Since 2003 when I co-founded the NCAA Women Coaches Academy (WCA) I began noticing how coaches were coaching but they didn’t know why they were coaching or they were not conscious of their why, let alone their how. Where did my how come from, was it really my authentic self coaching or am I coaching the way I was coached, the way I was raised by my parents or some other life experiences? I found myself searching for the best way to start developing “Conscious Coaches” so all our programs are created and based on these three “ingredients:” Radical Self-Awareness, Coaching Skill Development and Community Building.
Since beginning my work in the WCA with female coaches of all sports, and most recently with my work in our Assistant Coach Immersion Program (ACIP), I’ve wanted our program participants to see that the person they are is the coach they are and that who they are as that person, is always more important then what they do. So we push our coaches to look at themselves deeply, self-reflect, evaluate and have the courage to tell their story and become a conscious coach by getting in touch with their authentic and genuine stories, the good, the not so good and the sometimes ugly aspects of ourselves.
“It all starts with you and your life story,” I say to them. “You are coaching based on the accumulation of your life experiences whether you realize it or not, so why not realize it, embrace the good and heal or change the not so good.” When I started True North Sports, I crafted a creed based on my philosophy of “Begin Within Coaching.” I believe if you want to win, you MUST begin within. I believe we do not coach in a vacuum and all our life experiences are calling us to become a better version of ourselves. We may think it’s about winning or developing the athletes we have the opportunity to coach and IT IS!
… AND it is also about how you are GROWING in this process as a person as well!
I believe our personal life stories are very powerful. Within these stories lie the potential for great courage, the opportunity of exercising compassion and the possibility of a deeper more meaningful connection with ourselves and the people in our lives. I believe our story shapes our values and our beliefs, which then drives our coaching philosophy, which in turn creates our team culture. A coaching philosophy means nothing without actions each day, each week, each month and each year that make it come to life and create a healthy loving culture. A team culture is a direct reflection of the head coach’s philosophy and their commitment to and ability to build and nurture a healthy and trusting community.
Our story and self-reflection helps us get in touch and honor our internal “true north” or compass that tells us what is right and wrong in the big picture of life. And, more importantly it tells us, what’s right or wrong in the micro-moment. If we really listen, our inner voice is always helping us find our way, make decisions, know what to say or when it’s time to stay or when it’s time to go.
Coaching Skill Development:
I understand how important the X’s and O’s are to becoming a competent coach. We have to know how to teach the skills of our sport, organize a practice and strategize for competition and make adjustments during a competition. We have to be a good recruiter. We have to be good at time management. I get it. We need competent coaches and coaching does require more than self-awareness.
Coaches need a variety of skills that they can take and implement immediately into their programs and their life as a whole.
These skills include: philosophy development, personality/behavioral assessments, managing and organizing a program, leadership theory and skills, conflict resolution, communication strategies, self-care and full life integration, positive psychology skills, mental training skills, teambuilding concepts and ideas, career planning and advancement skills, diversity training and understanding gender differences.
The truth is, very few, if any, coaches get fired because they do not know the processes or X’s and O’s of their sport. What I see are coaches getting fired because they do not handle themselves professionally OR they do not treat others very well. The coaches that get fired cannot handle conflict, their team culture is toxic and overall they are an unhappy or angry person. In other words, it’s the lack of self-knowledge and people skills that typically get coaches in trouble; it’s not their lack of knowledge of their sport. Yet most coaching associations spend the majority of their time teaching the X’s and O’s and coaches spend the majority of their professional development money on learning them.
It’s hard and maybe even impossible, to have a long, fulfilling and successful coaching career without working on developing both ourselves as people and the coaching skills needed.
Outside of skills the best thing you can provide a coach with is a supportive, understanding community. Most coaches have been around other coaches, their whole career but rarely are they in groups that provide a deeper connection and relationship to other coaches with shared experiences, they are willing to open up to give and receive help and share ideas as they move through this career.
I believe that bringing coaches of all sports into the classroom together creates a unique bond. When coaches come together without the wall of their sport and open their door to the coaching profession as a whole, something truly magical happens.
They learn that the profession of coaching is greater than the sport that they coach.
They learn that a water polo coach is experiencing the same things as the volleyball and soccer coach. They all need the same skills outside of the X’s and O’s of their sport, which in the past divided them as professionals.
The profession now connects them where their sport had once divided them.
Coaching is not for the faint of heart. It is a challenging profession that will push you to your limits and test your confidence level. I often say it is the most challenging profession outside of being a parent or a teacher!
We can all agree that one of the hardest things we need to learn is how to ask for and receive help and support. It is much easier for most of us to give support than it is to receive it.
I believe in the power of community and I also believe our world needs more ways for us to all connect in a deep, authentic and expressive way. I can guarantee you that if you attend one of our programs you will experience a learning environment and community like no other you have ever experienced in your professional life.
Community building is my strength, my gift and it is the foundation all our coaching education programs are built upon.
I care about coaches and believe coaching is a sacred calling. I thought of True North Sports when I saw a Southwest Airlines advertisement that included their slogan, “people are at the heart of everything we do” I believe the same is true when it comes to me, my vision for True North Sports and all of our programs.
You as a person are at the heart of everything we do. I believe coaching is a calling and if you feel called I am confident we can help you become more self-aware, develop the skills needed all the while being supported by an amazing community of coaches from all sports.
It does take courage to be a “Begin Within” coach and to examine our life stories, our behaviors and our beliefs and to open our hearts and truly care about who you are as a person and the people you work with each day.
Be Brave. It will change your life!