Where do I begin? How do I summarize in just a few paragraphs the empowering, inspiring, motivating and purpose-affirming experience that was my four days at the NCAA Women’s Coaches Academy (WCA) in Denver, CO earlier this month?
Here are six key takeaways from my amazing experience…
1) What is your Why? Why do you work in this crazy, life-consuming profession that provides the highest of highs and the lowest of lows? Knowing your why is what brings you back to center when life begins to feel out of control, the job gets really difficult, and the idea of stepping away to a “normal” job begins to look appealing. What is your Why?
2) We must first know and understand ourselves to begin to know and understand others. The DISC assessment doesn’t lie. It tells you who you are and how you like to do things. Group discussion about the assessment and the communication styles of each profile helps you to understand how and why those with different profiles than yours do what they do. The bottom line is that coaching at its essence is about people and relationships. Accordingly, we won’t be successful as coaches until we know how best to communicate with and understand other people, particularly those who are different from us.
3) Get Curious, Not Furious – We’ve all been there – the student-athlete who makes a mind-numbingly unintelligent decision that reflects poorly on them, the team, your program and you. But wait. As University of Florida Women’s Soccer Head Coach Becky Burleigh explained to our WCA group, instead of getting furious – get curious. Find out why the student-athlete acted this way – usually there is an underlying reason for poor behavior/decisions and a few pointed questions will get you much closer to understanding and improving the situation than any rage would ever do.
4) Female coaches are disappearing – at all levels and in all sports. It’s on all of us (males and females alike) to provide female student-athletes, at one of the most formative stages of their lives, with the opportunity to have female role models as college coaches. Are you doing everything you can to mentor female assistant coaches and young female head coaches in your department or even within your conference? We must be intentional about creating paths of entry and longevity for females in coaching. More than anything – women must support women and hopefully the men around us will support us too.
5) Social Media is both Amazing and Terrifying at the same time. Social media is amazing for its power to quickly put forward your message to prospective student-athletes, alumnae and so many others. In mere minutes, you can reach thousands if not millions of people with your message. What is not discussed enough, however, is how dangerous social media can be when people are not educated on how to properly utilize this power and how to protect themselves from online predators. As Carrie Cecil, CEO of Social Media Sports Management (SM2) explained, enabling student-athletes and others to use social media without training is like “allowing someone to drive without taking drivers-ed.” We should all be paying more attention to proactively educating ourselves and our student-athletes about the dangers of social media so that we can prevent both negative and tragic situations from occurring in the first place.
6) We must all be vocal allies. Given the current political climate and the myriad of uncertainties that the outcome of this recent presidential election has created for the LGBTQ community, it is no longer enough to be a quiet supporter of your LBGTQ friends and neighbors. If you are an ally, be a vocal ally. There truly is no other kind.
Finally, if you are at all interested in any of the takeaways that I noted above, here are a few action items for you to explore:
1) If you are a female head or assistant coach and you have not already attended the WCA, apply at the next opportunity! You, your program, your athletic department and your student-athletes will all benefit: www.gocoaches.org/programs-events/wca
2) Join the Alliance of Women Coaches – this organization spearheads and runs the WCA and many other great programs throughout the year. This is our larger female coaching tribe – we must support one another as female coaches across all sports and this organization is a great way to do so: www.gocoaches.org
3) To learn more about coach or student-athlete focused DISC assessments and communication styles, explore the information and services provided by Athlete Assessments: www.athleteassessments.com
4) Check out the What Drives Winning website where there is all kinds of great information on character development and information on a variety of coaching philosophies from many of the most successful college coaches around: www.whatdriveswinning.com
5) Familiarize yourself with Dr. Nicole Lavoi, Ph.D.’s research on females in coaching by looking further at her work at the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport: http://www.cehd.umn.edu/tuckercenter
6) Explore how best to educate yourself, your staff and your student-athletes about the benefits and danger of social media: www.teamsm2.com
7) Learn more about LGBTQ inclusion programming by going to www.lgbtsportsafe.com