Let me start by saying that I have never been to a coaching convention in my young career. For whatever reason, the stars have never aligned and I have never had the opportunity. I have purely relied on amazing sites like SwimSwam.com to give me coaching news and information. So far it has worked pretty well. However, this year, I was very fortunate to receive one of the six annual Jean Freeman Scholarships given by the CSCAA in the memory and spirit of the visionary Coach Jean Freeman. The scholarship took care of all of my travel and accommodations and has given me the opportunity to experience everything that is a coaching conference first hand. I couldn’t be more grateful. That being said, any great experience can get better if you are sharing with someone else, so dear reader, I will keep you informed with details of just how great my first conference is going.
Getting to the conference:
I live in the center of Maine. It is a beautiful state, the people great, but traveling from where I live is an interesting obstacle. My day began with my beagle Boomer emptying the contents of the trash onto the kitchen floor while I was showering. It may have been an omen for the day to come. My first flight was to leave from Augusta, Maine. The airport is a small room roughly the size of your average gas station convenience store and the only airline that operates out of it is Cape Air. Cape Air only flies small prop planes that seat eight so leaving from the mecca of small county travel is always fun. Shortly before I was to board my flying matchbox we were informed the Cessna was going to need maintenance and our flight was canceled. On one hand, I was upset I might miss the first day of the conference, on the other hand, I didn’t want to get into a defective small plane.
Luckily, Cape Air got me into a cab to drive the three hours to Boston with about three hours before my connecting flight to Chicago. I was sure it was doomed, but the very eager driver, Jay, assured me I had nothing to worry about. Two hours and thirty minutes later, I was in full sprint through Logan Airport reenacting a movie trope where the main character just makes it to a rather unimportant location but with impossibly high stakes. I landed in Chicago without any other notable cinematic moments, unless you count drooling on myself while falling asleep. Then came the cab ride from the airport. At this point I had about an hour to make it to the convention location to make the dinner event. Theoretically, it was about thirty minutes from the airport to my hotel and it would all work out. Theory exists only to be proven wrong it would seem. My very kind cab driver got partially lost on the way to my destination. While he was very polite and through the power of smart phones, we were able to work through it, I made it to my room a mere ten minutes before I had to be at dinner. I dropped my stuff, packed my notebook, and began a sprint for the second time today from my hotel to the hotel hosting the convention.
As it would turn out, that sprint was unnecessary. The convention hotel was only three blocks away but everyone on Orrington Street in Evanston, IL now knows just how fast I can run in dress shoes and just how high I can jump when a car honks at me. I rolled up to the dinner location five minutes early, a bit sweaty, and eager to fit in. I tried to do my best casual lean by the door and wait pose that I had prepared days before. I imagine I looked awfully suave but it is more likely the whole process was something akin to a high school freshman wandering through the halls trying to look cool while desperately looking for a classroom.
This is the part you probably actually wanted to read. Who cares about anonymous coach Pacheco’s travel right? Someone I hope because I will be everything through my lens; abandon all hope ye who enter. To open I would like to point out I am socially awkward. I am great recruiting and in interviews but there is something about a large crowd of new people that puts me back into fifth grade dance mode. I feel crushing bashfulness, I hug the walls, and I try not to engage unless engaged. As I got more familiar with the dimensions of the room, the first thing that really stood out to me is that everyone knew someone and naturally drifted into conversation. That makes sense of course; networking is the lifeblood of success. The next thing I noticed is that almost everyone looked similar. If you wandered into the dinner and didn’t know what brought this great group of people together, you might think it was a family reunion. It seemed like the average male height was about 6’2 and I am not sure, but I think most of them belonged to both a gym and a crossfit facility. At a towering 5’8 and about 150 pounds, I felt a bit small. Luckily, I am charming so I had nothing to worry about. I am sure it really shown through as I spoke a grand total of ten sentences. Note for tomorrow: I will be more personable.
After the quick dinner, it was onto the Coach Academy (a great idea) session led by Greg Earhart of CollegeSwimming.com fame and most recently a staff member at ASU. His presentation was a fascinating look at recruiting and how best to utilize your time and hone your focus. Mr. Earhart used white boards to map out the concept of matching your expectations and desires of recruits to your college’s and then explained how to use this data to prioritize who you talk to. I honestly can’t do the whole thing justice without further rambling, so I will surmise it the best I can: think of yourself as the terminator of the Arnold Schwarzenegger variety. Using your internal computer system, target your subject and learn everything you can, calculate the risk/reward, and execute with the highest efficiency only spending time on the targets that have an actionable yield. Imagine if you are seeing every recruit in red scale and that 80’s style computer calculation are superimposed over the image; the whole process gets pretty exciting. The highlights for me came with Mr. Earhart explaining his high response rate when listing free food in his e-mail subject line and his imaginary evaluation of college recruit Gary Hall Jr., who received a D grade in leadership. He kept the room engaged and I will certainly use some of his concepts while working on my recruiting. I will also make sure I listen to the T2: Judgment Day soundtrack whenever I am making my cold call list for the rest of my career.
That about raps up day one of my adventure, hopefully day two will provide a bit more coaching knowledge. As Walter Cronkite would close his daily report, I will leave with you with “And that’s the way it is.”