insight during the training session.

There are many roads to Rome. Commonalities exists at all times but individual differences in the athlete, the coach, the group, and between them all are apparent. Equipment, facilities, weather must also be noted but the path to success is dynamic. It is always flowing and changing. Know and truly embrace science, fundamentals, and the basics. Master those and proceed from there.

IMG_3945

The Saskatchewan Group – Sean, Jason, Brianne, Ming

 

 

So that is my breakdown, recap, debrief, and period of reflection for the trip.  An awesome week that has left me feeling energized and motivated.  Coaching is tough and at times it is draining.  I am human.  I have good days and bad days but after this week I am riding a definite high.  Plus the increased vitamin D from the sun and lack of snow were also huge benefits.

One of the blessings about flying across the continent is that you get a lot of time to yourself. This time for me on the way back home to Saint John has been the perfect time to jot all of this information down on the notes page of my phone. But after all of this learning and reflection I can say that I am excited to get back to my group but not the snow. To coach, teach, learn, and grow with an amazing group of young men and women. I love my job and am always blessed to be able to be such a big part of their lives. The honour and trust that comes from being a coach is very special and I thank everyone who has been apart of this journey with me.

Goal: To rake the perfect pit!

Goal: To rake the perfect pit!

Lessons missed but learned over time

When I took my first coaching course way back in 2002 the curriculum was like anything introductory, a broad overview. It provided all the tidbits of information necessary. Now, full disclaimer this posting is not a critique on anyone or anything that I have learned. I am very proud and grateful of the coached education system in Canada and the coaches whom I have had the chance to learn from. And while nothing is perfect I do feel that the Canadian system is a leader in coach’s education globally. While each sport has their strengths and weaknesses and all sports in Canada have had a lovely time in dealing with changes in the coaching education system from numbered levels to names to changes in those names. It has been a fun and on many occasions confusing experience but I do believe in the foundation and direction of it all.

Here is a list of all of my formal education courses that I have taken over the last thirteen years. Noting that this list does not include clinics, camps, and more holistic experiences but if you want to see all that send me a message.

September 2002        NCCP Theory 1

March 2003                Technical 1 – Track and Field (Kevin Cumming)

September 2003        Certification 1 – Track and Field

September 2003       Technical 2 – Track and Field (Distance – Doug Lamont)

March 2004                Run, Jump, Throw Instructor Course

November 2004        NCCP Theory 2

April 2005                  Technical 1 – Gymnastics (Doug Hillis)

April 2005                  Technical 1 – Volleyball (Leslie Irie)

November 2005         NCCP Level 3 – Theory

February 2006            Run, Jump, Throw – Instructor (Trained)

April 2006                    Technical 2 – Sprints & Hurdles (Glenn Bruce)

April 2006                    Technical 3 – Distance (Claude Berube)

May 2006                     BSc. Kinesiology (Exercise and Sport) – University of Saskatchewan

August 2006                 Level 3 Technical – Sprints and Hurdles (Derek Evely, Kevin Tyler, & Mike Murray)

February 2008             Planning and Periodization Specialist – Bompa Certification System

May 2008                      Certification 3 – Sprints & Hurdles

October 2008                Charter member of Coaches of Canada – Chartered Professional Coach (ChPC)

December 2008           Club Coach (Level 2 Technical) – (Terry Mountjoy) Jumps                                     “Trained”

November 2012           Competition Development Course – Jumps (Les Gramantik)                                    “Trained”

March 2013                  Fundamental Movement Skills – Learning Facilitator

July 2013                      Competition Development – Endurance Certified

December 2013            IAAF Level V Sprints & Hurdles Diploma Program – Candidate (Submitted August 2014)

May 2014                       Run, Jump, Throw – Instructor (Certified)

Through this time period not only have I changed but also the world. Yes, I am young and only going to be thirty-one years old this year so my perception obviously is that the world has changed. But I only need to use the Internet as my example. During this time period the amount of information online is greater than anything I could have ever imagined. From a coaching perspective I can watch workouts on just about any athlete from anywhere in the world through YouTube or FaceBook. I can listen to audio podcasts from hundreds of coaches giving their viewpoints on things. I can search journal articles in seconds to read about the latest studies that was carried out.  I can read workouts from athletes done in the 70’s one second and then compare that to a video of yesterday’s workouts..maybe Workout Wednesday on FloTrack . This amount of information is sometimes extremely overwhelming and it can be hard to know exactly what is correct. This is why having some key beliefs and philosophies are important as well as a basic scientific understanding of your sport/event area but that is not where I intend to go today.

At this point I am going to touch on my list of four things that were and have been missed in the educational experiences and this has nothing to do with the courses but rather the level as a coach that I am now starting to coach at. These are things that for myself have grown in importance. So without further a do…

Flexibility

We can’t control and manipulate everything. Sickness happens. School, family, life. They all happen. We plan, organize, and try to manipulate the body to adapt and improve. But at the same time we must be flexible to change. I tell my athletes if the plan is so specific that it doesn’t account for small changes the impact of this is going to lead to significant stress, if not psychological issues, to both the coach and athlete.

Snowmageddon 2015

Snowmageddon 2015

Lately, the major concern for Atlantic Canada in terms of why flexibility is important is in regards to weather. In Saint John we have already seen upwards of 180cm of snow, which resulted in a state of emergency being declared, and now being told to expect another 50cm this Sunday. Why is this important?  Well when the city shuts down so to does practice. So what do you do? For myself it comes down to a state of mind. Be positive and confident that you can take a day off from the track.  Think of it as extra rest that is needed. From there focus on what you can do. Maybe a strength circuit, maybe some Mach drills in the basement, some pre-hab drills, rolling, stretching, and visualization. Can we get the heart rate up? Yes. Can we get some tissue work in? Yes. Can we sprint? No, but should we sit around and moan about it or be positive and embrace what we can do. Be positive. Be optimistic and be flexible when it is needed.

Data Part 1 – Objective Numbers/Tracking/Comparison

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. This business adage holds very true to coaches also. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), KSIs (Key Success Indicators), gap analysis, competition data and norms, practice data and norms, testing, workouts, health, sleep, diet, RPE (Rate of Perceieved Exertion), volume, intensity, contacts, weights. This list can go on and on and I am the first to admit that it can be very daunting. However, the more data, the more numbers, the more objective information that you have as a coach the easier your role as a coach can be at times.

When I started coaching I did my best to track volume and contacts and I will say I did a pretty good job of this. But what I didn’t do was relate this to intensity. All volume was equal and all volume that was planned for was the goal. Definitely something that I don’t preach any more. Volume and intensity are themselves highly variable. Some friends and I have a Facebook chat where we are known to talk random crap but more frequently on coaching matters. On this subject of tracking load the following was noted….”2x150m @ 14.9s is a shitload more load than 4x150m @ 17.5s.” But as a coach who works with athletes across all events this can be a daunting task. How do you calculate a load on 6 short long jump approaches? 6 full approaches? How about triple? What about the combined events athlete? The thrower? HRV can work and is supported by many but it also costs money, compliance can be an issue, and for some individuals it isn’t the best. But in the end even though we look for norms, causation, and some sort of rationalization with what we do it is always an experiment of 1 (N=1). Because no matter how similar athletes are they are individuals and no two are exactly the same. However, all information is not equal. Is it repeatable? Is it scientific in nature? Why are you tracking it? How are you tracking it? Stop watch, free lap system, laser timing system, opto-jump? Are you using video? Are you objectively comparing or subjectively? And while I am not a pro and have developed and refined my systems over the years they are still in their infancy and being improved, slowly. I have been fortunate to get a freelap timing system. I bought a video camera years ago that allows for some decent slow motion video clips and am making a very active effort to video much than previously.   Proably one of the most important though is that I am very lucky and fortunate as a full time professional coach to have time.  Do I do a perfect job? Not even close. But am I slowly learning and getting better? I like to think so.

Data Part 2 – Excel/Numbers (whatever program you use)

This one is short and sweet. Get good at using an online system/software. I used to use excel then went to numbers as I have grown more used to my Mac but am now coming back to excel using YouTube videos to add in some power and skill in using it with hopefully some courses in the near future. I did learn quite a bit in university so am not a total noob but am not as proficient as I need to be. So slowly but surely I am improving. It takes time. It is tedious at times but it is extremely valuable. I keep a results file where I track results of athletes that I work with – not all but a good majority. And as one of my females is graduating grade twelve this year a few post-secondary institutions are recruiting her. So a few clicks of the track pad and all of her results since 2012 when I started working with her are emailed to them, which is a great thing to be able to do. Throw in funding and grant applications, meetings, and reporting on athletes the ability to access objective data is huge. Numbers speak far louder than approximations and subjective words plus if you do need to provide numbers it will save hours of trying to find them when it comes.

Knowledge and Humbleness

This last one is again straightforward. Get comfortable in doubting yourself…to a point. What is he/she doing? What does this study mean? What does that study mean? How does it fit together? Should I do that? Should I change? Should I adapt the plan? I believe that all of these are part of the learning process. The process of gaining and seeking knowledge and improving yourself as a coach. But this has to come with balance. There is too much information out there. So what do you do? Do you attack a specific area? Do you go with a shot gun approach and go all over the place? Do you change on a whim? What is your litmus test? What is your process for implementing change? What are your rules?

Don’t get me wrong. My athletes constantly tell me how confident I am. At times this is true but what they don’t see is when I sit in the office refining their plans for the next phase. Comparing that to their annual plan that I laid out months before and continually change, minimally. Reflecting on the last phase or two. Seeing how they all come together. Comparing this plan to notes I have made about other programs, ideas, suggestions to employ in the future. When I was in Florida in 2013 for IAAF Sprints and Hurdles Academy course John Smith spoke on this topic. Now, I paraphrase but he stated that he isn’t a smart man and when he sees or hears of something new he must find the answer for that topic in regards to how it fits. Fits in relation to him, his athletes, his program, his beliefs, and experiences. Further stating that there are things that he saw decades ago that he is still not smart enough to understand so he hasn’t implemented it.   What did I take from this and make apart of my coaching and life philosophy. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know why coaches do everything that they do but when I see something I write it down/make a mental note. I try to study it. I research it. I think about it. At times I too am not smart enough to understand a topic and leave it on the back burner until one day I might. Other times I get the answer rather quickly and I see that my program is missing that component and would benefit from it. Other times I find out that the item in question is not for me, not for my athletes, for my program at the present time. Do I forget about that item forever? No, because it may be something that I need in the future so I put it in the file cabinet to be accessed in time. I know that there are a number of correct answers. There are a number of incorrect answers but there is exponentially more found in the middle where it just depends on who, what, when, where, why, how. In the end….I am smart enough to know that I am not that smart!

So with all that in mind I thank you for reading this post. I hope you have learned something yourself or possibly even learned something about me. I know that as I continue to write and post I learn about myself and enjoy this process.

UNB crew at McGill Team Challenge 2015

UNB crew at McGill Team Challenge 2015

McGill 2015

McGill 2015

Thank You!

I am going to start this post with a bit of a back-story. There will be quite few history lessons in this post so I apologize in advance. Hopefully they all come together nicely. In my brain right now it is going to be good but sometimes things do get jumbled in there.

Back in 2007 when I moved to Korea I started my original jasonreindl.com site. This site was a way for me to keep family and friends in the loop in terms of what my life overseas in Bucheon, Korea was like. I was never a fan of mass emails as my experience had been when you send out one email you get emails back from everyone saying “cool”. So this way people could read what I was up to but would have to go out of their way to send an email rather than just hitting reply and not putting much substance in their reply. The second benefit and probably the one with greater long terms effects is that it allowed me to journal, reflect, and otherwise give some cognitive thought as to what I was doing in Korea and how I was making that amazing experience the best that it could be. In short if every post was talking about the same experiences in school, the same food, and the same weekend social events then I wouldn’t get as much out of it as I could. I won’t lie and say that I did absolutely everything in Korea because I did go back and love going back and look forward to the next time I head back. But in the end I can say that I have a variety of photos, experiences (sometimes blurry), and made a plethora of friends and memories.

In 2012 when I moved to New Brunswick I think I made one or two posts about my new life on the east coast, being back in the coaching world, and what was going on. But this quickly lost momentum and I just stopped doing it. In 2014 when I brought the latest edition of this site into focus I knew I had to make it more about my life as a coach and the processes/events that encompass it. For all the craziness and chaos that it entails I couldn’t imagine doing anything else at the moment. At the exact same time I got an invite to be a part of a study on coaches, their well-being, emotional state, and how it fluctuates with the realities of the job. One of the components of this project was to do some journaling. I am sure some coaches are thinking to themselves about the roller coaster of emotions that they go through and what a study of this would look like. Well at times it wasn’t pretty but at other times there is nothing better. So the concept was to keep it going through the website/blog but to tie it in with my coaching and some internal analysis/reflection.

One of the things that happened also at some point (not sure on the date but probably in 2012 when I got back into coaching full time) was that I came across Stuart McMillan’s blog www.mcmillanspeed.com. For those in the coaching world you are probably well aware of the site and know how Stu holds no punches. His honesty and openness is second to only maybe Derek Evely (whose interviews on Stu’s site are some of the best). This was one of the reasons why when the World Athletics Center www.worldathleticscenter.com came out with their Apprentice Coach program in 2013 I knew I had to get to it. With Dan Pfaff, Andreas Behm, John Godina, Nick Sheuerman, and Stuart McMillan involved it is an environment that is second to none and have truly established themselves as something special both for athletes and coaches.

In April 2014 I had the privilege of being part of the Apprentice Coach program. While in the moment I can say that my week in Phoenix left me in a daze. Sure lots of direct knowledge gained and professional friendships forged and strengthened in the evenings over frosty beverages – thanks Dana and Tyler. But in addition I can say I was a little bit in awe of the individuals involved. I’ll admit it, I am still and will always be a fan of track now it is just for both athletes and coaches. Maybe it was the simplicity (first thought) at the time but the programs effect on me, my coaching, and the impact I have on my athletes is like a fine wine improving with age. Surely, the inner workings of true high performance athletics must be complicated and far too advanced for a developing coach like myself to understand but the more I reflect, review, and apply what I learned the answer is the opposite. It is the laser precision focus, the years of experience of those involved, and the culture that oozes out of the environment that makes it so simple. Elite performers are special but with coaching being the artistic application of scientific principles I am coming to believe that the endless variety of opportunity and the world of coaching/sport should be an environment where simplicity is king.

One of the direct impacts that came during the last year is that my desire to broaden my depth of knowledge. I have always enjoyed reading and gaining knowledge but it certainly has been a roller coaster of highs and lows. While in Phoenix I could feel the fire being stoked and for those that have seen my photos on twitter/facebook will know that I have been reading a lot and the rules are well there aren’t any. The only rule is that I finish one book before I move onto the next. But no topic is off limits. So far I have read 22 books in 2014 since April and will hopefully be able to finish #23 by December 31st. One of the best things about the 21st century and being able to follow professionals from a variety of fields is the cross-pollination that occurs. While the early days of my coaching career were filled with track specific documents only my tastes are becoming far broader. For example, back to Stu, he recently posted his most recent blog/website post titled “Best Books of 2014”. Honestly, I haven’t read any of the books he listed but I was able, thanks to an Xmas gift card, pick up Ready to Run by Kelly Starrett. This latest edition is on the bottom of the list though as Ready to Run makes 25 books in the queue ahead of it (that I have in the shelves). After that there are 130 books that I have written down in the notes app of my phone titled “Recommended to Read” where there are countless books that have popped up and get written down or a screen shot so that I don’t forget.

Mind of a Chef

Mind of a Chef

Chef David Chang

Chef David Chang

 

 

 

 

 

 

But how does this all connect. So far I have touched on the blog, reflection, Stu, World Athletics Center, coaching, and my quest for knowledge through reading. Where is the connection? Well on Sunday December 28th I had the pleasure of spending the evening with my amazingly supportive girlfriend, Rebecca watching and finishing season one of “The Mind of a Chef” narrated by Anthony Bourdain. When I am not boring her with track stuff or driving myself crazy with track stuff we love watching cooking shows. I don’t cook as much as I would like but there is nothing more calming and exhilarating then watching a master chef in action. In season one the show followed Chef David Chang (owner and Head Chef of the Momofuko restaurant group). In episode twelve, titled “Buddies”, which is the final episode of the season Chef Chang is eating Clam Chowder with three other chefs. This show now available on Netflix is great because of Chang’s honesty, openness, and down right hilarity but something else happened in this episode. It struck a home run with me as a coach – as a developing coach – as a coach who is learning and trying to solidify my beliefs as a coach. So what transpired? Four chefs are in San Francisco eating bread bowls of clam chowder and the following conversation occurs – I have paraphrased a tiny bit and left a part or two about direct cooking but here are the key statements.

David Chang – we were talking about chefs copying. Everyone copies.

Sat Bains – The world is very small now through the Internet.

Daniel Patterson – If you’re gonna take something just say where it came from and be honest.

Claude Bosi – It’s wrong to deny where you got the idea from.

Sat Bains – If you are honest you will always walk away with integrity.

David Chang – Chefs need to know where their techniques are coming from. It is something that I even ask.

Daniel Patterson – You can talk until you are blue in the face about copying but it isn’t about copying.

Sat Bains – When you get to the same point that where we are at now everything has been done.

David Chang – Nothing is new. There are very few people that invent new techniques. It’s what Stanley Kubrick says, “everything has already been done. It’s our job to do it just a little bit better”.

Daniel Patterson – Get in your kitchen. Cook. Talk to your friends. Share what you are doing. That’s it. And have a good time.

The in the closing scenes Bourdain’s voice is overlaid, “cooking at the highest level needs many things. Respect. Dedication to the craft. Creativity. And stamina. But you have also got to be willing to share. To borrow. And be inspired by the works of others.”

The funny thing was how immediate this scene resonated with me. Do we copy in coaching? Absolutely. Does the amount of information available through the Internet make the world a very small place? Definitely. Do people state where they get they get all their ideas from? Not usually. Do coaches like chefs need to know their history and where the techniques originated? Of course foundations need to build and history is a great foundation. Has everything been done in coaching? I don’t believe so but a lot has been done that is for sure. Upon reflection then I believe that my job as a coach is to understand that I most likely won’t create a new technique but as Chang quotes Stanley Kubrick (whose quote originally applied to film making) can I take what has been done, apply it to my situation, to the athletes that I work with, and make it just a little bit better? I believe so. From there what do we do? We coach. We get on the track, in the gym, and on the fields and we coach. We talk to fellow coaches. Share what we are doing and most importantly have a good time. Does coaching at the highest level need many things? Yes. Does it need respect, dedication, creativity, stamina, and willingness to share, borrow, and be inspired by the works of others? Absolutely!

Knowledge and learning is all around us. So as the title of this post states thank you. Thank you to everyone and everything out there. To my family, friends, athletes, coaching colleagues, those on TV, who write blogs, books, TV shows, movies, who have sent or responded to an email, to those who have ever asked a question, or reading this entire post now….I say thank you. You can all take a bow and pat yourself on the back for impacting my education and development. You might laugh and remember that your last experience with me was of me sitting quietly maybe looking a little bored. All of which could be true but in my defense I try to internalize a lot. I sit and reflect. So perhaps when I was quiet and looking off in the distance I was actually internalizing what was said and giving it the thought that it deserved.

Was 2014 perfect? No!

Was it good? Definitely!

Will 2015 be better? Only time will tell. But what I do know is that just as I am not the same person I was at this time in 2013 the same thing is true a year from now in 2015. I will continue to grow, learn, develop, and educate myself. Sometimes that education will come directly from ‘normal’ sources but hopefully it will also come indirectly though sources that are not seen as normal. So until next time I will and encourage you to keep an open mind.

And again…..Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you!

Recharging my Battery

Batteries are something that we all live by these days.  How much percent do I have left on my phone is probably the most common however, recently I have been thinking more about my battery, my personal battery.  Now, this topic has been on my brain for quite a while now but probably the biggest reason was that I got in my first major vacation for the first time in just over two years.  This vacation was needed. I love my work and love my daily life.  I love waking up at 5am, getting the gym ready for my athletes for 6am, and keeping the day going until about 6 or 7pm.  I read, I type, I plan, I work, and it continues and through some positive strategies such as sleep, nutrition, and a few outlets (Netflix) it never seems that bad.  This process drains and recharges the battery.  Usually it stays in equilibrium.  However, every now and then there is a bigger trip, weekend, conference, meet, or something which drains the battery just a little bit more.

Battery

Battery Charging

Now, when my vacation and trip to Korea for one of my best friend’s wedding finally came I was ready for my break. My time away from track. My battery was nearly empty. The grind was becoming harder and harder.  However, the funny thing was this was only temporary.  For the first few days in Korea I didn’t check my phone at all.  I didn’t even think about track and coaching. A slight exaggeration but you get the idea.  The best part was I could feel the battery recharging.  I could feel my brain, my desire, and that little voice inside saying “let’s read an article, study, plan” getting a little louder each day.  Now, don’t get me wrong either I love Korea and 12 days was way too short for what I wanted to do.  Korea is just so much a part of me and who I am today that I just feel comfortable there.  The food, the people, the sights.  But at the same time I was getting more excited at the thought of getting home, getting back to the grind, and coaching.  That is who I am!

Admiral Yi Sun-shin

Admiral Yi Sun-shin

All of it just makes sense to me when I am over there and this is probably one of the reasons why the battery recharged as well as it did.  So a wedding, being a power tourist, and far too many late nights resulted in a physically tiring vacation but a mentally recharging one.

So when I got back to Saint John it was hard. Jet lag and recharging the physical battery took a few days and with a trip to CIS XC Nationals in St. John’s, Newfoundland, a trip to Toronto of the Canadian Athletics Coaching Centres Speed and Power Conference it continues to take some time.  Most recently I was on a panel presenting at the NB Coaches Summit on habits of a successful coach and assisting at ANB’s Sprints and Hurdles Summit.  So  you can forgive me if I am looking forward to a few weeks at home in December with no flights, no hotels, but just time.  But until then there is still a track meet next weekend and a few days in Calgary as part of the Coaching Centres mentorship program where the focus is on the multi-events.   But as physically taxing the last couple of weeks have been and catching up on the to do list has been a grind the mental battery is still feeling great.  I am eager for more and thankfully ‘more’ isn’t going to slow down any time soon…at least not for the next three weeks.  And honestly I don’t want to slow down.

So what can I take from this. Mental well being is key.  Keeping the battery levels in check are key.  Being able to take care of the physical side, the body through sleep and nutrition is key. But one thing that sometimes gets neglected is being able to hit pause.  To plug in your cable and start recharging the battery.  Usually we might call this the check out time.  Check out for a night or for a day. Sometimes through a movie or an all-day Netflix binge.  We all have our own ways to recharge and it is important to respect those individual methods.  Sometimes I put so much into my athletes that I fail to realize that if I am not at my best then what good am I to my athletes.  I educate, discuss, share, lecture, and talk about it from an athletes perspective but very rarely do I and we as coaches remember that all the same principles apply to us.  But while I must say mentally I am in a good place right now and feeling good physically I still need some work.  I can honestly say that I have put on a few more pounds then I am proud of.  So while some will talk about resolutions at this time of the year I will talk about plans.  My plan is to go for a few more walks around campus, to get in a run or two a week. That way, slowly and surely, I will get it all under control and get all sides of the physical battery in synch with the mental one.

Which one do you need to recharge?

Which one do you need to recharge?

Kevin & Jieun

Bride & Groom

Inside the Palace

Inside the Palace

Knowledge and Professional Development

The past several weeks have been extremely busy but honestly when isn’t my life and that is not a complaint.  I love the daily craziness and randomness that each day can bring.  One of the joys is that things are never the same.  My days are never the same.  Sure elements may be similar, exercises and athletes maybe close to the same but changes have happened. I am certainly not the same person, the same coach, the same set of eyes. My viewpoint has changed.  Maybe not radically but change is constant. The same goes with the athletes.  Sure they probably haven’t changed a huge amount but the movement pattern in that one legged squat may have gotten a little smoother and a little more controlled.  Their posture may have improved.  To someone who doesn’t work with individuals in this manner on a daily basis I am certain that they wouldn’t see a difference.  They wouldn’t notice that the right arm in the shoulder press was extending easier than last week or that the athlete did a full 10 reps compared to only 8 the previous week. Or how about the negatives.  That slight limp. The way the athlete is guarding their right side.  That bruise on their knee cap.  Those shoes that are far beyond their life expectancy.  An unfilled water bottle. The pale look of the skin tone and dark bags under the eyes. Everything is an indicator and change is constant for good and for bad.

I have spent a large portion of the past ten years consumed with knowledge, education, and learning.  Trying to change myself for the better as a coaching professional.  Towards the end of my Kinesiology degree I was certain that I wanted to pursue a career in sport specifically in coach. If only I could go back and explain to myself what life would be like.  Would I have given myself an epic high five? Or would I have absorbed the information and  transferred colleges into business?  Who knows but at this point I have been committed to my path.  Even when I was in Korea teaching English I was still focused on gaining knowledge on coaching, pedagogy, athletics, sport, and the development of athletes.  A pause from the day to day track side coaching but a huge experience gain in areas of communication, teaching, body language, leadership, and a lot of life experience that was the most valuable thing I could have ever asked for.

Combine a formal education, a few years learning how to teach, and a whole lot of common path coaching development and you start to see the pictures.  Attending 19 coaching certification/education events, 16 conferences, 5 HP warm weather training camps, more than 20 national championships, a world championship in 2011, and countless other clinics and situations where I was able to learn (which is all the time) and you get a clearer picture. All of these events, experiences, or shall I say opportunities have impacted by view point, my bias, my background.  Now, I know that all of these experiences are merely a drop in the ocean compared to a lot of individuals but it is a start.  It is my start.  I remind myself daily that I am still young.  Still developing.  Still learning the art of coaching – the artistic application of science to improve the performance level of individuals in sport.  Lots of hours and dollars spent to sit in meeting rooms, classrooms, and hotel convention rooms writing notes, listening, internalizing, reflecting, conversing, discussing, arguing, and analysing.  Lots of dollars and hours on books and videos.  Everyone and everything becoming a part of who I am as a coach.  Every opportunity looked as a way to build my tool box.  Every experience making me, hopefully, just a little more knowledgable on the depth of subjects required to be a coach.  Side bar – Honestly, how many topics are there for a coach to be proficient or at least have some knowledge in…100 maybe even a 1000? At some point you would probably just be breaking up areas into more and more specifics but the fact of the matter is that knowledge required to be a coach is not on the small scale.

So here I am asking the question to myself, “what is next?”  What should I do, study, read, listen to to improve my skills.  Lately, I have been reading.  Choke, Essentialism, Developing Sport Expertise, Anatomy for Runners, Caffeine for Sports Performance are the most recent titles that I have been able to read.  Earlier this year titles included Leadership, It’s Your Ship, Start with Why, and well the list could go on for quite a while. It definitely comes in spurts and the subject matter varies also.  Coaching, leadership, nutrition, technical, strength, the titles are all over the place in an attempt to build my knowledge across other domains and so far it is working or at least I am happy with it all.   Journals are still read, podcasts are still listened to, YouTube videos are still watched, and conferences are still going to be attended (next one is the CACC Speed & Power Conference in Toronto November 14-16).

But is this the best strategy? Am I pursuing and developing myself in an effective manner?  Is this the best use of resources (time and money)?  I guess only time will tell and maybe I should go back to the first question/statement on change.  Am I changing? Yes.  Do I think it is in the right direction? Absolutely.  Then that is all that matters.  All knowledge is good knowledge. The question then becomes am I smart enough to use that knowledge in the best way possible? And I certainly hope so.  So maybe it is best not to over think this and continue to take things as they come.  If something sounds like it will of benefit to me as a coach and help the athletes that I have the pleasure of working with then isn’t that all that matters.