While the convention is a four-day affair, my travel schedule meant that Day Three would be my final day. After all of the previous day’s excitement I wasn’t quite sure the schedule could keep pace. I was incorrect. The day was full of amazing presentations and just the right amount of mishap to make any travel blog interesting.
For the early sessions, the presentation given by Brad Carlson on the Active Edge Muscle Activation Technique system seemed to truly captivate the crowd. For about an hour Mr. Carlson used coaches in the audience to demonstrate the concepts of the program. As he worked through a number of their models (which I won’t be giving away for free), a lot of common practices in race preparation were challenged. I know after seeing the science and the working examples myself I will never look at stretching or rolling out the same again.
As the day progressed, I felt more comfortable that I had the previous two days in talking to other coaches. In reflection, I think my initial interactions with Grinnell Assistant Coach Tim Hammond really changed how I approached the rest of the week. Just in case you missed the Day 2 entry, Coach Hammond had invited me to eat lunch with him and fellow Jean Freeman Scholarship winner Macalester Assistant Coach Aleta Kolan. Coach Hammond is an American Swim Coaches Association Level 4 Coach, which is a fancy way of saying he knows an incredible amount and has enjoy great success in swimming. Only about 8% of college coaches hold that designation. So here is this incredibly experienced and knowledgeable coach taking time to listen to me. I think it definitely made me feel like I belonged and gave me a bit of confidence.
As I look back at my first four years of coaching at college level, I have always felt a bit behind the rest of pack. While it seems most coaches transitioned from swimming to coaching directly, I took four years after graduate school to serve in the Army. I am extremely grateful for that experience and for the chance to meet the amazing men and women I served with but that gap has made my transition to coaching intimidating. I think it wasn’t until talking with coaches like Coach Hammond and George Washington Head Coach James Winchester (who really enjoys seeing his name in print) that I have been able to really see my military experience as a direct asset as opposed to a nice bullet point on my resume.
That being said, it wouldn’t be a good blog entry unless I shared an embarrassing moment (there are truly so many) that happened to me. While being fortunate enough to network with amazing coaches like UConn Assistant Coach T.J. Natal, I had a mishap with a beverage. The liquid found its way onto the only pair of shoes I had brought on my trip. Now don’t fret, these are shoes I had purchased in 2008, so there were likely on their way out anyway but I was in a dilemma. The CSCAA Annual Awards Banquet was that evening and I couldn’t very well sit in a room with hundreds of the top coaches in the country with wet shoes and all of the wonderful smells that come along with that burden.
So for a third time this week, I jogged down Orrington Street (while in my suit) to a menswear store. I carefully explained my situation and lamented to the kindly service person that I would only be able to purchase a new pair of shoes and socks if would be to dispose of the now toxic pair. He was at first confused, likely because my previous dress shoes were of the payless variety, but none the less matched me with a beautiful pair of shoes on clearance. I rewarded his efforts by removing the tags from the items and changing socks and shoes right there at the register. Luckily the store was empty and he was able to immediate and graciously take my old shoes to the dumpster behind the store; something that was probably more insufferable than the nervous banter I was spouting throughout the process. All is well that ends well however, and I now have a new beautiful pair of shoes that will hopefully last me for the next eight to ten years.
The third day of conference culminated with Banquet Cocktail Reception followed by the aforementioned CSCAA Annual Awards Banquet. Armed with my shiny new shoes, I prepared to do my best wallflower routine until I could sneak a seat in the banquet hall with an easy access to exit. Just in case. Just in case what you may ask but I wouldn’t have an answer. Fortunately, on my way to hiding, the wonderfully kind and charming Rick Mullin and Mary Henry of the Ted Mullin Fund stopped to talk to me. If you haven’t heard of the organization, stop reading and go read their website instead. The fund puts on an event, the Hour of Power, to raise awareness and funding for sarcoma research. The event has been such a special part of each season I have been at Colby and I am so incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to talk with them.
Once the reception wrapped up, the banquet seating began. I did get my table next to the exit but there is so much more to that story. Whenever walking into a room with more than four to five people, I always look for someone I know so I can walk with some sort of purpose instead of wandering. Fortunately, I saw Coach Kolan and made a straight line for the table she was at. Upon sitting down, I realized I was now sitting at the same table as Princeton Head Women’s Coach Susan Teeter and Pittsburg Head Coach Chuck Knoles. I know I have used the word intimidating a lot over the last three days, but this one took the cake. There is something so spectacular being at the same event let alone at the same table as two coaches who have defined what it means to be successful in our sport. To say I was star struck is to be generous.
Of course, this level of elation can only lead to another amusing antidote. I am generally overly polite. I use sir and ma’am with such a regular clip that I catch myself addressing the seventeen year-old barista at the coffee shop with the greeting. So when addressed by esteemed Coach Susan Teeter, I, of course, used the very formal ma’am in addressing her. Because I clearly was not nervous enough, Coach Teeter stopped me, grabbed my hand and outlined that I would refer to her only as “Teeter” from this moment on. If you haven’t been in the same room as Teeter, her presence alone is enough to make you compliant. A direct order is one that I will never forget. Again, I feel so incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to spend time and interact with such a remarkable coach.
The rest of the ceremony was an amazing experience. Along with the other five coaches who were Jean Freeman Scholarship recipients, I was privileged to be recognized in front of the convention. I made my walk to the front of the ballroom as deliberate and direct as possible. I would not be tripping or knocking anything over in that moment. Once that was finished, the room was treated to speeches by luminaries like former Kenyon Head Coach Jim Steen and Tufts Head Coach Nancy Bigelow. It was an unbelievably special evening and each separate part was awe-inspiring in its own unique way. If you are coach that didn’t attend this year, I strongly encourage you to make the trip anyway you can in the years to come.
I can’t thank CSCAA Executive Director Joel Shinofield and the rest of the scholarship committee for the chance to attend this career-changing event. There is also about twenty other coaches and attendees that I would love to thank individually but I don’t want to turn this into an Oscar speech. I will just leave it at a simple thank you to everyone I had the chance to meet. In his opening remarks Mr. Shinofield instructed every coach in the room to text the coaches that helped them get started. I am terrible texter so to close the book on my convention experience I want to thank (there goes the avoiding the Oscar speech) Seaside Aquatics Coach Ken Fittro, Saint Rose Head coach Keith Murray, and Villanova Head Coach Rick Simpson for taking a seemingly crazy and wild chance in working with me at each stage of my career. Without you seeing something in me that I was unable to see myself and without your support, I wouldn’t have the honor to be writing this now. Allan Carr once said “you should never meet your heroes” but I think this past week has proven there is great folly in the sentiment.