Always be Learning Redux

last day pictures with the guys

A few months back, I was fortunate to write a post for our Coaches Newsletter at USA Hockey. “Always be Learning” was an analysis of my experience attending a USA Volleyball coaching seminar while comparing and contrasting some parallels and differences between these two sports as related to athlete development and coaching best practices.

I just finished an experiential coaching endeavor in Bucharest, Romania, working with their players and coaches for 16 days. Stuck in the haze of jet lag, the experience provided an optimal chance for self-reflection. This was my third summer assisting my Romanian friends and each visit provided a unique opportunity to improve my skills while experimenting with new methods of training.

Here are a few reflections from this summer;

1.) I’m not always as patient as I like to think I am. There were opportunities each day overseas when I had to remind myself to take a breath and let the guys figure some things out on their own. With the language barrier an additional wild card, the idea of athlete-centered coaching took on greater significance.

2.) Willingness to play the clown works across cultures. I’ve long thought this is an area where many coaches struggle. As much as we want to be taken seriously, letting your guard down and having fun with the athletes can help bridge some gaps while establishing greater interpersonal connections. In reflecting on my experience as a player, the best coaches were the ones I thought of as people first and foremost as opposed to the person who commanded drills and directing training.

3.) Energy is imperative. Our first ice session was about 16 hours after I landed in Romania. In a summer that’s been frantic with consecutive trips on multiple occasions, I’ve been running on fumes for some time. With jet lag, an irregular schedule and other challenges there were a few days where I felt like a dead man walking. The brutal truth; no one cares. And I wasn’t going to let my energy level be an excuse. This required multiple espressos before 10:00 AM and a commitment to be anything but an energy vampire.

4.) Gratitude rules. I’m incredibly fortunate to have spent two weeks in Romania in each of the past three summers. While seeing different parts of the country, creating new relationships and stepping out of my comfort zones, I’ve tried to maintain my self-awareness of what a unique life experience this has been.

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