My Life Changed After the Summit


(photo: Stephanie Matthews)

I’ve been wondering what to write and say about my Summit experience. I had something written in diary format until I realized writing fourteen days worth of my memories was absolutely no use to you. Then summer rolled around and I got back into the coaching routine where my outlook on life was basically a walking tumblr page and my enthusiasm for living was sickeningly tacky. This morning though and the past day have really motivated me to write. I have always been one of those people who assumed that my way was the best way, and although I still follow it rigorously I have inspiration in the smallest of places to change. My life changed after the summit, I learned how to be a better coach to my athletes and a better people builder. Before I could do that I had to learn how to step down and reflect. I cannot even believe I am saying that because for those 2-weeks, morning reflections bored the life out of me. But I find myself more than ever reflecting on things I do and say. It is a terrible habit because then I know what I have to change. I do not like change. So why did my life change and what did I learn? 3 things. 3 very important things.

1. The way you ask teaches you what you need to know.
I am naturally a nosey person, not because I am interested in this stored information but because I like to know who I am dealing with. So naturally I go right for the big questions, I want to know what you’ve done, whether you have a good family and whether you have big goals in life. One of the exercises we did was asking each other questions and vey quickly did I realize that it is terrible to answer these questions for people of whom I hardly know. My take away from this was I need to learn how to ask the right questions which will then guide me to what I must know that is important. I introduce to you, the Question Ball Icebreaker.


It is within this ball that I can find out if a child is treated well at home, cares about home, has aspirations and is serious, silly or alone.
1. What did you have for breakfast this morning?
2. Who is the first person you would call if you were stuck on an island?
3. What do you think you were born to do?
4. If you had to eat a worm, how would you cook it?
5. How did you meet your best friend?
They’re less threatening, slightly weird but loaded full of everything you need to know.
2. You could be it for one of them.
This one stuck with me. I learned it from Serena William’s former coach, Nick Bolliteiri. More specifically he said, “A coach is the jack of all trades. You’re a mother, father, transporter, sister, teacher, doctor, friend. A coach can change the personality of a young person forever.” I have always loved coaching more than I think anyone knows, I love it enough that I am willing to make a living off of it. Yet, before the Summit there were days I was happy to let it go. The kids I coached I adored but I knew they had everything, or at least I thought they did. Sitting listening to Mr. Bolliteiri I thought of all the signs I missed, all the things kids looked for through their behaviour, the things I condemned. I cannot be that someone for everyone but I can try harder than I ever did before.
3. I can choose to be the coach that I am or I can choose to be the coach that my athletes need me to be.
This one took some guts to spit out. I learned to put up a very hard wall that could not be broken down. This wall went up before I became a coach and stayed up. I am a naturally strict person, I do not like nonsense and if things are going to be done right, they will be done right the first time. I was always really hard on myself as a child both in school and sports. Breakdowns were a common occurrence and I think I transferred this over into believing that a child should always want to try to do their best. I came up with learning outcome #3 this morning when I realized how much I truly value change. For the first time in my coaching career I decided to take time. By this I mean there was no schedule, requirement or even objective, just a set of skills that would be learned when they were learned. Above this, I would let the athlete lead the way. I had to be silly and laugh, giggle and snort. I didn’t yell from my coach boat, I sat in my boat and worked as “training wheels”, holding on for dear life, hoping to God this morning would let me remain relatively dry. The efforts of this obscurity were not apparent until an hour later when I watched the product of silliness defy all odds and become a canoer within the span of a week. The proof was right there, yes, it will take several more hours of commitment, a lot more people reading and question asking, but if I can change the hat that I wear for each person imagine the difference it will make.


Perhaps what was even better than the things I learned were the people I met. I met people who coached for free, people who fought for kids to play sports, people who were the first in their families to go big, try heroes in their own fashion. I am so HUMBLED to have even been part of this group of amazing world-changers. When I look at my athletes I don’t just see potential or an extra paddler, I see a person. I see a person who, if paddling doesn’t work out, has potential to be the difference like the 36 other people I met in that tiny conference room on June 7, 2015. Our job as coaches, high performance or recreational is to create the goal and reach it, build the athlete and cultivate the person, give them something to go to and push off of. More importantly, remember to be silly, remember that sports are fought harder for by some people, it is our privilege. That is our role.


(photo: Stephanie Matthews)


One thought on “My Life Changed After the Summit

  1. Mom says:

    Wow. Very inspiring Ornmadee. Reflection, Evolvement and Adaptability. Child-focused learning. You are such an incredible teacher.

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