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An Introduction and a 30,000 foot view

06/27/2017, 6:30pm CDT
By Sam Callan, USA Fencing Senior Manager, Coaching Education

I was hesitant to write my first blog as an introduction as I considered it to be conventional, but I thought it was important to introduce myself briefly and share some of my thoughts on coaching.

If you look me up on Google, you might get the results below. First, I am Sam Callan, not Callahan, and look nothing like him.

If you click on some of the links that are actually about me, you will see I have a diverse background including being a college administrator, exercise physiologist, distance running coach, podcast host (depending on how good your research skills are) and a coach educator formerly at USA Cycling. You probably notice no fencing background. So what do I bring to USA Fencing? Legit question.

I had good coaches growing up and considered going into teaching and coaching as a career. For nearly 20 years, I have coached distance runners at a variety of levels and also have worked with young athletes as a baseball and basketball coach which I truly enjoyed. I am passionate about giving kids a positive sports experience from the first day they engage in a sport. Since coaches play a huge role in providing that positive sports experience, it’s important to me to create an environment with positive, transformational coaching. I have spent many years looking at positive youth development through sports and coaching development. I bring to USA Fencing a perspective that coaching is more than just the technical and tactical aspects of the sport.

My goal is to help coaches become better and more efficient at coaching – and not just in the technical or tactical areas. Research and case studies have shown that a coach making a connection with an athlete is a critical component to success. Yes, we know of instances where coaches and athletes scream at each other or have a surly relationship, but I argue we hear about those because they are outside the norm. On the contrary, most coaches, either volunteers or those who dedicate their lives to the profession, are committed to creating a positive experience for their students.

One of the best lines I have ever heard about coaching is to coach the child (person), not the sport. Coaches can influence kids far beyond the game and teach life lessons.

There are two (maybe more) schools of thought when it comes to learning life lessons from sports. One school of thought is to be straight forward about how sports can teach life lessons: Be open and use examples of how one day you will be in some situation and what you are going through now in sport will help you. Others, like Jean Cote, believe that kids will make the connections without adults ramming it down their throats (my words, not Jean Cote’s). Basically, we do not need to spoon feed them the life lessons.

Below are some of my core beliefs:

  • I believe that every kid should have a positive youth sport experience.
  • I believe youth sports should be centered more on what is good for the kid and less on what is good for, or convenient for, the adult.
  • I believe coaches should constantly evaluate how efficiently they are coaching. I admire coaches who continually strive to learn and improve.
  • I believe coaches should have a well-defined mission statement that aligns with their values.
  • I believe that kids are actually pretty smart and can learn a lot without adults swooping in with “the” answer or solving the problem for them.

The good news is that, since starting my position with USA Fencing in March, I have seen many coaches who exhibit those qualities.

I hope that helps folks understand where I am coming from in terms of coaching education. I have met some fantastic people in my short time at USA Fencing and look forward to meeting many more.

Callan will be facilitating a workshop at the USA Fencing National Championships on July 8 and again on July 9 at 5 p.m. each day in Room 155C. All coaches are invited to participate and work on developing a coaching philosophy and discussion.
This will NOT be a lecture!

Tag(s): Blog