Culture Shaping and Friend Raising by Bill Wadley, Ohio State University (2014)


[introduction by Joel Shinofield]
Alright. As we approach the end of the morning here, we have got one additional talk before our break for lunch, and that is going to be Coach Bill Wadley from Ohio State University. Bill has been the head coach at Ohio State for over 25 years. During that time, he has not only been an exceptional coach, leading his team to the 2010 Big Ten title and in the process earning the Big Ten Coach of the Year Award, he has also given his absolute every moment of every available minute he has to other people. He truly serves as an ambassador of our sport and of coaching.

Every time I speak with Bill on the phone, he is driving some place to give a talk, to help out another coach, to give a clinic, to meet with an alum, or recruit another athlete into his program and help transform their lives. He honestly believes that it is his job to make sure that Ohio State Swimming is not only exceptional now, but it is exceptional for the next 100 years. And he has paid-it-forward through his fundraising and friendraising efforts to make sure that that is the case. In addition to having a program that has finished in the top-25 at the NCAA Championships 22 times in the last 25 years, he has also managed to endow a significant portion of his program.

And every time I talk to Bill, I learn something new. The other day we were on the phone, in the background I heard the drive-up window person asked if they were talking to, you know, bummer, the person on the phone. And what he was doing was, after he put me on hold he explained: he was going to visit an alum and he had stopped to pick them up something to drink, all right? He thinks of others before himself. He thinks of his program 20 years from now, not just right now. And he is a true, true ambassador for our sport and our profession. So I give you: Bill Wadley.

[Wadley begins]
Thanks, Joel; thanks, buddy.

So let us start off with a little energy. First off, I am going to have you watch a couple of videos and we are going to talk about them. And it just so happens that Coach Durden is in the room, so he gets to… you see that face there, Coach Durden? I think he’d coached him to that spot.

(Can you hear that okay? This is the Men’s 100 Butterfly from the Summer USA Nationals.)

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your A finalists….

… There you see Michael Phelps making his way to the blocks. Now, Michael’s time in the heats this morning was faster than the time he swim to win the gold medal in London: a 51.17 this morning; 51.21, Rowdy, in London. Does that send a little bit of a message that he is motivated to get on this team?

There is no question about it. If he hits his walls, there is no way he is going to lose this race. If he makes a mistake that…

[Wadley]: Wait a minute. What did he say? (If…) Say that again. (If.) If he hits his walls, there’s no way he is going to lose this race. So if a great announcer, who has lots of experience in our sport, is thinking that the winner is supposed to be Michael Phelps, what do you think the other six or seven young people up there on the blocks are thinking? Many of them have heard the same story; it has been embedded in their mind, it has been embedded in their spirit, that there is only one winner in this heat. But we all know that there are several other people in this heat that are very darn good. It is our job to lift them up, to help them believe that they can be that guy that someone is talking about; and it is our job to help lift them up and help them believe that they can beat the world’s fastest guy.

So as you will see…

[continuing of video of the Men’s 100 Fly final from the 2014 USA Summer Nationals, showing whole race]

So the reason I showed you that was to show you that, indeed, anybody can win the race, if you are in the race. If you are in the race, you have a chance. You have to believe that it is your race before you get on the blocks. And you have to believe that you have a plan and a strategy to take this race, to make it yours. You can see Michael’s reaction afterwards was “Good job, Tom; Michael was not a happy camper, was he? Well, he is not supposed to be a happy camper at that moment: he just lost race that he was planning on winning and expecting to win.

You know, Tim Phillips, our boy, went 51.4 and got third, which is his best time and a good swim. And he was out the fastest. But what he was learned is he has to learn how to finish. He does not have to learn how to believe he can beat Michael; he has already believes he can beat Michael. He believes that he is the best when he steps on the blocks.

And so, our goal, our job, as coaches is to lift the minds, lift the minds of a young person to a level they have never been to before. And it cannot be phony; it has to be real. It has to be based on fact. It has to be based on what we have seen them do and what we have coached them to do. But we have to lift them up. And if we can get them to stand up against the best competition in the world, it does not matter if that is their best day or worst day, on any day, they could stand up and race them toe-to-toe, that is when you have done and accomplished what you needed to do. And that is what our goal is as coaches.

So, the next video… anybody ever heard of the name Chris Davis? Not talking about the swimming coach Chris Davis; anybody heard of the name Chris Davis? Raise your hand if you have heard of Chris Davis. Okay. For the rest of you, just watch.

He’s back. Mandel will hold it. Now they’ve officially made it, 57 yards. Remember a blocked kick can go the other way too. He’s got to be careful to get it up.

On the way. No: return by Chris Davis. Davis goes left. Davis gets a block. Davis has another block. Chris Davis! No flags. Touchdown! Auburn, an answered prayer.

So one of the fiercest rivalries in college football, Alabama/Auburn; Alabama losses in the final seconds of the game, with a 108-yard run-back by a boy named Chris Davis. No one knew his name, no one gave him a chance, no one believed that this could happen, no one believed this was going to be his moment. And now the world of sports knows a man by the name of Chris Davis.

He shocked the world because he was ready. He was ready. So all along, Chris Davis had been lifting weights, doing his agility stuff, learning how to run back kickoffs. He was prepared for the moment. He had been doing it all in a quiet, you know, demeanor of his team. Everyone in his team knew his name; probably in the town they knew his name. But none the rest of us knew his name, until he had his Chris Davis’ moment.

So the question we have to do is we have to make sure that we have our young people ready for their Chris Davis moment. And what is your Chris Davis moment? What does it look like? Can you create your own Chris Davis moment? Which is going to be something exceptional, something so out-of-this-world that you cannot even think of it right now.

For me, that is coaching. That is the key to developing somebody great. Because if you can create that mindset that says: One day, I’m going to be on top; one day, I’m going to have a chance to do something special. But in order to do that, I have got to climb the mountain; I have got to do it the right way. I have got to do all the weights, I have got to improve my skills, I have got to be very coachable, I have got to develop my confidence, I have got to give great strategy.

I have to be ready for my Chris Davis moment, because when… he did not know when it was going to happen. The ball landed in his hands, it missed the field goal—if it had gone through the uprights, the game is over; Alabama wins. It does not go through, but guess what? The ball is on his side of the field. And guess what? He is ready. And guess what? He delivers—he delivers.

So what we want to do is we want to teach young people how to deliver. We want to teach young people how to deliver by giving them opportunities in practice to deliver. We want to give them opportunities to excel. We want to give them opportunities to fail. But we want to make sure that they are all thinking about that one moment in time that is going to be their moment. When are you going to win the gold medal? When are you going to break the World Record? What is going to be your Chris Davis moment?

So, anyway, that is my personal little… did you have fun with that? Was that fun? (Yes.)

Alright, so here is what I want you to do. I want you to put your pens down; everybody come up to the front of the room, here. Come up to the front of the room; just come on up; everybody is up. It is a participatory kind of thing; so you cannot just sit back and let somebody else do the work, you are going to get to do some work, too. So, I want you to just hang out down here in front of me. Spread out a little bit.

I am going to give you a challenge. How many of you guys like challenges? Raise your hand if you like a challenge. Okay. Well this is going to be a challenge. You are going to get 60 seconds to do this challenge. And in this 60 seconds… I hope you are listening closely because you got to do it right, you only get one chance to do this, this is your Chris Davis moment. So you get 60 seconds to do this and your goal is to see how many people in this room you can shake hands with in 60 seconds. Introduce yourself and say, Hi, my name is Bill.

[audience member]: Hi, Joni.

[Wadley]: Joni. And she is going to say, Hi, I’m Joni. You’ve got 60 seconds to do it and you’ve got to go through the room. And I am going to time you. Is everybody ready? Sixty seconds, this is your Chris Davis moment. Ready? Go!

[multiple introductions amongst audience members]

Okay, good; stop right where you are. Do not go anywhere; stay right there. You think better on your feet anyway. Am I correct on that? Coaches think good on their feet; we are good on our feet.

So, what changed in the room? What changed in the room? (The energy.) Energy; it is a six letter word. Effort also is a six letter word. Energy changed in the room.

What is the most important thing we do each and every day to a young person? (Lift him up.) We lift him up. We changed their what? (Energy.) Their energy.

When they come to us, they are coming to us from whatever their day is. I had struggles in school; I had a tough day; I had a difficult exam; I had a great day. My girlfriend broke up with me; my boyfriend broke up with me; I have struggles at home; Mom and Dad are not doing well. All kinds of things on their mind.

This is supposed to be their what? Their play. Bob Steele, I love you to death; their play—he taught me this lesson. What do we say, Bob? If it looks like it’s no fun, it is no fun. Fun is fun and serious sucks. Kids do not come to us for serious training. We have got to find a way to get it in without them knowing we are doing it. Am I right? So our objective is to create energy each and every day. We have got to try to find a way to have fun, in a manner that is going to get something from them and that is going to allow them to succeed and still reach the goals that we want them to reach.

What else changed in the room? (Their position.) Their position. Okay, what else?

[audience member]: People taking themselves less seriously.

[Wadley]: People were relaxed; everybody let their hair down a little bit, right?

How many of you met somebody new you have never met before? Okay. So you have a new friend for life. FFL—if you are on Facebook, that is, right? You have a new friend for life.

What else changed in the room? (Laughter.) Laughter. Everybody is having a good time. It took you out of your serious mode, sitting down there and taking notes and thinking about all of this serious stuff. This is not serious business. This is young people trying to have fun through sport. Trying to gain some valuable experience, from us, and learning to do something better.

So here is what I want you to do—the next thing. I want you to take somebody in the room that you have never met—you have never talked to, and you do not know them. I am going to give you 60 seconds to do one more drill, okay? Everybody find somebody real-quick. I am going to give you 10 seconds to find somebody you have never talked to in your life. Ready, go: 10 seconds.

Okay. So does everybody got a partner? Raise your hand if you have a partner. Anybody not have a partner? Okay, so everybody has got a partner. Is everybody partnered with somebody they do not know. You have never talked to them before, do not have relationship with, you did not come to the room with him? Okay.

So here is your goal, you have got 60 seconds. I want you to find out five things about this person that you do not know—because you do not know a lot about them yet—that you cannot see, that have nothing to do with the sport of Swimming. You have got to find out five things that you both have in common that you cannot see, okay. Like we both wear glasses: we can see that; we both wear red shirts: we can see that. Things that you cannot see, okay? You get five things, okay, and you are going to get 60 seconds. Ready, go.

[audience members converse]

Okay; alright. So, how many of you thought that was fun? Who thought that was fun? Yeah. Who would like to share some of the things that you found in common? Who would like to share? Somebody raise your hand and share with you and your partner, please.

[audience member]: We both have size 10 shoe, we both went to university, we both served, we golf… and we are absent minded. [laughter]

[Wadley]: Thank you. Anybody else want to share? Give some of the things. Yes, please.

[audience member]: We both have a brother, we both also like to serve, we both have a dog, our favorite color is blue, and we like lasagna.

[Wadley]: Sweet, okay. Someone want to share things you had in common? Please.

[audience member]: We both ski, we both run and we both have children. We both started swimming when we were 15.

[Wadley]: That is great, thank you. Well, thanks, for sharing.

What is the point of that exercise? Get to know other people, yes. How many people on your team do not really know each other? How many people in your neighborhood do not really know each other/get to know each other?

What else? What is another value? (Connections.) Connections. Now you have a connection. Now you do have a friend for life. You do not just have a handshake; you actually have a friend. And when you see them in the hallway, you will know them now and you will actually feel connected to them in some way, in some small slight way.

What else?

[audience member]: Not to make light of it, and I am very happily married, but this is a good way to meet a woman. [laughter]

[Wadley]: Alright, okay, good. What are some other values? (We share.) Yes, okay. Anything else?

How about that we have a lot of things in common? The game is called Commonalities, and the idea is that we have 95% in common and only 5% not in common in our lives. That is sort of the way it is. You can go to China, you can go anywhere in the world, and there are people in their country that do not buy-into their government’s policies. Do you agree with me? Yes. How different is that than us? They live in a different country. They have different systems, but they still do not all buy-in to the government policies. So we are all the same; we are human beings.

And so the important thing to realize is that when you treat a human being special, you lift them up. When you treat a human being uniquely, as they are the most important person in the room, we call it the bedside manner with your doctor. Don’t we?

So what is our job each and every day with young people? To make them feel special. To make them feel wanted, to make them feel loved, to make them feel like they are the only swimmer in the room. And when you can do that, they will really, really light up; you will turn their light on—you will turn their light. So our goal is to try to connect with everybody that we can.

But we have got to try to find commonalities within our teams, and we got to get everybody on our team to sort of respect one another, play in a respectful environment, okay, and create this idea of a family or a team in order to, you know, you have got to give a little bit of something up in order to go up. What do I give up? A little bit of my individuality. It is not all about me; it is all about we. Tell me a little bit about yourself. You know, I want to learn. I am in service to you now; I am your brother now. We become friends because I am going to service to you.

So I think our goal is to get everybody on our teams to feel like they are in service to one another. We are in service to them, they are in service to each other. And that makes a great family; it makes everybody close; everybody loves one another. They respect one another; they talk to each other differently. And as a result, you know, you have some… I always say: a happy family is a winning family; a happy team is a winning team: get happy. If you are happy and you know it, [clap, clap] clap your hands. Am I right? It is that simple—it is that simple.

So, anyway, have a seat; relax yourself. The most important thing we do is learn to manage our personal energy. So coaches, when you go to your practices, how many of you have ever gone tired? Who has ever gone to practice tired before? Right. So, how many of you have ever gone to practice tired before? So the most important thing we do is learn to manage our personal energy. How many letters in that word [energy]? Six. How many letters in effort? Six.

The simplest of things are the most important things. So when we walk into the room, our athletes are looking to us. If we walk into the room, and we are not energetic and we are not enthusiastic, we can expect them to sort of… we are going to lower their energy. We are taking their energy to a difference place. On the contrary, if you walk in the room, and you are happy and you have high energy… sometimes you have got to fake it until you what? Until you make it.

Sometimes you have got to… you know, I’m struggling a little bit, I’m tired. I have been getting up every day. I have been recruiting late at night. I have been busy, busy, busy. But, you know what? The most important two hours of your day are when you are standing in front of a young person. Am I right on that one? The most important hours of your day is when you stand in front of that young person.

So where should you have your highest level of energy of the day? Right there. That is it; bring it. We want them to bring it; we have got to bring it. So the most important thing we do is bring it. Bring it for our self, bring it for our team, bring it for our family. Okay?

Without saying too much about that, I think the key to success is developing sort of a leadership mindset. And this talk is about culture shaping, and we are going to kind of scoot through it, but I do not think you can really develop the culture of your team without developing leaders within your team. Would you agree with me on that? So in order to develop a culture—a healthier, happier, high performing culture—we have to develop individuals.

You can only develop an individual one at a time; their 20 square feet. My mind, my 20 square feet. If you cannot get me right, then it does not matter what you do with the team; you have got to get me right. So you can develop one person at a time. It is a singular thing, just like a doctor comes to help one person at a time.

And then you can develop the strategy of the culture of the unit, the strength of the unit. What is the strength of the unit? In our sport, the strength of the unit is: the sprint unit, the distance unit, the IM unit, the butterfly unit, the backstroke unit. Whatever it happens to be. So we want to develop your own personal 20 square feet; we have got to develop the leader in that person. Then we got to develop the strength of the unit. The strength of the unit is how strong, how connected, are all of our sprinters? Are they fighting against each other? Are they playing tug-o-war? Or are they helping each other, lift each other up? Are they teaching each other? Are they mentoring each other? And what kind of teamwork aspect are they playing in?

And then, of course, you know, the team. So: individual, the unit, and the team. So we want to strengthen each aspect of it, but you got to start at the bottom to strengthen each individual and their own 20 square feet. So, that is the leadership aspect of it.

So, I want to say this to you guys before we go on. I want to say that you guys are the smartest people I have ever met in my life. I have never met a smarter group of people in my life; I have never seen a more talented group of people. And you guys are the best; there is nobody better than you. Right?

Now, who can tell me what I just did for you? Who can tell me? What did I do? I told you that I did what? That I believed in you, right?

And so Thorndike’s Third Law of Learning says we tend to repeat a pleasant experience and avoid a negative one. Thorndike’s Third Law of Learning says we tend to repeat a pleasant experience and avoid the negative one. Who wants to go to back to the practice or to the coach who’s always got a hammer in their hand?

So, if we are going to develop the leader within them to change the culture, then we have to develop the leader within us to change our culture, to change our thinking. Because we believe that the higher quality thinking equals better behaviors, equals better results. High quality thinking, better behaviors, better results. So it all starts with the coach.

So this one is something I like to share with you. And I want to get back to it in a second. This is called the law of reciprocity. Anybody ever heard of the law of reciprocity? The law of reciprocity says this, it says- If you give someone something, credit and respect for being intellectual and having ability, they are subconsciously and morally bound to give you credit and respect back. Anybody believe that is true? When you give somebody respect and credit for having an ability and intellectual and you tell somebody, “Man, I think you are really special. I just love the things that you bring to our team. I love your energy. I love your perseverance. I love your work ethic. I love your attitude. I just love the fact than when you come in everyday you’re giving us your best. There is nobody on our team that does it any better than you.”

What am I doing? The law of reciprocity. So I am telling them this, what are they bound morally to do? To give it right back. It is a basketball. They bounce it right back at you. There is no greater feeling. So if you see somebody doing something great, you immediately got to reward it. We have to reward it because we are trying to develop that 20 square feet, right? And then we are going to try to develop the unit, the strength of the unit and then we are going to try to develop the strength of the team to change the culture, okay? So that is called the law of reciprocity.

So let’s ask you this, what is leadership? Leaders act for the benefit of everyone, not just for me. It is not about me. I think Eddie Reese said it best one time when I was listening to Eddie Reese about 20 years ago, I’ll never forget it and I used it ever since and it is really true. It is how I feel. He said, “when you take yourself out of the equation, then you really start to coach.” So when you get rid of somebody doing something for you. So in other words, do you really need a 15-year old or 16-year old or an 18-year old to do something good to feel good about you or feel good about who you are or to feel good in your profession? Did they make you? Well, no. But sometimes I think we get confused about that because parents are paying fees and all of these things, we get confused about the fact that, you know, that I have got to do this and they need to do this to help me do that. And, no, it is not true.

If we are teaching correctly and we are coaching correctly, there is no 18-year old that is going to make me feel better about me. There is no performance that is going to make me feel better about me because I am not going to own the performance because I did not do the performance. We do not do the performance; they do the performance. So we teach them how to do this play, this beautiful play, to put this beautiful thing, to play this great recital on the piano, to play a guitar and sing like, you know, like an unbelievable guitarist and singer would. And we helped him get to that spot and then they go up on stage. And they would put together their unbelievable Chris Davis moment.

So all we are doing is we are acting as we are the support, the personnel. We are in service to them. They are not in service to us. We are in service to them. And so I think it is really important that we are coming from the right place intellectually before we can actually get where we want to go. Where do you want to go? You want to help each young person that you coach be the best that they can be. Would that be a good statement? Be the best you can be, whatever that is, you like to have them have their Chris Davis moment, right? I am using that as a metaphor, of course. But you thought it what you want but the goal of leadership is to act for the benefit of everyone. We must communicate and share the dream. Our goal is to share dreams. What is the dream that I have for you?

Man, you are going to graduate with honors. You are going to be the owner of your own company. One day you are going to be leading young people in your community. You are going to lead – you are going to be a leader of your church, you are going to be a leader of your family, you are going to lead the community, you were going to be a star in your field. It is going to take some work. It is going to take some effort.

So take action out, do not wait for others to lead. Do whatever it takes to ensure that good things happen. Avoid the blame game. It is their fault. Address people issues immediately. Do not wait until the fire is going. So, you got somebody in the background, you are trying to develop their 20 square feet of leadership so you can develop your unit leadership so you can develop the team leadership so you can change the culture. You got one person who is really causing the problem and every time you start to make some – I always say this, if I am putting bricks up on the wall, I am building our building. And behind my back, someone is taking bricks down? We have got a problem. So, you have got to address that. What you permit, you promote. Admit mistakes openly. Do not try to hide your imperfections. We all have them.

What makes a leader? Who would follow you and why? Who would follow you and why? Who would follow you and why? Who would follow you and why? I ask myself that every day. I’m not 28 anymore so they are not looking at me and saying, “Oh, man, Bill is cool.” I’m not cool to an 18-year old kid anymore. I’m older than many of their parents. I got two kids in my team who I coach their parents when I first got to Ohio State. Their parents were on my team, you know? And so, I am not cool anymore but what I am going to do is I am going to add value in an intellectual way. I am going to do what I can do right now and be the best I can be right now for a young person in service to them, right?

So who would follow you and why? It is a great question. If they will not follow you, you are not a leader. Why are they following you? Are they following you for the wrong reasons? Because you are young? Are they following you for the wrong reasons; because you permitted things that you should not have permitted? Are they following you for the right reasons? So it is okay for them to be mad at me, upset with me, disagree with me. I say that all the time, do you disagree with anybody in your family? Anybody here who– raise your hand- anybody ever had a disagreement with anybody in their family? Somebody you love dearly, have you ever had a disagreement? Really?

Right. We are going to disagree and sometimes we are going to disagree vehemently. It is okay. But that does not mean we are going to beat down each other, it just means we are going to disagree. And who would you follow and why? Who would follow and why would you follow him? Doug Ingram is going to speak later. He is one of those guys that I have always looked up to – who knows Doug? He is one of those guys I have always looked up to and I always thought, “Man, this guy has got unbelievable human qualities, much better than me.” And I have always looked up to him and that way and thought, “Yeah, goodness, if I could be that good of a guy, I would be a pretty happy man.”

So there are different types of leaders. There’s a thermometer leader versus a thermostat leader. Think of this for a second. Thermometer leader, he reflects the temperature of the environment. It is reactive only. If it is hot, the thermometer tells you, “It’s hot.” Duh. I can work outside and figure that out. If it is cold, the thermometer tells you, “It’s 18 degrees below zero.” Uh-huh, I know before I went outside to get a coat on. I do not really need a thermometer leader to tell me where I stand, right? The thermometer leader might typically lose their cool in a harsh emplacement when things are stressful. So they are just reactive.

The thermostat leader controls the environment. They set the tone. They set the temperature of the room. What did I do first thing when I walk in the room here? What did I have you do? Watch two videos. Did it set the temperature of the room? Well, yes or no? Yeah. Did it make it fun? Well, yeah. That was the idea; it was to set the temperature. I was trying to be the thermostat leader, set the temperature of the room.

When we take charge of the room… it is your classroom by the way: your pool is your classroom. When you take charge of that room, you are now that thermostat leader. Come in and create the energy you want. Create the temperature you want and cool it off if you needed to cool down. Go ahead and bring it down. And bring it back up again when you need to bring it back up. Right? And we can create those different places in our practice by the way we handle ourselves and by the way we develop our leadership.

So, control the environment where the thermostat is set to maintain the room temperature. If it gets too cold, it is going to change the room. I guess, warm has changed the room. Thermostat leaders have a pulse on the room and are constantly aware of the morale and stressful situations and they are calming influence in the room. So in other words, it is really getting heated up. Two sprinters are going at it, two distance kids are going at it and things are really getting heated up. The distance guy is mad because the other guy is dragging off of him. He is on his feet. He is in his way, aggravating him. And he is going faster than him and on the last repeat he beats him. Anybody ever seen that before? Right.

And so, we are the leader in the situation. We got to diffuse it, they are both our children. We are appreciative of the fact that the guy who went second really gave it all up on his last effort. We are very appreciative of that. We are also very appreciative of the fact that he raced all day long. We would not mind if he had gone first a little bit more, but maybe the other guy just said, “I’m going first and you are behind me.” And so he has got to take some of the brunt of that, right? That is just life. If you are going to go first every time and you want to go first, that is okay but do not complain because this guy got up on your feet. ‘But he was only leaving 3 seconds apart.’ Well, okay, you can go faster. Go faster.

So I think we have to find a way to be the calming influence in the room. So we cannot go over to that situation and throw gas on a fire and say, “You guys figure it out.” I know a football coach who actually said when things are not going well in the unit, he would say to the kids, “Blow it up.” And do you know what he means by that? Blow it up. It means if you need to fight over it, fight over it. Really? I am not going to do that. We are not going to let our team, our brothers– I am not going to let my children fight over whether somebody had a faster day in practice than another. Really?

And what is the difference? So it is our job to become the calming influence in the room at that point. Sometimes we got to bring it back, bring the temperature up. Sometimes we got to bring it down and we got to be able to change quickly. Some of the qualities of a leader, of course, you guys all have them. Evident personal gifts, that one stands out to me. Positive attitude, excellent people skills, influence. Influence is taking somebody along with you. Leaders have to carry somebody with him. You are not a leader if you are not going to take somebody with you, right? You have to take them on the journey.

So, evident personal gifts that you can see in a leader, like I was talking about Bob Steel as evident personal gifts. He brings fun to the environment. Doug Ingram brings, you know, character – human character to the environment. Everybody has their own personal – but whatever your personal gifts are, and each of you have it, make it clear. What are my personal gifts? I know what mine are. Energy, fun, enthusiasm, those are my personal gifts. I am going to bring it every day. If you ever see me not bringing it, then get on me because that is what I want to bring every day. That is who I am.

We influence – this is interesting, we influence 10,000 people each in our lifetime. And so it is not whether you will be influential, it is who you will influence and how. Think about this, if you influence 10,000 people then they each influence 10,000 people, and they each influence 10,000 people, think about the lasting legacy that you have left on this planet. It is pretty special.

Proven track record, a quality of a leader. Well, what if I am just a beginner? Well, we got to build the track record, that is okay. Confidence or inner confidence, self discipline. How many of you are more confident today as a coach standing on the deck than you were 15 years ago? Raise your hand if you were more confident today. Duh, really? Yes, you see what I am saying? We all have come from a spot where we questioned our self. It is okay. We are going to always question ourselves because that is the nature of us. We question everything we do because we want to be, what? We want to be… (great). We want to be great; we want to be better. Am I right, guys? Yeah, we want to be better. That is why we are all here; we want to be better.

So we always question ourselves, that is a good thing. This is a great one I really believe in: All great leaders are discontent with their status quo. Have you ever known a great leader who was like, “Man, we are there, we have arrived. Things just cannot get any better than this.”? No, all great leaders are always discontent. They have reached this level and they are… and I always say it like this: if I reach the top of Mount Everest, the first thing I start look into is– ‘what’s the next highest mountain I can go to? Am I right?

When you get passed on the bunny trails on skiing… who said it? Joel, you said you were a skier, right? After you have got accomplished that, you are going to go do the what? (Black diamond.) And then what is the next one? (Double Black Diamond.) Double black diamond. Then what is the next one? (Dying?) Die. But everybody keeps reaching.

That is what we want to teach young people. Reach, we are never there. We have never finished. We are not done learning, we are not done developing, we are never done.

Oh, this one is a good one; I thought this was pretty good: If at first you don’t succeed, try something harder. This young man would do that when he was a swimmer. If at first you did not succeed, give Robert Pinter a harder set and he would just eat it up. He was an animal.

Paul is a leader, ‘teach rather than tell’. Storytelling – Bob Steel was a great storyteller. So we all need to become great storytellers. How many love to hear a good story? Right. How many love to hear somebody to preach to you? Right. So we need to be better storytellers. We have to become a storyteller even if it is not our human nature and it does not fit and it is uncomfortable for me. We have to do it. We have to work at it just like we are asking the kids to work at this skill or that skill to become a better swimmer. We have to work at these skills to become a better coach for those swimmers. So we do.

We care about people, care enough to confront. I think this is a tough one, they care enough to confront. If you see somebody doing something that you think is inappropriate in your environment. So, for example, I see somebody in my group and they are yelling at another kid on the team about something. And I think that they happened to be wrong, but yet, they are my star swimmer. So I can avoid that because I do not want to confront my star swimmer. I do not want him to be mad at me and I do not really care if Jody over here is mad at me because Jody ain’t no good, anyway.

I will make sure that my star swimmer is, you know, we have this connection, right? I mean, are you really in service to everybody in front of you? Why have Jody on the team if you are not going to be in service to her? She is on your team or paying dues, you are in service to her. So do not let her get treated inappropriately by a teammate. I do not care if it is Matt Biondi. I’ll tell you a funny story. Thinking of stories, I just thought about that when I mentioned Matt Biondi. I left him at a hotel once in Texas when I was a coach of the Gold Medal team in 1988. Say, what? I left him at the hotel because we were supposed to be at the van at a certain time. Guess who wasn’t there? Matt Biondi. Tom Jager got there on time. Thanks, Tom.

So I still had a sprinter. So we were swimming, the gold medal team was swimming Texas that day. We swam Arizona and Texas. And do you remember Sheldon Fritz or some of you guys do? He set up this gold medal team and I was the coach of the USA’s gold medal team at that point. And I took the team to Texas to swim Texas in a dual meet. Matt Biondi was one of the guys. All of the athletes, they were approved to fly in blah, blah, blah. We had a fun time. I would set the lineup, so on and so forth.

Three o’clock: we are going to leave. This was in my days when I had a hammer as a tool belt, by the way. That was the only tool in my belt, by the way. I had like one notch, it was a hammer. So at three o’clock, everybody is in the van. And I said, “Well, where is Biondi?” And somebody said, “I don’t know.” They said, “We are not going to be late for warm up, let’s go. He will figure it out. He is a grown man.” So we left him.

That was pretty courageous of a young coach, right? At that point, I could care less. I did not care. I do not care who you were, you are going to do what everybody did and you were not going to be with me. That was just my thinking at that time. Well, I have changed my thinking since. I would probably call him now, right? “Matt, come on buddy, we will wait on you.” No, but the truth is that I did the right thing. I did not sacrifice the rest of the team’s warm-ups and their ability to get ready for the competition for one person and delaying the warm up for one person. And he was a grown man. He was post college, he was a grown man. He could figure his way out from the hotel to the pool, really. It could not have been, you know, that far.

So he ended up getting there. He came by me on our way over, he says, “Coach, you left me.” I said, “Yeah. Are you going to swim today?” “Yeah, I’m going to swim.” But we ended up having a great relationship and we had a laugh over it at another time. But I think it is important that we are willing to do things like this. So it does not matter if they are your star, tell them the truth. The truth hurts. You are being a good leader. You are teaching them. You are still in a mentoring mindset. So it is okay to confront even the best of them, even if you do not want to.

Avoid sarcasm. It is okay to have fun and be playful, but you got to be careful about some sorts of sarcasm. Always assume positive intent. Have a servant mindset. And I am sort of going through this because I want to get to some more important things, not that these are not important. This is important, the shadow leader. People will emulate what they see. Believe in him, encourage him and share with him. All right, so, I want to move forward now.

Who’s ever heard of Carol Dweck? Who’s heard of Carol Dweck? Who’s read her book? If you haven’t read her book, every 18-year-old to adult should read the book, Mindset by Carol Dweck. So, I recommend it highly and she did – and I do not know her personally other than just I met her that one time at USA Swimming Headquarters when she gave us a book and we talked about it. And she influenced my teaching.

And I think some of the great coaches have always naturally done this and that is they talked about a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is when you tell a young person, “You are really gifted. You are really talented. I cannot imagine anybody more talented and gifted than you are.” Well, that made them feel good in the moment of course, right? It made me feel good but that does not give them any human qualities to get better versus a growth mindset. And the growth mindset is, “Man, I love your perseverance. I love your work ethic. I love your determination. I love the fact that you make every practice on time and you stay until the end. I love all these great human qualities which are in their control.” What is not in their control? Their talent. What is in their control? All of these great qualities.

And so what we want to do is we want to reward all the great qualities and avoid the things that are, you know, innate or given, and teach them to have a growth mindset. What they found is this thing may lead to protect them, what they believe people think about them. So in other words, people think I am talented and I am intelligent and I am really good. So, they start protecting that so they stop growing. They stop doing what is really important, which is the work that is required to climb that mountain, right? And it may actually slow their development. They actually did some tests. Praise and determination, for effort, the preparation, the grit to lead people and the praise process, ‘I got appreciated your approach to problem solving’.

And Daniel Coyle – who knows Daniel Coyle? Who has ever read Daniel Coyle? Very similar kind of thinking, okay. They did some studies on feedback. And one type of feedback proved to be magical, just magical feedback, okay? Forty percent of the students did better and chose to revise a paper when they were given this. “I am giving you these comments because I have very high expectations of you and I know you can reach them.” So, what am I saying to them? Am I saying they are talented? No. Am I saying that they are natural? No. Am I saying they are gifted? No. What I am saying is that I have high standards for you and I know you can reach them. I know that you have the ability to reach them. Now, what they have to do is get busy on the work ethic and the perseverance and those things, okay? But, anyway, if you haven’t read any Daniel Coyle, I would recommend it.

Leaders court momentum, we will talk about that. Leaders are mentors – potential leaders, multiple their effectiveness. So, for example, a horse can pull about 4,400-4,500 pounds, but when they pull singularly. But when they pull the sled together, they pull 12,000 pounds. So Robert and I can do something individually but when you put us together, it is unbelievable. It takes us to the roof. So, what do you want to do? You want to collect the energy within your room, collect the energy within your team, within your family and you want to pull them together. And so what we do in our dual meets, to give you an example, just a simple little thing, all of our guys to their races as a unit. I said unit – remember I said we are going to talk – we are going to improve our personal 20 square feet. Then we are going to improve the unit’s strength, and then we are going to improve the team’s strength in order to improve the culture to affect the culture.

So what is our unit? The backstroke group if the backstroke race is coming up. So what are the backstrokers supposed to do before the race? ‘Well, I am going to go lane three, he’s going to lane five, he’s going to lane seven, he’s going to lane nine,’ no. That is not what I am talking about. We know you are going to that lane. ‘Well, we’re gunna swim the 100 backstroke.’ Okay. Well, good. What has that got to do with team work? What does that have to do with pulling together? What does that have to do with creating energy? What does that have to do with winning? That is an individual approach. So we do the opposite.

Our guys get together before – five minutes before the race, pull it together and there’s a unit leader. The unit leader talks to the group about, “Let’s go get them. Let’s be the best backstrokers we can be. Let’s all make sure we’re disciplined on our last wall under water.” It gives them a couple of quick reminders. Put your hand into a cheer and they all go off. They have the energy of the unit. Now, they’re not swimming for who? They are not swimming for me anymore. Who were they swimming for? My buddies, my boys. So if you want to find energy, it is there. You have got to go create it.

This is one of my favorite ones: no executives ever suffer because his people were strong and effective. Great assistant coaches, mentor them up. Bring them up, help them, develop them, let them experience successes and failures, make them champions. The better your assistants, the people standing next to you, are, the better you will be. Okay.

I am going to go on now. Who remembers the Dream Team? Anybody remember the Dream Team? What was special about the Dream Team? What do you think? (They were all millionaires?) Well, that is special if you value money. (It was the first time they played professionals.) That is the first time that USA ever brought in the pros and put the very best-of-the-best on the court together, right? What did they do? They dominated, didn’t they? They dominated.

When you collectively put your own dream team together, you will dominate. But your dream team is going to look different than someone else’s dream team. But you have got to get them to believe that this is our dream team, right here. We need: four backstrokers, four breaststrokers, four flyers, four distance guys, four IMers, six sprinters. That is what we want.

And guess what? If we need four, we better have what? Five or six to get four good ones. I’m talking about four 1:55 breaststrokers in yards for me, I’m talking about four 1:42 backstrokers or better. I’m talking about four :42 freestylers. I am not talking about four guys who could do the race, I am talking about four at the top of the game. That is what a dream team is. And our goal, my goal, is to create my own personal dream team and your goal is to create your personal dream team.

Dream team coach chooses the players well, constantly communicates the game plan, takes the time to huddle. What are we doing today? What are we doing right here? We are huddling. This is what we are doing all week long. We are huddling with the people that we love and care about and respect the most in our life, people that share their stories with us. Bob Steel, I have learned a thousand things from you. Mr. Gibson, l learned a thousand – I mean, there’s people in this room that, you know, I am probably saying things that they already told me. I am just repeating them.

Dream team goes excels in problem solving, provides needed support, manage respect, continues to win. All right, so we are going to go on to culture and we are going to finish off with a few things about culture and it is coming up here. There we go.

So this is sort of the ending and we will sort of call it quits here in a second, okay? Number one, to create a leadership culture, we have to respect everyone and we have to listen to everyone. I remember Dave Durden– I heard the end of his talk and one of the things I heard him say was he was becoming a very good listener. So I think we do have to listen. You know, that 13- or 14-year old boy, we know that they do not have the maturity of a 17- or a 22- or a 25-year old. We know that, but that is okay. They still want us to listen. And so we cannot cut him off. We cannot jump in. We still have to give them their opportunity to share. If we want to connect and we want them to come closer to us and we want to develop the best within them, we still have to listen to them even if maybe we are thinking, “Oh, my God, this is not a very mature thought,” they are saying here.

Whoa, we have got some development to do here. Respect them, listen to them, develop team leaders and emerging leaders. We always are developing emerging leaders. I am constantly on a war path for an emerging leader. So if I see you doing something really good over here, you are going to be the guy that I am going to go to first. I am going to come right to you and I am going to get down here like this, I am going to say, “Man, I love the way you were encouraging those guys. That was awesome. Thanks for helping out.” I am developing the emerging leaders.

Make everyone responsible for the culture. Everybody is responsible. What is happening in the locker room? What is happening when they walk away?

We can be beaten but we never allow ourselves to be defeated. It is okay to lose. How many here have ever lost? Raise your hand if you have ever lost. You guys did, really? You lost? Guess what? How many of you have ever had an athlete who never lost? You had one. Who was that? (Several.) Several that never lost?

Oh, sorry. Sorry. So, most of us… I would say this: most of us in this room are losers. (No, I am not saying that in that kind of way. But, you know, what I am saying.) We are losers because we know how to lose really well and we accept it. No, do not ever accept it. They say 80% of the Olympic team, 80% of the world’s greatest people all come from the mindset of I hate to- what? Can’t stand to lose. Man, no way. I know Robert, you hated to lose, didn’t you? Yeah, that guy was so tough. Great people come from the “I can’t stand to lose” category, so they will do anything in their power to win. Including work 24 hours a day, like knucklehead coaches do. Right? We do that, don’t we?

We must embrace the struggle and thrive on accepting challenge and never allow our physical or financial limits determine our success; find a way through. How are we going to find – ask our athletes to find a way through if we are not going to find a way through? We are going to stand up on the deck and talk about, “Oh, I got this old pool. It got dark. We got no good lighting. We cannot breathe in here. We’ve only got four lanes. We’ve only got the hour and a half.” We are going to sit there and complain about it, and we are going to expect them to be championship minds? Come on. Really? Are we going to do that? We cannot do it. Even if it is all true.

My first 17 years I was in the worst pool in America; if ot was not in the top 100 pools in the State of Ohio. But in the 1950s, it was a gym. If I were only born in that 1930s range, I would have been coaching in an unbelievable facility that was absolutely one of the finest pools in the world at that time. Right, Coach? Right, Coach? Right?

But my first 17 years, I was in a 6-lane, 25-yard pool. You would walk in it and you immediately start sweating. You are not in there five seconds and you are drenched. You might as well just forget about wearing any pants in there– so you are always in shorts and flip-flops. And we used to take our recruits and try to drive by and say, There’s the pool. And we would go somewhere else and show them what was exciting.

But now I am in this palace, which is arguably the best indoor pool in America. Anybody ever seen it? It is the number one indoor pool in America. You can argue with me, you know, as long as you want. You won’t convince me, I promise you. Skip Kenney said it best: “The NCAA should be at this pool every year.” It is the number one indoor pool in America. It’s unbelievable.

So guess what? For the last seven years, that is what I have been able to live in. And our guys went – I will never forget the first time we went away after we have been in this beautiful new facility for about five months. We went away and we swam Indiana, a dual meet in their pool, which is built in early 90s and a decent pool in its right. We actually have the Big Ten there a couple of years ago.

So, we’re going – our guys walked in there like, “Coach, is this where the varsity swim?” Are you kidding me? We were in that other pool for – that eight lane 50-meter pool was just fine. There was nothing wrong with it. But, you know, it is like if you drive this sports car and then you got to get in to a jalopy, all of a sudden you’re thinking, “Man, I don’t want to drive in that car no more.” And that is just in the human nature of your people, right? So, do not complain about what we have and do not let your athletes complain.

Connect with everyone daily. Call them by name. Call them by name. Always believe there is a way. Teach everyone that self-worth cannot be measured by what someone else does. This is an interesting point.

So did Tim Phillips lose this summer or did he win this summer? He certainly did not get first. He went 51.4, which is his best time. He didn’t get first. He got third. He made the USA team. However, there was only one winner. So he has to learn to enjoy winning for what winning means to him right now. Because what winning needs to you is – and I’m not just talking about getting the best time, I’m talking about finding your Chris Davis moment, right? I mean, yeah, we all get our best time. Well, that is great. We want 100% percent best times every year from everybody on the team, right? You all want that, right? That is almost an expectation that we have of ourselves, right?

But we are talking about, “Can we get that performance?” We had a kid this summer who got that performance from Toledo, Ohio, right, coach? He is from Toledo, Ohio. He went 1:00.7 in the breaststroke. He was 1:04.00 out of high school two years ago. And nobody knew his name until this summer. And he got fifth and went to 2:11.2 and 1:00. And he does not have any speed, does not have any endurance, cannot kick. For real? No, I am serious, he does not have any speed. Does not have any endurance and cannot kick. He is the toughest guy you have ever met. He never missed a practice. He was the first one there, the last one to leave. One of the most coachable guys I have ever coached in my life. I do not know if he will ever go those times again or faster. But I certainly now have a responsibility to try to figure it out, don’t I?

Well, I got to figure it out. But unbelievable human qualities allowed him to do something special and an open mind and he was able to do something special. So, he found sort of a Chris Davis moment. I hate to say that was his Chris Davis moment because I hope there is better, but he did find a Chris Davis moment. But he did not win. Somebody else won. So he can walk away feeling really good about finding something really special in himself. Not just the best time, something really uniquely special.

And how many of us are looking for that every summer? Every winter? We are looking for those special moments that kids can walk away from and say – and they’re eyes are just like, “Wow, did I just do that? Was that me?” And that is our objective, you know. And it is not an easy challenge for us, that is for sure. Winning is important. We teach them that winning is important. How do you develop somebody in a human way without teaching about winning? Because guess what? If they go become an accountant, there is a certain number that they have to do. If they would become a salesman, if they become a fundraiser – our athletic department has to raise $51 million a year. We have a fundraising team. There’s about six of them. They have to raise one-third of our athletic department budget, $51 million a year. How would you like to have that task every year thrown at you?

Guess what? You get to go raise $51 million. And if you do not, we are going to cut our track team, tennis team – hopefully not swimming team because I have endowed our scholarships. But winning mindset, expect to win and prepare to win. All teams have challenges and let’s show that we can overcome and be champions of our own thinking.

Winning teams act as if it is meant to be; it is up to me. And what you permit, you promote. And I will put this – I will give this to John, you guys can get a copy of it. And we will sort of finish off here with a – okay, let’s go – let’s do some questions. Who has questions? Last thing.


[audience member]: You said you endowed your program? How long did it take to do that?

[Wadley]: Oh, my gosh, we are still working on it. But we have got 19 scholarships endowed but only have 7.45. So what does that mean? That means that there is a lot of money sitting in the university’s account that is earmarked for Men’s Swimming that never gets used; that puts a little pressure on the university and the athletic department to always keep a men’s team at Ohio State.

So my goal is, our job is… someone gave me the baton and said, “Here, you are lucky enough to have this baton. It is in your hand. Now, take good care of it. This is you – this is yours for the moment.” So they gave me this baton and my job is to create, you know, a moment that is never going to go away; it is never going to fade. And so we have raised, you know, a lot of money and it is all sitting over there. And so the athletic department gives a percentage of that every year back to the department.

By the way, they spend $1.6 million a year to keep the lights on in the new pool. They are not making that much in interest, right? And then they spend, you know, $300,000 or $400,000 or $500,000 for our men’s team, for their scholarships and budgets and what not. $500,000 or $600,000 for our women’s team. So our athletic department is spending $3 million for Swimming; think about that. That is unbelievable. Three million dollars a year just for this one college team to participate in this: I went from 20.1 to 19.9. We are trying to help a young person go two-tenths faster and they are working their tail off all year long to try to do it, right?

And so what is it really about? It is about developing young people, developing young minds. They are not going to all become Michael Phelps. Developing champions in spirit. Let them take the things that they learn from us as springboards to the rest of their life. So that is what we are really doing. What we think we are doing is helping somebody goes from 1:51 in the 200 Fly to 1:47. That is what we think we are doing. And that is the fun.

Someone asked me today, what do you enjoy most about coaching? I said, “The two hours that I have with kids with the team. That is the thing I love most about it, you know, is that two hours that you get to laugh and play and goof off and cajole and tease and, you know, mess around with the guys. You know, that is fine, you know. But I do think if you are a college coach or a club coach, you have responsibility. Keep looking for new dollars for your program; I do think that is important, you know.

Anyone else have questions? Who had fun? Who learned one thing? Yeah, hallelujah for learning one thing. There’s three things my life I have to do each and every day, I hope you know the three things that you have to do. Three things I have to do each and every day:
1) I have to learn. I have to learn every day. So I have three or four blogs that I read it, three or four things coming in my inbox that are of interest that I – that are pretty fun, simple truths.
2) I got to have music in my life. Who loves music? Got to have music. It is like the – one of the keys in my soul, got to have my music.
3) Got to have exercise. Got to workout. You got to do something. Count your blessings each and every day for the opportunities that you have in your life to help young people, right. Okay. We are doing something pretty unique and pretty special and you guys are the guys and the girls who are in charge of leading us, right? So take care of them, they are yours, you know. Make them feel good. Make them feel special. Lift them up. See if you can create a winning culture.

I will say one last thing. Culture is like this, it is like a rubber band. When you stretch the culture of your team, as soon as you turn your back, rubber band comes right back to its original state so you are never done. Culture shaping is every day, all the time. And it is by teaching young people to think at a higher level, which creates better behaviors, and eventually will create better results. So thinking behaviors and results, okay. All right, have a great day. Enjoy yourself.

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