"Once you stop learning, you start dying." -Albert Einstein
Albert was a smart, smart man. And I couldn’t agree with him more. Seventeen years as a collegiate basketball coach has enriched me in myriad ways.
I have performed in various roles and lived all over the country. I have a vast network of colleagues, administrators and boosters who I can call on for advice, help or guidance. The hundreds of young women who I have served over the nearly two decades coaching have impacted me. But after 17 years I have also gotten quite comfortable.
Usually when you think of discomfort you associate it negatively.
“This mattress is uncomfortable and it kept me up all night.”
“It’s uncomfortably hot outside, so everyone is irritable.”
“These shoes are too tight and therefore are causing me great discomfort.”
Very rarely is being uncomfortable something that is welcomed or embraced. Except for the time I attended the WBCA’s Center for Coaching Excellence (CCE). I didn’t attend CCE as a way to better prepare me for being a head coach; although I wish it was an option for me 12 years ago. I didn’t attend CCE to network or increase my visibility in this profession. In fact, just the opposite.
As an introvert, the last thing I enjoy doing is networking. I came to CCE to quite simply get uncomfortable. I grow when I am uncomfortable. I get outside my comfort zone and I stretch myself in ways that don’t come natural to me. Like being the spokesperson for our small breakout group within two hours of meeting most of the attendees. That is uncomfortable for me, but I know that in some way, I grew because of it. I attended CCE because I want to be the best assistant coach that I can be. Not the best in the WBCA. Or even the best on my own staff. But the best assistant women’s basketball coach that SHIMMY can be. Enter CCE.
CCE is the anti-coaching “clinic.” We didn’t discuss recruiting or X’s & O’s. We didn’t learn how to plan the perfect practice. And we certainly didn’t discuss the nuances of playing small ball or the art of the dribble drive. CCE assumes you know how to recruit and you know how to teach post moves. What we did learn was how to manage up in an environment where trust and communication is often lacking and managing conflict resolution in the workplace amongst peers. We spent time outlining unacceptable behavior with players – a topic that is of major concern today. Most importantly, we dissected who we are as individuals and how our own personalities shape our interactions with the people we serve and with whom we serve. By having a better understanding of who I am, I have more clarity and can become a more tolerant and compassionate person. And that, in turn, makes me a better recruiter, co-worker and post coach.
From the moment we entered the room we were challenged to turn off our cell phones and other distractions and be present for each session. The room was structured so you didn’t have the choice of sitting with the coaches that you might already know and have a relationship with but to instead engage with others.
We were challenged to participate; to not be the cool kid at the table, but to be willing to put yourself out there and be open for criticism or feedback that might not be pleasant to hear. Turning off your cell phone and sitting with strangers might not seem like that big of a deal to most people, but for assistant coaches who spend the majority of their waking day being connected to others, this was unthinkable (as evidenced by how quickly most of us ran to our phones during any break we received throughout the day). I challenged myself to not turn on my phone until the end of the session and what I found was that the world didn’t end and I didn’t lose all my recruits and I still had a job waiting for me. By disconnecting with anything that wasn’t going on in that conference room, I was able to fully engage and process what was happening in each session.
Learning ways to connect with administrators and the value behind it, being able to build an authentic coaching/life philosophy based on the nuances of our personalities, creating healthy boundaries in the workplace, and healthy balance in our personal lives . . . these are some of the ways CCE fostered my growth in two days. These are tactics and lessons that I can build upon over the next phase in my coaching career. I am almost overwhelmed at the discovery of how much more growing I get to do as a coach – and as a person.
Every attendee had his or her own reason for attending CCE. I can’t attest to their reasons or if their goals were met. I can only speak for myself. My university didn’t pay for my trip. My hotel, transportation and other expenses were all out of pocket. And maybe that subconsciously forced me to get locked in and contributed to my buy-in. Or maybe the material and information was just that compelling. What I know to be true, however, is I invested in my own personal and professional growth by attending CCE and I would do it again.
I got comfortable with being uncomfortable and, as a result, I got better.
Assistant Coach, University of Florida
Registration for the August CCE session is still available, click this link for more information.