So for a socially awkward person writing about your concerns on an internationally acclaimed website might be an interesting way to jump into the fire. On my second day at the convention, I was still terribly intimidated but writing my experience yesterday drew attention. A number of coaches had read my previous post and I was uplifted by their support and wiliness to reach out. I would expand more but what is a travel blog without amusing narrative?
Day 2 began with me misreading my watch and getting to the convention an hour earlier than anything started. It was great to be in the right place, but as I sat alone in the lobby it took a good twenty minutes for me to realize my folly.
Once I did, I took to talking to anyone in the immediate vicinity that wasn’t intimidating. Again, I was an hour early so that left myself and a hotel employee named Juan as the only two individuals in the area. I had a wonderful conversation with the gentlemen as we lamented about the dangers of vaporizers and e-cigarettes being used indoors.
It was a nice start to the day and I feel like I hit my ten sentence spoken threshold very early on.
My first stop was the third portion of the Coaches Academy. The group covered conflict and in the middle of the presentation the presenter asked us to partner up. Again, in the interest of honesty, panic set in. Luckily, Millersville Head Coach Kyle Almoney was sitting next to me and offered a partnership before I shrank at the challenge. Coach Almoney and I killed at the communication exercises and I was filled with a new level of confidence. The rest of the program was fantastic and the biggest take away from the session was that you stand more to gain by confronting issues with healthy conversation and communication.
At the end of the session, five very prominent and respected coaches held a panel and gave the room guidance. I won’t be able to do the discourse any justice here but it was fascinating to hear what drives some of the most successful coaches in country. Always the observational individual, I also found it incredibly awesome that four of the five panel members were women. In a sport where the standard profile of any head coach seems to be a middle-aged Caucasian male, it was heartening to listen to people that didn’t fit conveniently into that demographic. So much of what influences any young coach is the people that you have the opportunity to meet and sitting in on the panel was inspiring. To give you readers the biggest take away from the panel, I will never forget Princeton Head Women’s Coach Susan Teeter offering the encouragement that you have to network. She said the best way to learn anything is to approach someone that scares you and offer to buy them a beer. She explained that you will learn more in that conversation than in any other medium. At the end of the panel, we were encouraged to start networking that moment. I wish I could tell you that I enthusiastically engaged everyone available but I happened to miss my mouth why trying to drink a cup of water. It may seem small but in the moment I was not only star struck but I also resembled a toddler in a dress shirt. I escaped the room as soon as possible.
Next up in my adventure was lunch. While this may seem like the easy part of the day, I was again wrought with anxiety. I walked the block around the convention hotel about four times trying to choose the restaurant with the least people. I settled on an establishment called the Flattop Grill. Once I walked through the door, of course, I ran into two coaches from the academy sessions who invited me to join them. It was an awesome moment and for the first time in the convention I felt like I belonged. The restaurant was an interesting build-your-meal style establishment that apparently was out of the realm of my immediate understanding. Again, I had practiced my look-cool approach all week but it was difficult to be Ferris Bueller when you stumble around the room wondering how one gets a bowl to fill with ingredients. Eventually, the wonderful waitress educated me and lunch was exceptionally pleasant. Macalester Assistant Coach Aleta Kolan (who bears a striking resemblance to Zoey Deschanel) and Grinnell Assistant Tim Hammond graciously spent an hour laughing at all of my bad jokes and listening to my fairly boring life story. It was such a great experience to talk to other assistant coaches and hear how we share experiences.
The final session of the coaching academy was fundraising and friendraising with former Cleveland State Head Coach Wally Morton and Ohio State Head Coach Bill Wadley. The two titans of our sport covered how they have had success finding money for their program and encouraged the coaches in the room to follow suit. One of the key points was learning to develop an “A” list of donors that you regularly communicate with. Coach Wadley explained that you should contact this elite list once a month and highlighted the small things that make a big difference to the people who help keep swimming alive. I left the session with a new confidence that I would immediately be able to build Colby College a new pool within a couple months armed with my new skillset. It was a great session and the skills I learned will help me for the rest of my career.
In the interest of not running this post over the point of saturation, I will close with two notes starting with my favorite session of the day. Rhone Island University Associate Head Coach Anthony Randall covered the impact of social media on recruiting. It was a fascinating session and Coach Randall did an amazing job keeping the audience hooked with visuals and data. As a young minority coach in a sea of coaches that look the same, meeting Coach Randall and seeing him command and audience was (and I will overuse this word) inspiring. I had the opportunity to talk with after the presentation and later in the day and I was taken by just how open and frank he was able to be while still maintaining a clear charm. If Coach Randall was to apply for the host of the Price is Right once Drew Carey retires, I am sure he is a shoe in.
The evening closed with four-star general James Cartwright speaking on his military experience and his swimming background. In life, you meet amazing people and it is always a clear reassurance that you are experiencing something when an entire ballroom is captivated. General Cartwright opened his life for us and, in a lot of ways, empowered everyone that listened to embrace change and note just how much difference each coach can make. As a veteran who followed college swimming with service, I felt a kinship with this real-life action hero. It was poignant end to a day filled with information and compelling conversation. I don’t have a fancy quote to end today’s entry but I would like to thank new George Washington University coach James Winchester. I was, as always, meekly navigating social contact and Coach Winchester welcomed me and for two hours listening to my nonsense. As my Dad says, do your best and always be gracious when anyone does something for you, so I couldn’t be more grateful.