Good coaching means effective communication. Elite Camps founder Stephanie Rudnick shares advice about ego, consistency, managing the ups-and-downs, and playing favourites. For parents, we learn about the ill-effects of helicopter parenting and how young athletes prefer to hear about our epic fails. Whether you’re a coach, a teacher, a manager and/or a parent, Stephanie has some valuable insights to help you be a better coach.
SHOWNOTES – COACHING
- Key Learnings
- References & Links
- Andrea’s Commentary
- Interview Transcript
(More KEY LEARNINGS are summarized here, including research and insight on all kinds of COACHING, whether you’re a sports coach, a teacher, a manager &/or a parent…)
Stephanie’s advice for coaches of all kinds:
Coaching mindset –
- Leave your ego out of coaching
- Put the WE before the ME.
- We learn more from the ups and the downs
- Sure, we all want to win. But there’s only one champion at the end of the season. Manage through the ups and downs, knowing there are learnings for young athletes at every game and every practice.
For new coaches –
- Be consistent
- Create a few rules. Then stick to them, no matter what.
- Don’t play favorites
- It’s human nature to have favourites. Many less experienced coaches will reveal their favourites, usually implicitly. Don’t do it. Favourites create a toxic environment.
For parents –
- Stop helicopter parenting
- Let your child advocate for herself.
- Share stories about your defeats.
- Your kids don’t want to hear about your glory days. They don’t want to hear about your gold medal games. They want to hear about your defeats. The time your coach threw a chair at you. Or when you lost in double overtime. Or when your team-mates disappointed you. Somehow, those are the engaging stories. Imagine the “Resilience” learnings inherent in these stories!
References & Links
Stephanie Rudnick & Elite Camps
- Stephanie Rudnick – https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephanie-rudnick-146b5740/
- Elite Camps – https://www.elitecamps.com
- Swish for the Cure Charity Event – https://elitecamps.com/charity/
- Stephanie’s Books
Summary of Coaching Research & Insights
Other Talk About Talk Links
Dr. Andrea’s Commentary
For this episode, I had the privilege of interviewing Stephanie Rudnick. Amongst her many roles, Stephanie is the founder of Elite Camps, one of Canada’s largest basketball organizations.
The focus here is on SPORTS coaching. But it will be quite evident that Stephanie’s insights transcend other domains. Certainly, there are many occupations where coaching is evident:
· life coach
· financial planner
· fitness trainer
· manager or boss
**This week, I am going to let our guest do more of the talking. (Of course, I still get to ask the questions!) But this week I share my research learnings with you in the Talk About Talk newsletter blog. You can click here now or SIGN UP FOR THE EMAIL NEWSLETTER NOW. Every week, you will receive one, short & concise summary of what I’m thinking and talking about. This week it will be all about – coaching.
I’ll start with a quote from Stephanie: “You’re going to have impact if you care. And you can show kids you care by showing up every single week and doing your best. They will likely learn either because of you, or in spite of you.” OK, that might be daunting. But here are some coaching lessons I pulled out of the interview:
- Leave your ego out of coaching. It’s not easy, but it’s critically important.
- Be consistent. Choose your rules and stick with them.
- We learn more from ups-and-downs than we do from wins. It seems obvious, but we don’t always remember that in the heat of the moment, do we?
- Don’t play favourites. A common mistake, but a debilitating one.
- For parents – two things:
- Stop being a helicopter parent and start letting your child advocate for herself. Frankly, too many parents are scaring the good coaches away. Of course, you can coach your child on how to advocate for themselves, but let your child do their own talking. You don’t want your child to grow up to be the employee who doesn’t know how to advocate for himself.
- Your kids don’t want to hear about your glory days. They want to hear about your defeats. It’s probably the same for the stories your subordinates want to hear. As Stephanie says,” they want to hear about when a coach yelled at me, or threw a chair at me, or when my teammates were rude or not nice. They want to hear about that.” That’s probably true, right? Think of the resilience you are teaching when your share your epic fails!
Now, let me introduce Stephanie Rudnick.
Stephanie spent four years playing for the Women’s Varsity Blues basketball team at the University of Toronto. Her team captured two provincial titles and a silver medal at the 1996 Canadian University National Championships. In her final season with the Blues, Stephanie was named an Ontario University (OUA) All Star. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Physical and Health Education degree and is a Level Two NCCP-certified coach.
After graduating Stephanie shifted to improving the skills of Canadian basketball players. In 1999, Stephanie created Elite Camps to achieve this goal. And by the way, ELITE is an acronym that stands for Excellence Lies in the Effort. (That says a lot, doesn’t it?) Under Stephanie’s leadership, Elite Camps has become one of the largest basketball organizations of its kind in Canada, serving 4,000 athletes annually. She also runs Swish for the Cure, a charity event she created to raise funds for Childhood Cancer Canada.
So Stephanie is now a busy and successful business owner, she is the chair of the board of the Ontario Basketball Association, she is a motivational speaker and an author of several books, including Game Plan 2.0, The Little Ballers of the World Series, and Life is a Sport. Oh – and she is also a wife and dedicated mother of three amazing boys (yes, they all play basketball!).
I should tell you that booking this interview was a coup. You might be interested to hear that we conducted this interview in a hallway of a high school, as far away from the pounding basketballs as we could get.
Welcome Stephanie and thank you so much for joining us.
Dr. Andrea Wojnicki: Thank you so much, Stephanie, for joining us today.
Stephanie Rudnick: My pleasure, very excited.
AW: Let’s start at a general level. What makes for a great coach?
SR: Whether you’ve played or not, is neither here nor there. Being a good coach means you have a passion for the sport. You want to pass it on, not just the skills, but the life lessons that go with it. I’ve had a multitude of different coaches, and some of them have played and some of them haven’t. And I’ve received different gifts from each of them, whether they’re really, you know, proficient at teaching basic level skill, or just a resource to help me connect to a university coach. You receive different things from different coaches, I’ve never experienced that perfect coach, but if I could design one myself, it would be somebody who could blend the skills with the life lessons and team culture all into one.
AW: So someone who applies the messages to a real life context.
SR: And it’s consistent, like they have rules and they will consistently follow it, you know, having a great blend of wanting to win. But also be able to be consistent enough for the player to be able to teach that life lesson that may hurt the team in that moment. But in the long run, helps the athlete develop for the rest of their life.
AW: So now I’m actually hearing maybe four things. There’s the ability to extrapolate to real life. There’s being consistent. There’s a strong desire to win. But then there’s also I guess, balancing that desire to win with a development mentality.
SR: Absolutely. I think if I could give an example of what I’ve read about some of the best coaches…One that would stand out would be a John Wooden and all of his teachings. So John Wooden is really big on all those life lessons. And being consistent first players he was known for, like leaving kids, you know, at the gym is star players, if they were late for a game, he would just leave them and that would be the best life lesson they would never ever show up late. Again, the team was pretty impressed, obviously, with them, leaving their star players behind and willing to lose a game, in order to teach that life lesson to those athletes. Those are the best kinds of coaches. You know, a lot of coaches will say that you don’t get to play if you don’t have good grades. If your parents say you’re not doing well in school, but very few are actually willing to sit their star players down, in fear of losing. Because of whether that’s ego or you know, not willing to disappoint the rest of the team.
AW: Right? Well, fear of losing the game or potentially even fear of losing the player. I can understand there’s a lot of pressure.
SR: and ego, a lot of ego for losing
AW: so that’s another part of being a good coach is putting your ego aside
SR: Absolutely. Yeah, it translates. Think about any leader in any great company right?. They’re willing to put the me before the we. That’s really for a team atmosphere that’s great. And for Team culture, when you’re willing to you know, create rules and actually adhere to them and force your players to that’s I think the best learning of all.
AW: So we’re asking an awful lot. It’s almost like going up Maslow’s hierarchy or all the way up to self-actualization. You’re really asking for someone to be incredibly confident and self-actualized.
SR: Most of the time is for a volunteer coach, which is an interesting place to be when you’re volunteering your time. And most people are just human and imperfect.
AW: Let’s start moving a little bit more into communication. You said to me once, and I quote, one of my favorite things to do is to tie absolutely everything learned in sport to how you can use it to be more successful in life. And I know Stephanie, this is the premise of your book, Life is a Sport. Can you tell us a bit about that link between sport and life lessons?
SR: Do we have enough time? forever? Yeah, and this is something that I want to say, I knew the whole time I played sport. But it’s definitely something I fell into much later in life. I didn’t really realize I would say until 10 years into my business that I actually figure any of that out. I realized many of my successes came from my learnings in sport. And when I actually sat down to write my book and put pen to paper and tried to come up with 101 life lessons learned through sport, it took me a few minutes to get started. But then it just, it wouldn’t stop. Like everything I could see.
AW: I could just imagine,
SR: I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie, the matrix where like, all of a sudden, like everything just turns into a grid. And he sees everything in code. But now every time somebody tells me a story about something that happens to their child in sport, or you know, there’s an entrepreneur who’s trying to fight through some kind of hardship, I can literally relate to an experience in sport, and how, you know, you can work through it, or if you’re an athlete, figure out how that struggle will turn out and help them later in life. So it’s a, it’s a really interesting realization to be able to see it through a new lens. I really enjoy it.
AW: Well, just so you know, from a very wise man that I know, Harvard professor who I actually interviewed for another podcast interview, he told me maybe 15 years ago, 16 years ago, we’re talking about metaphors. And he said, it’s actually a sign of intelligence to be able to apply learnings from one context to another. So there you go, highly intelligent, and then you did it in a systematic way, and you’re sharing it.
SR: Yeah. And I think I didn’t know going through it. I think I was living experiences. And it became really apparent when people kept asking me, you know, what’s the secret to success? You know, that’s after 10 years, and that’s very much like an athlete’s journey. Only at the end, when they’re successful. Do people start asking you, how did you get here? How come you’re so good? And what’s the secret? And, you know, sure, it’s like 10 years of experience and trying hard and failing and working through all those downs before you actually get to that high. People want to know how you got to where you got to.
AW: can you talk about a few examples of how communication with her amongst teammates, coaches, opponents, traders, recruiters how that might apply?
SR: Yeah, absolutely. I think my favorite thing in my own business is to help students of the game understand how they can use that communication of the starting lineup in their lives. So often, I’ll have a student athlete like a university student, come up to me and ask them how their year was. And they say, oh, it wasn’t so great. I asked why. It’s usually the same answer. I didn’t get the playing time I thought I deserved,
AW: right. So they were sitting on the bench, right?
SR: Yeah, exactly. Playing or not getting the minutes they deserved, or they thought they deserved. And that’s a great conversation to have. because realistically, the starting lineup is a place where there’s two perceptions involved. It’s your own perception as the athlete. And then of course, there’s the coaches perception of where they are officially at and get to play at. Very similar to in a job thinking, you’re at a certain level, perhaps thinking you’re going to get a raise or that promotion, and not really understanding that your perspective might be there different than your bosses, right? There’s some kind of gap, a misconception that you might be having in that conversation piece is, what I love to educate our staff with. Because, you know, just to be able to walk up to your coach and say, “Hey, I think I should be in the starting five, where do you really rank me?”
AW: it takes guts
SR: To be able to have that conversation is a is a really tough thing. So I mean, in our business, we actually challenged them to ask their boss on a very regular basis where they think they rank amongst their teammates in the working environment, and see how they do. It’s also a great conversation for a staff member who would like a raise right, or think they’re being unfairly evaluated. So it’s a really interesting conversation to have to be able to work your way up from the 12th player all the way to number one, and that in itself, and sport is just that never ending cycle.
AW: Do you have any stories of athletes who finally worked up the nerve to ask their coach, where they were ranked, and how they could get ranked higher what they needed to do to improve their rank?
SR: Yeah, I mean, I did it. I went to U of T and I, it’s funny, I was recruited to go there. And of course, being a young naive 19 year old I thought I was like, they’re only recruit right? Only to the star. Yeah, of course, right? They came to my house. And of course, I thought I was the star and nobody else could possibly be recruited at the same time as me. I walk in on the first day, and I see four other tall women almost my height. Totally my position and I completely lost my mind.
AW: It’s kind of like the first day of work. Right? Like, oh my god, I’m a rock star. Oh, there’s other rock stars too!
SR: There are other women here that are fighting for my spot. So yeah, definitely. I had spent that year fighting for that position. I wasn’t a starter. But I remember, going into my coach, I was a pretty shy introverted back then.
SR: I know it’s insane. I actually was never team captain, I was not a vocal leader, I had none of these skills. I watched these people on my team have these skills. And that learned communication only came after I started my business, believe it or not, but I did have a few moments where I would not tolerate that lack of communication. It was in my second year. So after a year of being a rookie, and working my way onto the team, and making sure I got some playing time, worked really hard all summer. And a couple of our veteran players have left and I thought I deserved to start. And I had words with my coach and challenged when she actually didn’t start me in our opening season game. And it’s funny because I never actually challenged an adult before. So I was shaking and I actually had a bit of a tantrum. I actually refused– when she wrote the starting lineup on the blackboard in the team change room — And I saw my name wasn’t on there. I shut down. I was like, I can’t believe this. I worked really hard. I’m better than these other people. I know, I deserve this. I sat down on the bench and I refused to warm-up and she’s like, “What is your problem?” And I was like, “I deserve to start and you know it” and she’s like, I didn’t think you needed that. To be able to play. This other player need that. In her in her mind. And I’m like…
AW: wow, the lessons you learned in that nanosecond. Right?
SR: Ridiculous. And I and she’s like, What are you trying to tell me? I’m like, I don’t know. She’s like, Are you trying to tell me you can’t perform unless you start? I’m like, that’s exactly I’m trying to tell you. So I ended up starting, I ended up getting my spot.
AW: that game?
SR: That game! I got my spot that game and it was never you know, I had to fight for that spot. I had to go in every single honestly, like, I don’t even know if it was almost every other day in my first year of as a rookie, like, what can I do to get more time? What can I do? I want more. So it was definitely for some reason I found my voice in that moment.
AW: You’re gutsy.
SR: I know. Crazy, right? So yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of different ways to communicate. I don’t know that I’m so proud of having that tantrum. But in in that moment, I definitely learned that being able to ask a question was important. So being able to have the guts to talk to the coach. And I was always amazed at some teammates of mine that I love dearly that I knew – they never got to see the floor. And I just I kept saying, you know, why are you going in there? Why aren’t you talking to her? And asking what you can do to get more playing time? And their answer would be like, well, I already did that. And like, so do it again, they give up and they don’t want to continue asking that question. whereas others are going to keep going until they get what they want,
AW: So my mind is spinning with questions that I could ask about all the learnings you had there, and, all the different things that could have happened. So some coaches may not be open to that. And what do you say to that?
SR: I think it was a real risk. I think she could have just sat me down and not played me. But I think she really loves to win. And I would say that I loved my experience that you’ve T. And I know she loved me. But you know, she, she definitely loved other players as well. And then probably a little bit more than me, right. But she also needed things from me. And sometimes in sport. When your coach knows you can do something they’re willing to, to play you to get what they need out of you. And I knew that,
AW: and you’re also probably at the time about 19 years old. Yeah, and she probably understood there’s certain levels of maturity.
SR: I think, I think she, in a way, like the fact that I kind of fought for it, because I was pretty meek. When I first entered, I didn’t really say a lot, I just, you know, worked hard, put my head down. And it’s rare, I think, to have athletes actually demand and put the effort in as well.
AW: So, but flipping this back to the coaching, there’s a significant responsibility or onus on the coach, I would say, even more so than the players to communicate these things transparently. And as you said, consistently,
SR: in an ideal world. Yeah, but and that’s the learning, right? Coaches are humans. And I tell my staff that all the time, they’re just humans. And it took me well into my career to understand that because you hold a coach to such a light, right? It doesn’t matter what background you have, your coach is like God. And they have all the answers and the power to go with it. So I mean, realistically, whether they have that information given to you, which is very rare, because they’re just human, if you don’t know to ask, and they’re not willing to share, that’s where there can be some real problems. And you know, people get discouraged from playing team sports.
AW: So one of the lessons you’re telling your staff who want to become coaches at Elite camps, you’re telling them to, you know, take a little bit of the pressure off because you’re human, but there are many expectations. And if you if they’re coaching a team, they should be transparent and open with the athletes, right?
AW: I want to ask you a question about some mistakes that coaches make. But I have a bit of a story that I think is worth noting here. I remember when I was starting to work as a professor teaching for the first time, and I was like a sponge. I was trying to get advice. I was very nervous, I love public speaking, and even teaching, but I really wanted to do well. And I wanted to be a good teacher. And so I was asking all of the successful professors, I got all sorts of advice, you know, do this, do this, do this. And I got one piece of advice that really stuck out. This one professor said, If someone tells you what you should do in the classroom, take it with a grain of salt, because it really depends on your style. But if someone tells you what to NOT do, so, whatever the don’ts are, she said, the DON’Ts are the things that you should take for, for the truth and the do’s, you should adapt to your style. And that really struck me as something that as you said, I’ve actually applied to other contexts. The question I want to ask you is, what are some of the mistakes that coaches often make when they’re starting out?
SR: I think playing favorites is something that, you know, can happen quite often. It is human nature to have favorites. But I think a big mistake that, especially first-time coaches don’t understand the impact that can have on the rest of the team. And the culture, right, that of that team atmosphere that you’re trying to create. And because we’re all human, and everybody has favorites, watch out for how you deal with your favorites –on court and off court.
AW: And I can imagine at work. let’s translate this to work. Yeah, yeah, you’re gonna have subordinates that you adore. And some that you maybe don’t quite adore.
SR: And there’s a lot of messaging there. I know, when I was I was talking to one of my staff who played for Carlton, one of the most winning teams in Canada. And you talk to the head coach, Dave Smart, about playing favorites. And, you know, giving the All Stars certain things that other people, little bit of leeway, that other players don’t get. His philosophy is: Well, he’s the all-star. And you know what, he deserves it. So when you’re the all-star, maybe you’ll get it. And that’s a totally different way of thinking and operating. It may not be the most successful way of coaching youth sport. But it seems to do him well. He’s got such a strong team culture that because his, you know, youngest than, you know, rookie players really look up to those all-star players. It’s almost like an earned, right.
AW: so yeah, as long as, I guess, he’s consistent with that – back to your point about consistency.
SR: Yes, consistency is key. So I think then, for me, the number one thing to destroy your ability to have a great year is a lack of consistency. Whatever your rules may be, it might just be one thing, like, you know, you gotta line up your bags when you walk into practice. Or maybe there’s no swearing on your team, whatever, whatever your rules are, if you’re not able to be consistent with everybody, that’s tough. You really got to pick your rules ahead of time, or at least try to. It’s just when you’re not consistent, that is single-handedly going to ruin your team.
AW: Do you have any stories of when you’ve either personally experienced or maybe you’ve heard from other people second or third hand about coaches just failing, even when they had the best intention. I’m not talking about the guy who doesn’t care. That’s not the story that we want to hear. It’s about the whether it’s male or female coach going out there with the best of intentions?
SR: I think, I think 99% of coaches fail at their season because they don’t win, right? Like when you think about a national championship team. They’re one out of many teams, the rest of those teams fail. I think it’s measuring what it is you’re going to be successful at. I think that’s the true measure. Because there can only be one winner of any championship. You know, I’m a seriously competitive athlete. And I don’t like losing. In fact, I threw away my silver medal and a double overtime national championship on TSN and I threw it away. I didn’t want it.
AW: So that sounds familiar. Didn’t some female hockey players do that in the last Olympics?
SR: I think so. I didn’t, I wasn’t public about it. But I may have thrown into the bottom of a closet not taking no for 10 years, until, you know, I got over that loss. And now it hangs in my office. But because, you know, I think when you think about how much I learned from my sport, you know, that’s silver medals, really big deal. And it’s not because I didn’t win the gold it’s not be you know, when I think about the life lessons I took from my playing career at U of T. I mean, I won in so many ways. And I think when you’re looking at, you know. What can you possibly, you know, do with all those losses when you think about all the teams that lose really the measure of success. And I don’t want to sound hokey because I really love winning, I love winning, and I hate losing. But the reality is, is most teams lose their season. There’s one way so what else? I mean, as a coach, you really got to think about what else are you giving your athletes? And try maybe coach on purpose for that.
AW: in a generic sense, the ultimate measure of success as a coach is getting the best performance out of your athletes.
SR: I don’t think it’s the gold medal. best success you could probably have is when your athlete comes back to you later and said, You had a serious impact on my life.
SR: It’s even deeper than that. Yeah, you were there for me, or, you know, you don’t even know like, I mean, coaches don’t realize the impact they have. It can be a player who is dealing with divorce and their family. And that was like, the one safe space that they had. And it was consistent and there were rules and, you know, they may not have rules at home. It could be like, you know, I have stories of, you know, like, if I didn’t have the hardships I had at my, in my playing career, I would not be where I am today. You know, if I didn’t, you know, I had I had my coach. And I thanked her many years later. My mom was in a car accident. And my entire team rallied around me. And my coaches were around me during that time. And it was a really hard time. I didn’t know it then. But how meaningful that was to have other people in my life. So I think when you have players come up to you later, as a coach, you actually realize your impact is, is so much more than just winning a game. There’s a lot of stuff that coaches do that go unnoticed, and sometimes never thanked for, that I find later on kids will come back and let them know.
AW: So as you’re talking about this, I’m, I’m thinking about two things. One is, I think I have some people that I need to send Thank yous to. Both coaches and teachers, actually. And the other thing is, I feel like there’s a hierarchy for coaches. It’s winning the games is at the bottom, and then the next level up is getting the best performance out of your athletes. And then the next level up is impacting the lives of the young athletes, right?
SR: Yeah, as players, they don’t want to hear any of that. And as coaches, they don’t want to hear any of that.
AW: Because it distracts them?
SR: It’s too deep. I think it happens organically. And if you flip that structure upside down, it just happens. It falls together. Realistically, athletes learn the most from the worst parts of the sport. You know, they learn from the trials and tribulations I can use myself as an example. I never once led a team meeting or a team huddle. I was never named team captain. But I watched great players, and good and bad and horrible and wonderful coaches all throughout my career and I can say that I learned through seeing and experiencing. And only then when I was ready to go from introvert to more of an ambivert that I can actually use some of those tools. But it was years later.
AW: do you think that you had this implicit self awareness before?
SR: I had zero, I had nothing. I had one thing and it still stays with me. And it was I had a goal, right? You had a desire to win. And I actually had a desire to be good at something, my desire to win, I always wanted to win, but I wanted to be successful. I think that was for me, and I know that’s different than some athletes, but I really wanted to be successful. And then of course, I wanted my team to win. I got, really addicted to winning, who happened to find myself on some very good teams. But for me when I was you have to…
AW: You happened to find yourself yourself on some really good teams? You didn’t earn your way there, you just randomly..
SR: The height helped me with the first few teams. But I do find that I really, especially as a young girl being six feet six feet tall, saying what is it great eight, I was really low self-esteem and to be able to work on a skill that I wasn’t very good at just trying basketball for the first time in grade nine. And being able to see results. I became really addicted to that feeling of success and more I communicated I want to get better, the more people were coming towards me to help I still carry that with me was very basic need to, you know, have a goal, work hard to get it. Very simple. So when people last me in business now, you know, how did you do it? I go the same way. I did it back in grade nine. I have a goal and I just keep working harder than everybody else around me.
AW: You sure do. I can tell you that I know you work extremely hard. I was lucky to get this interview into her schedule. I want to ask you a question about managing peak performance. When I read Life’s a Sport. And I was thinking about all of the lessons that can be concluded from different athletic experiences, and then transferring them into life. I was thinking about the pregame pep talk. So this is relevant for all of us in cheerleading our co-workers, our subordinates, our kids, even ourselves, and it could be helping prepare our work team to go out and do a big presentation, right? Or it could be helping our kids go into well at a try out? The conversation that you have with them privately in the car. Or maybe you’re driving them to a big test at their writing. What advice or observations Can you share, for those of us who are doing what in sport would be called a pregame pep talk?
SR: So when I started my business, I was finding myself having to do these pep talks. And I was really bad at it. So I thought I’d read a book about it. I laughed really hard. When I got to the big point of the book. Their lesson was, you find your magic number. And you practice your speech that many times and for me is nine. If I’m going to talk to my staff, I will practice nine times before delivering something very meaningful and very important to any of my staff. So absolutely. When I when my staff asked me, hey, I want to do presentation, you know, what should I do? Can you help me prepare? Like, absolutely, I’m like, let’s figure out your number. And you’re going to practice this. And they’re like, well, that’s awkward. I’m like, I know, it is awkward. But like in sport, really, to accomplish what you want in sport, you need to practice over and over and over again, you put it to them like that. That’s why I laughed so hard, because this amazing book, which is like, you know, 300 pages long the moral of the story was PRACTICE and figure out your number of times. That’s funny. And it really is an effective way. And I remember I was doing something for the Ontario Basketball Association, it was important to, you know, be a little bit more eloquent. And since I’m not eloquent naturally, I found it really important to practice that we didn’t want to miss a beat. And I didn’t want to read it off of a cue card. So for me practicing it nine times. I just got it.
AW: Wow, yeah, that’s great. I actually am having a memory of being in my office at school. And I had to give a presentation and I closed the door, and I stood up and I pretended the wall in my small office was the audience and I gave a presentation to the wall.
SR: Yeah, I have been in hotel room, my family’s been on vacation, and I would practice speeches by myself in the room. Like, it’s embarrassing, but you get over it. Yeah, it’s wonderful to be able to understand the idea of practice through sport. Once they get over the idea of practicing in front of a mirror or taping yourself and trying to see what your body language is like. They understand because athletes understand practice.
AW: Do you have any general advice or other stories about the inspirational pep talk?
SR: I do. I and I think like most business stories, the best ones are the ones that are true in our personal and our real. So I remember in our National Championship final game, it was our second overtime, the most powerful speech ever, was when my coach got down on one knee. And, you know, what do you say to a group of girls who just played in another over time, and you want to challenge them to try and get to that next level? And win. I couldn’t imagine what she was going to say to us.
AW: And also, you know, that there’s another coaching, exact same thing in the dressing room across the hall absolute right. So you’re, it’s lots of pressure.
SR: It’s crazy pressure. So what does she do? She gets down on one knee, and she reaches into her bag. She’s ruffling through. and she pulls out a gold medal.
SR: she goes, this was my like, however, many years ago, this is why we’re here. And she’s like, I want this for you go out and get it. Wow. So she really made it real, she really made it real, you know. So I think it’s one of those things that when you can bring a personal story to connect to your athletes or to your co-workers. There’s nothing more amazing to connect with your staff at work by giving them a relatable story about your own struggle, and how to get there. To be somebody who that you know, somebody just like them. At one point. For me, it’s really easy to relate to my staff. Because I was once an athlete, I was at 21 year old who’s had to give up her sport because she was injured and had to pivot and try something new. Yeah, it’s a relatable story. And, you know, I could probably match any story they have based on sport because of our similarities. But if you’re in the business world, and your team members need a pep talk, try to remember, you know, what it was like to be them and have a relatable story. You know, if you can show a little bit of vulnerability, I usually find it’s a great connector coaches– who you hold at such a high level –can come down and remind you of what it was like for them when they were your age. It’s, it’s a really powerful tool.
AW: That’s great. I’m going to use that on my kids in the car.
SR: You can try. It’s the best way, the only way, I can talk to my kids, is storytelling.
AW: Yeah, I have to make sure I don’t delve back into my past too much. But, you know, with the kids, they get tired sometimes of hearing, hearing the stories but
SR: but it’s great that you mentioned that because the reality is, is anything I say to my own children, they don’t want to hear it. They’re like, Oh, I know I get it. But if I tell them a story about a time where I was benched or a time where my coach yelled at me. They’re way more receptive. They actually listen.
AW: That’s an interesting point. You know, I’ve heard parents say that their kids don’t want to hear anything about what happened to them. I wonder if the kids just are tired of hearing about all the parents successes. And they actually want to hear about some of the lessons they learned.
SR: They love that. I mean, it’s can be you can hear a pin drop. When I talk about all my failures in my car, they don’t want to hear about grit, how great I was, or that I won a medal. They don’t want to hear that. They want to know how I lost. They want to know when a coach yelled at me, or through a chair at me, or all those fun things that happened or when my teammates were rude or not nice. They want to hear about that.
AW: Interesting. I never thought of that.
SR: Oh, yeah, they love it.
AW: So in our house, we have an acronym, it’s WIWAK and it stands for When I Was A Kid. And whenever my husband or I start reminiscing about something, we have this like, all of us will say, Stop. WIWAKing stop WIWAKing. But I wonder if that would even happen. If the story started from a point of vulnerability. That’s an interesting experiment. I’m going to try it for sure. What are your thoughts on the old school tough coach versus the more modern “congratulations for participating” style coaching, it seems to be gaining traction.
SR: I’m a little old school. So I had two kinds of coaches. I had a few I had number of coaches. But to stick out I had one that was very old school like, yelled and screamed. And I knew exactly where I stood, even if they were not nice words, or things are being thrown at me. I remember that experience very well. But I loved him. And he taught me a huge amount about how to be a better player, just skill wise. Just a great coach I really loved and enjoyed my time with him. And then I, I go to a different coach, where the method of communication was ignoring you when you do something wrong, only high five and you and you did something well. So more like a shunning experience. So I kind of had — I never really was coddled by this new generation of coaching where we got rewarded for participation. That was never my experience.
AW: Everyone gets a trophy. Thanks for coming out.
SR: Ya know, I don’t think that helps us. This is more of my personal opinion. You know, I think there’s a time and a place I think there’s age groups and different kinds of programs. I mean, our business caters to mostly grassroots kids. But I’ve never thought everybody deserves a trophy. I don’t think that’s a great lesson. I don’t think in the working world, everybody gets a trophy. I find to be honest with you. The general trend now is you know, that people are not doing that anymore.
AW: It’s starting to swing back? I’m glad I asked you that because I was hoping that it would swing back. I feel like there’s an equilibrium. And importantly to your point, I think younger athletes, the more tangible rewards for everybody may work really well for younger athletes. But when your kids start saying to you, Mom, I got it. Look at this huge trophy I got and I only went to two of the games.
SR: My kids are at swim school. And I remember the shock and horror of the swim director when my son was five. And he didn’t pass this when badge and they gave him a participation ribbon. And like, get that off my kids report card right now. And I’m like, in front of my own kid. I’m like, I he does not deserve a ribbon. Like he’ll get his award. When he finishes. When he earns his badge, doesn’t need a ribbon. He needs to know that he just needs to work on something. And I’m okay with that. I’m like, Are you okay with that little guy? And he’s like, Yeah, I’m fine. He’s like, okay, mom, my mom. Crazy. And this one director, of course, you know, is like, okay, here’s another one. But yeah, I didn’t want my kid walking around. Celebrating participation. Yeah, not getting his badge. And now when he got his bad, he was super happy. Because he knew he knew here in that branch. So I am a big believer and no participation ribbon. Sorry.
AW: Are there other trends that you’re aware of that have been evolving over the decades in terms of coaching? So, you know, it went from kind of the old school tough guy to everyone’s a winner. And here’s your trophy. And maybe it’s swinging back. But are there other contexts in which coaching is changing?
SR: Yeah, actually, it’s funny, you mentioned that because I just had this conversation with a high school coach who is having trouble getting teachers to volunteer their time. And he said, the number one reason was because of parent communication. And because they are aggressive, and combative, and really, they’re advocating for their children, and not allowing the children to advocate. And, you know, as an employer, I see this all the time, I see parents calling for job applications. I see parents calling for updates on their children. I see parents calling to resolve issues. The helicopter Yeah, so we, the helicopter parents are knock on their full force, they’re really, really causing problems for kids in the workforce. They’re trying to enter in stay in, I can’t tell you the number of conversations I have with parents, like I want to say at least 100 conversations every year about parents calling and trying to advocate for their kids who are my staff. So imagine as a high school coach, you know, you’re volunteering your time, and then you’re getting bereded for lack of playing time. They don’t agree with your philosophy, you know, in a in an environment in Canada, where coaches are volunteering their time, you’re not going to get a lot of people wanting to volunteer,
AW: even if you’re paid.
SR: Yeah, even if you’re paying, but at least you’re paid. These people are volunteering their time. And they’re getting a lot of flack from these helicopter parents. And that’s a big trend that I know is tough. You know, you got parents advocating for their kids in school with their professors. We have to teach these young people how to advocate for themselves. And, you know, sport is a great way if you have a problem with your coach, as young as I would say, 10 years old, right? You can teach your child how to go to your coach and say, Hey, Coach, you know, I’m not getting the playing time that I want, what can I do to get better.
AW: Right. So now, in back to the perspective of a coach, as I said, whether they’re paid or whether their volunteer, it’s becoming so much less enjoyable. What used to be a supporting role as a parent has become this ridiculous advocacy, that selfish advocacy, I guess, for their child.
SR: The parent impact on coaches is stressful. It’s, it’s a big job. And I don’t think parents respect that enough. But I also think they’re really tough on coaches and coaches are just simply not trained how to deal with that, and how to tell the parents and how to coach the parents. Because believe it or not, parents need coaching, right? Even with us. Like if a parent calls and asks about their child. It’s not about saying you’re a bad parent, stop helicopter parenting. It’s more about educating and saying, you know, your child will need to advocate for themselves in the future. Let’s start teaching him how to do it now, while he’s young. Go back home and coach your child to call me and ask me these questions.
AW: So Stephanie, you’re coaching athletes, you’re coaching your staff and you’re coaching athletes and you’re coaching staffs’ parents?
SR: Yes, yes, it’s a full circle job.
AW: And you’re also coaching your kids and your husband.
SR: No, no, no, because my husband doesn’t actually listen to me. They won’t listen to me. So I actually for my own kids will ask their coaches to coach them. Yeah, and I will go to my coaches for advice on my own kids, because I don’t always see it from their perspective.
AW: Well, that’s a great lesson for parents. You have another set of eyes and you actually have another communication opportunity to your child?
SR: Yeah, and I’m trying to use my village because the reality is, the village is what helps your child grow. As parents, you know, in their children’s eyes might not know everything right.
AW: Nicely put. Okay, I’m gonna ask you my five rapid fire questions. Now. I ask every guest Okay, okay. First question is, what are your pet peeves?
SR: My pet peeves? people not willing to put in the work
AW: people not willing to put in the work. Okay, so lazy people,
SR: people that want the rewards, but not the work.
AW: Okay. What type of learner are you visual, auditory,..
AW: Wow. Before I can even…
SR: I’m really visual learner. But the funny thing is, is only this year, I have been confident enough to tell every single person that I need a visual learning environment. So if somebody is try and tell me something, I’m like, I’m a visual learner. I can’t learn like this. You need to you need to show me.
AW: third question. introvert or extrovert.
SR: Ambivert. Sorry, am I am an introvert by nature and a trained ambivert. So I can switch. So I can I can work a room but I’m exhausted afterwards.
AW: But that’s the definition of an introvert. But you’ve trained yourself..
SR: Yeah, I’ve trained myself where I was when I was younger. I would never go to a party or I would never want to speak to people. I’d be happy to stand in a corner and now I can strategically do whatever I want.
AW: You’re a functional introvert okay okay. fourth question communication preference for personal conversation. Would your go-to be text, email, phone,… What would it be?
SR: It would be email. I’m really good on email.
AW: why email?
SR: I think because I’m really forgetful. So with texting it just gets pushed down to the bottom. If you call me I’ll forget to check my voicemail. But on email I will only erase if I’ve cleared it.
AW: Last Rapid Fire question: podcast or blog or email newsletter that you recommend the most. I know where you’re going to say what podcast do you recommend the most Stephanie?
SR: you think I’m gonna say Tim Ferriss which– he is like honestly tied with Jason Gaynor, Mastermind Talks. But yes, those two are definitely my top two. They’re just phenomenal for different reasons. But yeah, they’re both amazing.
AW: I agree. And you can pick and choose the topics.
SR: They’re very different. So different.
AW: Okay. So we’re almost done here. Back to coaching. Is there anything else you want to add about coaching?
SR: I think people are scared to coach I think it’s a big job when people want to coach for the right reasons. They’re the best coaches. I think, if coaches can remember that kids learn more from the ups and downs than the win. If you can remember to have a few important rules and be consistent, you’re going to have impact if you care. And if you can show kids you care by showing up every single week and just doing your best they will likely learn either because of you are in spite of you. It doesn’t really matter. It’s great to have coaches in sport.
AW: Well, Stephanie, I can say honestly, I think your staff and your athletes are very lucky to have you coaching them. And I thank you very much for your time.
SR: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.
Well, I hope you enjoyed that interview with Stephanie Rudnick as much as I did. Can you believe that a coach threw a chair at her? Or that she lost the championships in OT and hid her silver medal for years? I love her story about taking the risk to tell her coach that she deserved to be a starter. I have a feeling that was a turning-point in her life, never mind in her basketball career. If you’re interested in earning about the successful basketball organization that she has created, check out Elitecamps.com.
KEY LEARNINGS that Stephanie shared about coaching:
- Leave your ego out of coaching.
- Be consistent.
- Don’t play favorites
- And don’t hesitate to share stories about your defeats. Somehow, those are the engaging stories.
Don’t forget, please, go to TalkAboutTalk.com and sign up for the email newsletter. I promise I have pots of interesting facts and figures to share with you about coaching
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