Team Dynamics by Kathie Wickstrand-Gahen & Teri McKeever


Introduction: It’s a pleasure to be here this morning to introduce our two distinguished speakers. Both of these women are highly, highly successful in their field and have touched many, many of us in the swimming world over the years. Many, many, years ago I had the pleasure of working with Kathie, Northwestern University, and watch her do some special things on the pool deck. I’m convinced that she would be a fabulous and very, very successful salesperson. She had the unique ability to build people up and make them feel like a million bucks and convince them that they could do things they just never imagined and in fact one time I think it was maybe around 1990 NCCAs, she convinced this young coach to wear what’s probably would be described as clowns pants on the pool deck at NCAAs, bright purple and pink and all that kind of stuff and somehow she convinced me to wear those that was you know going to do something to fire our team up which hopefully it did but that’s not something I ever would have imagined and that I would have done before I got there. So, she has a unique ability to reach people and make them again feel special and thank goodness for us all that she is still in the coaching world and still works with swimmers and coaches and helping us up. The other speaker of course, Teri, many of us know as the head coach Cal. I remember when she named the head coach many years ago and of course as a young and kind of brassy coach, I think I probably thought something like well who is she, how did she deserve this job to be the head coach of a Pac-Ten in school. Well, many, many years later we all know that she is one of the greatest coaches in the world and she has done some amazing things with her athletes at Cal and taking different athletes, different personalities, different talents and kind of molding them into a team and that’s what she does. She develops a fantastic team dynamic at Cal and it’s very, very obvious on the pool deck that they are a special unit and they are just a great image of their leader. So, it’s exciting to see these two work wonderfully together. I’m sure you guys are going to enjoy this presentation. So, without further ado, please welcome Kathie Wickstrand and Teri Mckeever.

Teri McKeever: Good morning. I got to go first here. We did a variation of this last year and John Leonard asked us to do it again and personally for me this is, I don’t if it’s the most fun part of coaching but it’s really something that I absolutely enjoy, completely passionate about and completely convinced that this is the difference between good performances and great performances as far as my environment and what I’m doing. I look at team culture and team dynamics as just the essence of an organization and I think if you can coach this and teach this and get your athletes to buy into this. This is a really, I talked last night about skills and sports taking those skills into the workplace. I think this is a really, really relevant concept that really translates into that next 20, 30, 40 years down the road. So, what we’re going to do is Kathie is going to kind of give you the nuts and bolts and then I’m going to just speak to a little bit of how I’ve used that in our program and what we do on a daily basis.

Before I start, I mentioned last night and I’m convinced that if I had reached out as a young coach and what Jimmy about how did she deserve that job. Those are the people that got me really off track when I first got to Berkeley and I really, really struggled and I knew that the word or the voice I was hearing, I was like I was going to get fired and I thought to myself well if I’m going to get fired, might as well go down swinging and I may as well do what I think I need to do and then I can look that person in the mirror and I will be okay and for whatever reason this was the person that I chose to reach out to and I can remember early on, especially as a head coach at NCAA’s and saw Kathie across the deck and her presence and her interaction with her team her loud purple outfits and the smiles on their faces and because I am still very results oriented, I could not figure out how does Northwestern get all the relays in the top eight and they’re not having people individually in the top eight or maybe even in the top 16 like I just couldn’t wrap my hands around like how were they doing that and I believe this is how she did it. I believe this is why Cal Berkeley has two NCAA titles because we spend time and energy and effort on this and that we’ve been able to create an environment where people have been willing to overachieve for something bigger than themselves. So, without further ado, Kathie Wickstrand.

Next Speaker: Thank you Teri.

Kathie Wickstrand: Yeah, yeah so here we could sit down. So, it’s difficult enough to give a talk, one person to give a talk and when two people are doing it, please be patient with us kind of bumbling around each other. So, I am thrilled to be here today. I was reading the paper yesterday morning and I went to read a little clip that to me speaks of this woman and 911, the tenth year anniversary is coming up this weekend and this is an article that was in the paper yesterday about the FBI and two of the high-jackers lived in San Diego so the FBI was very involved in the investigation and this is a quote from the director of the FBI and he’s knows our county sheriff here in San Diego. He says in San Diego our ability to check that ego at the door and work cooperatively with each other is unparalleled and that was the last that he said in this article why he thought they just did such a good job finding out so much about these high-jackers and when I read that I thought that is my friend Teri McKeever, that Teri has an incredible ability to check her ego at the door and work cooperatively with others and I don’t think a lot of coaches are able at her level to check their ego at that door.

I think that one of the reasons I love working with Teri and her team is that if I had to talk about this woman and say what’s one word that you would use to describe Teri, it would be the word humility and what that word means to me is not that you’re dragged in the desert and that you let people walk all over you. It actually means humility is the ability to be teachable and what I know about her and I hope I know about myself is that I don’t ever want to stop learning. I don’t want to ever think that I know it all. When I do that, I get in trouble. When my ego gets too big and I think I know what to do, that’s when I’m in trouble. I love coaches that will ask questions. I love that what I want you all to know today as I talk about team dynamics that the problems that she has at Cal with athletes like Natalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer and everyone that she’s coaching are very, very similar to the problems that you’re dealing with your [Inaudible] [0:10:15.9] and with your master swimmers. They are not different. The caliber and the talent might be different but the dynamics are the same and I work with, I’m a coach, I’m a life coach and I’m also what I call a facilitator. Is Keith here, McDonald, no? Okay.

Is Keith here, where? Hi. I use to always tell him that I wasn’t a coach, I was a facilitator and he would always joke at me about this because Keith was my assistant for a long time and I love coaching with you Keith and Jimmy and to me a facilitator is the one who brings out the best in others, that I don’t tell people what to do although as a coach you do, a facilitator asks questions and it takes a lot more time to coach as a facilitator than it does to direct: you need to do this coach and sometimes you need to be that direct person and sometimes you need to be more the facilitator that sits back and ask questions. I guarantee you your athletes will be more successful if you not throw them down the road and tell them how to do it but if they buy in and they tell you how they’re going to make it to Nationals and the 100 fly as opposed to you telling them how they’re going to do it. I use to get really annoyed with, I spend all this time talking to people and telling them how to do things and then a month later it was like I never had that conversation.

When your athletes buy into it, they’re more invested. So, today we’re going to talk about a lot of different things that I do with teams and that Teri has incorporated with her team. I’ve known this woman for a long, long time we swam in the same era. We have the same kind of mindset. We were raised in the generation where there weren’t cellphones and computers and I mean I cannot tell you how stressed out this talk makes me because of this stupid computer and the PowerPoint presentation. I ran in here like five minutes before because I accidentally dumped something on the computer that we needed. I am not technically savvy and in this age you need to be. So, it’s something that I’ve had to embrace although it does not come easy to me. So, before I go in to dynamics and what we’re going to talk about I’m just going to ask you all to bear with me. I believe to be a good coach you really have to have a lot of self-awareness, a lot of self-awareness and so my little sign here that I take with me when I talk to teams, there’s a whole list of feelings on this page and I want you just for a moment I’m going to have you do two little exercises. I want you to shut your eyes and I want you to just think about and feel what am I feeling right now, what am I feeling: am I annoyed, am I mad, am I happy, am I sad, am I wishing this woman would shut up, so be annoyed, am I feeling jealous, am I feeling grateful. So, you can open your eyes and if you’re not sure fine is not a feeling. I always say there’re four basic feelings: mad, sad, glad and fear and if you’re not sure what you’re feeling, pick one of those okay.

So, I like people on teams to know how they are feeling. So, I want all of you to take out a piece of paper, everybody and if you don’t have one, grab one from your next door neighbor. So, everybody grab a piece of paper and if you don’t have one, you’ll be okay. Okay, so I’m going to have you do a quick exercise. I love doing exercises with teams and then talking about why we did it and how it’s like life. How is this like your life? So, I’m not going to allow you to ask any questions so no one gets to ask a question and I know some of you will want to, okay. So, take out your piece of paper and hold it out in front of you so I can see that you have a piece of paper. Okay, wonderful, you’ve done very well so far. Okay, this is really about communication. So, I want you to close your eyes and hold your piece of paper, you cannot ask questions. Can you all hear me okay? Yeah probably I don’t need this. All right, I want a piece of paper too. Do you have a piece of paper too? Grab so I.

Okay, the first thing I want you to do is fold your piece of paper in half, fold it in half and please do this in silence. Next, I want you to tear off the upper right hand corner, no talking please. Next, fold it in half again. Now, tear off the upper left hand corner of your sheet. Fold it in half again and tear off the lower right hand corner of the sheet. Now, open your eyes and if I did a good job of communicating every single person’s paper should look the same. So, hold up you piece of paper. This is mine, okay hold up and look around, yours is nice the green sweatshirt. Okay, if you look around almost of all them look very, very different. Okay, so what does that tell you about your team? What does that tell you, anybody? Raise your hand so I can call on you. What does that tell you about your team? Yes.

Next Speaker: I have a hard time following instructions.

Kathie Wickstrand: You have a hard time following directions, yes okay. What I didn’t say is if we don’t all have the same size of paper, if we don’t all hold it the same way. So, there’re lots of differences on teams. We come from different backgrounds. We come from different cultures. The way we hear things is different and you as coaches, you want everyone to hear your way, correct? Yeah, this is a lovely exercise to do around communication because I’ve never done this with a group of five people or a group of 300 people where all the papers look the same ever, even when I’ve been very, very, slow at the directions. So, I think it just is a good way to illustrate that we all here do things very differently and it ends up happening differently and the type of team dynamics that Teri and I are talking about, you don’t need to do really complicated things and exercises with your team to have value. That took four minutes, not even. You can do really simple, small things that get them talking. Now, if I was with a group of athletes right now I would facilitate a conversation now about that. A little bit more than what I did with you all, okay. So, how many people were at our talk last year? Okay, so there were plenty of you. We’re going to hit some of the same things. We’ll probably say it a little bit differently, the slides are the same, I added a few and I believe you could be here this every year and it wouldn’t be enough. You don’t talk about flip turns or technique or free style or your body position once a year and that’s it. I think it’s the same with team dynamics. Teri always says this, you don’t hit the stuff just in the fall or just at the end of the year. What I know about her is that she talks about these kinds of things everyday. Everyday there is a teaching piece about team dynamics. Wouldn’t you agree with that?

Next Speaker: Yeah.

Kathie: Do you want to say anything before I go on?

Next Speaker: No.

Kathie: All right. So, I want to teach you the stages of team development. It’s a little on the heavy side but I think it’s important I believe that when I know what’s happening, I can calm down and I think your athletes and you are probably a little bit like that. If I know that there are predictable stages that a team will go through and when conflict happens, I cannot take it personally and I can say, oh, we’re doing a good job, we’re in the conflict stage. This is supposed to happen. I’m going to give a talk later on about conflict and last year I asked how many people thought they had tools to deal with conflict, one person raised their hand. So, I’m going to talk about that a little bit later today. Let’s see if I can work this, go this way right. Okay, so these are stages of team development; like individuals, there are stages that you pass through overtime.

They happen no matter what. Anytime you have a group of people and a group is four people or more, you will go through these stages. So, how many of you just started your season? Raise your hand. Okay, so a lot of you. So, right now these are the stages I’m going to go through. Right now, you’re in the forming stage. We’re now a group right now. We’re in the forming stages, a group, town and country at the ASCA convention we’re a group. This is what I call the nicey night polite stage. This is where everybody likes to see each other. They are so excited to be here, everyone’s their best behavior, people are smiling, everything is running smoothly, we’re getting to know each other, who are you, who am I, how we get here, should we behave, we’re at the beginning of the season where it’s very important to establish what your team culture is, what your values are, what you expect from your team, you need to take time to go through and form your team, if you have one new person, you’re starting over, okay so that’s the forming stage, people usually ask me, so, Kathie how long, do these stages last? I answer that it depends how well versed you are with your communication skills.

I think Teri’s team goes through these very quickly because she’s been working with this for years. If you’re not a coach that is very versed in communication skills then it may take longer. It doesn’t mean that you can’t learn this. The second stage, and a lot of people can’t believe that this the second stage, but the second stage is stormy and this is the stage that most teams get stuck in and I’m going to have Teri talk about this a little bit because I was with her team and we got the storm a week ago. I know, let her tell you about that not me. This is the control stage. This is where I call the criticism of idea stage where is a kid comes in and they have been a leader on their club team and they go to a college team and they are freshmen, well how am I going to get to lead again. Now I’m a freshman, I have to start all over. They’re going to criticize the coach and I use to do this. One of the things I tell athletes when they go to college is I spend a lot of time, they’re not allowed to say when I was in high school, when I swam back when I was 15, when so many athletes compare when they did they’re best times and they don’t take in consideration a huge long list of the changes from going from high school to college. So, it’s important that kids understand you’re not the same person and it’s not just about their bodies okay. So, what’s going on amongst us, what are we trying to accomplish, how are we going to resolve our differences, if you don’t tell them, trust me they’ll come up with their own ways and it will not be what you want, okay. So, Teri do you want to speak about storming?

Teri: Yeah, I wanted to just back-track for a minute because one thing I didn’t hit on that I wanted to mention in this whole thing is that Kathie’s has come up and done my retreat. I let her figure it out but I’ve asked her to come and do our retreat for the last four years and one of the things I really, really like about bringing in a facilitator is that it’s one of the few times that I can truly be part of the team. I mean as a coach we’re always part of the team and our role is obviously very different but I think it’s important, I’ve done exercises over the year, I remember one time we were up and we did an exercise where we, we’re going to make dinner and I put them into four groups and gave them a certain amount of money, a certain amount of time at the store and a certain amount of time to make it and really didn’t give them that many directions and of the four groups, no one considered that my assistant and I would need to eat.

Nobody felt like oh, I need to feed Teri and Kristine, they just were worried about the team and saw it as that. So, it’s really nice to have somebody there that can run through a set of exercises and facilitate things and bring up questions and discussion where for me, every time I did this, I was always not necessarily in the moment. I was thinking about what was going to be next and what time it was and where we had to go and I was in coach mode and I’ve been able in the last four years to be in team member mode and it’s really been powerful for me personally. I think it’s been good for our team to recognize that so I wanted to mention that. I think in the forming stage too, one of the things I had was just like what are the different things you can do that the nicey nice stage is just things as simple as bring your favorite object and explain what that is, we’ve done that on a retreat. Bring a family photo and have them introduce their family and it’s the dog in the family, it’s just their brothers and sisters, it is their parents, do they bring their grandparents and it’s just getting to know each other in that regard. I think the storming like Kathie said is I was and am always shocked that storming is the next thing and like she said you can really get stuck there if you don’t give some tools and talk about that and you can do things as simple as how many people get upset when somebody leaves early and I guarantee you they’re having that discussion in the locker room even if you’re not having it out in front and we did a whole piece on this last year where I just sort of stepped back and let them try to figure it out and wanted them to kind of figure it out and then it got to the point where I had to come in and set some parameters and so then my role became more of like how we’re going to deal with it and now from now on this is how we’re going to deal with it. Well, early when we had that conflict I wanted to see how they were going to resolve it on their own and go that way. So, I don’t know what else you really wanted me to share.

Kathie: That’s okay. I’m going to share, oh just the team, I’m not going to use names.

Teri: Fine.

Kathie: It’s okay. So, I think it’s good to know I work with a lot of individual coaches and pretty much I said this before but a lot of coaches think oh, my gosh I must be doing something wrong because there is so much conflict. I think the opposite is true. If there is a lot of conflict, I believe you’re doing something right, okay, and really that’s a little paradigm shift. Now, I don’t mean that they all hate you, okay, I don’t mean that kind of conflict. I mean I don’t want there to be a lot of aggression and people taking things out on each other but if they’re not sure if Teri’s on her team a lot of people have really high expectations and then there’re some people that are never going to make it to NCAAs. So, there’s a clash right there of conflicts. That’s a conflict, how do you deal with that. How do you deal when there’re a lot of people that want to be on relays. If you don’t talk about these things, it becomes problematic even with young kids. So, it’s giving them an avenue to talk about this. Last year when we stood here and talked, Teri said during the storming phase that she was concerned because she had ten new freshmen and she had not had that many freshmen in a long time and you’re looking at a woman who last year won the NCAA championships and I can absolutely tell you without a shadow of a doubt that last year was your hardest year in terms of conflict, correct?

Teri: Correct.

Kathie: It was horrible, okay, and I’m not being dramatic and I can’t be dramatic, okay. She had so much conflict last year that a normal person if you had been a fly on the wall you would say there is no way this team is going to function at the end of the year with what’s going on. I absolutely was not concerned about that and I don’t think you were really too much. I think five years ago you would have been but I think she just knew of course there’s a lot of conflict, there’s ten new people and so of course there is and what the difference was is how she dealt with it was phenomenal. She would pull people into the office and talk to them. Things did not get swept under the rug. I worked with a new team last year and what’s the word I’m looking for. I can’t think of it, I’m sorry. There’s a level and degree that her team functions that is not like most teams and I went in and worked with a couple of new teams last year and first thing I say I meet with the captains first not with the coaches not with the entire team.

I meet with the captains and I said so what are the elephants in the living room, that’s the first thing I say and they kind of look at me like what and they don’t trust me, they don’t know me. I haven’t developed any kind of safety and I say so what are the elephants in the living room and they get what that means. So, what are the things that are happening that people want to talk about that are not getting talked about that are getting swept under the rug and once they got talking, they just started going and those are the things that need to get addressed as the elephants in the living room and then I know as a coach and a facilitator what we need to talk about to get through the storming phase okay.

Next Speaker: I think too there are sometimes, well a couple of things when she said that I probably had more meetings and last night we listened to the talk and I said about ten freshman; well there’re only seven that are still with me and I don’t say that like I’m not proud of that but it was a situation where I think over the years we’ve developed a culture and a value system that is non-negotiable and there’re a lots of grey area in my program and you have space and flexibility to move within the grey but there are certain values that I hold sacred for, and that might sound like a weird word, that are so important to me that I’m not willing to negotiate on and I’m in a unique situation that I get to recruit and I feel that that one area where I’ve grown is in a the recruiting process I feel like I’ve been very clear with young women and their families of what those values are and if then when they come in and obviously there’s always going to be some misinterpretation or clarification of the subtleties of that, but if you keep, if I as a coach and the coaching staff, we keep hammering on the values and the upper classman and your leadership on your team keep hammering on a value and a way of doing things and some people don’t get on board.

That’s when I have to step in and say like let’s take care of it. I am absolutely amazed at the leadership that I had on my team last year. We could not have done what we’ve done if they didn’t value those same things; they were willing to have hard conversations with their teammates and go back and try it again and try it again and try it again and we all know we’ve all got a point where it’s just not going to work. I wish in hindsight and I told the team this, I wish in hindsight they wouldn’t have tried so hard. One of the best things I did about four weeks before conference is I brought in the six to eight that I thought were really, really spending time on mentoring and trying to get people on board and I look at all of them and I said we’re not going to spend time anymore. They’re ding dongs and that’s my word for idiot. They’re ding dongs and I’m not personally going to put any time in there anymore. I’m going to focus on the women that are doing the right thing and I need you to remind me to stay on task with that and I want to give you permission to let that go, let that go and be selfish now. Be selfish and focus on yourself. We’ve tried, now we need to do that and I think just giving them the permission, giving us all the permission of like okay we’re going to focus on the things going well not the situation I mean how much time and energy do we all spend on the people that aren’t doing the right thing.

I mean like it’s too much and there just has to come a point and I think it’s maybe because I’m getting older it’s like I’m not willing to, I want to enjoy myself everyday. I want to be in an environment where I feel challenged and empowered and excited and acknowledged and supported just like they want and that goes back and forth and if someone’s not willing to contribute to that then there have to be some consequences and in some situations I mean people transferred clubs and it’s not a reflection of mine is the right way or wrong way. I think it is about finding a situation where people can be successful and the elephants in the room too. What I just want to hit on is I think part of your job is to teach your team what’s an inappropriate elephant, teach your parents what an inappropriate elephant that we’re going to talk about. I always thought I was lucky that I didn’t really have to deal with parents because I have young adults.

I spent more time last year having conversations with parents than I probably did for the first five to six years and one of the things I was really clear with this year when we started again is like I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m not on finances, not on traveling whatever. You’re an adult. Your job is to communicate to your parents and I had a young lady that a parent did something and I said we don’t it and she said sorry, sorry and I go I don’t want you to be sorry, I just need you to educate your parent and put the ownership back to the young person, I obviously can’t do this with an eight year old to go tell them to educate their parents even though some of them probably could but I gave the girls the article in The Psychology Today, “A Nation of Wimps” and I told them all to read it and if appropriate send a copy home and this is why you’re struggling some that you are and hopefully when you’re a parent you might be able to look at it differently but it’s obviously a huge, huge component of what we all do and our storming can be with facility people like Todd mentioned and lots of coaches within the coaching staff. I think that that’s a huge place that you have a place for your coaching staff to voice differences and conflicts and different ways of seeing things but when you’re going for your team you want to be united and have worked this out amongst yourself not through newsletters and parking lot conversations and what not, so sorry.

Kathie: Okay, that okay, no that’s good. The next phase I’m going to move on because I could talk about this for a long time. The next one is norming and this is a team stage. It’s where there’s cohesion where we start to get along and remember I believe that there’s no true intimacy without conflict. So, intimacy is into me I see so I really want all of you to think about how well do I storm, how well to I storm with my spouse with my family and then however you storm in your life you will teach that to your athletes so I believe it always starts with you, check in with yourself, too many coaches that I work with, I have this great handout or this great idea and they say oh I can’t wait to use that with my athletes and I say well hold on, this is not for your athletes yet. This is for you. You can’t give away what you don’t have. If you don’t know how to storm or do conflict, you’re not going to teach that to your athletes so it’s very important to check in with yourself. So, this is where, there is increased productivity, how do we work together, how can we support each other. Teri does a great job with this.

There are lots of different roles, they have big sisters and little sisters, they really have a system to ask each other questions; it’s do we make good decisions together, how do we work together as a team. This is not at the end of the year I would say for most teams, this happens in college around a training trip when you really start to see them function as a unit. So, that’s the norming stage. The next one is performing, this is go for the goals, we’re focused on performance right after training trip again I’m talking college, right after training trip you really are focusing on performance. It’s a very small amount of time between then and at the end of the year. Are we doing well? What do we need to work on? What do we want to accomplish? What’s going to happen in a couple of months? You start to talk about it not two or three weeks out, you start to talk about it months before the big meet, months before. Too many coaches wait till two or three weeks out. So, this is go for the goal stage and this is when a lot of I think a lot of coaches sit down with their athletes and do goals at the beginning of the year when they haven’t stormed. I would encourage you to do goals later on in the year when they know each other a sense of what your culture is and what you want out of them. I think too many people do it a little too early. Oh, I’m going to back up a second. Sorry, I said this incorrectly. I’m sorry, this is how my brain is working today. This is actually at the end of the year too. I thought there was one more, I apologize. This is not only right after training trip when you’re performing. This also is NCAAs Big Tens, Pac-Tens, your big meet so this is what you want to accomplish, okay, and then lastly the last thing is transforming. This is goodbye seniors, hello to the freshmen. I believe in closure; it’s a time to reflect, it’s a time to evaluate. I know a lot of teams do exit interviews, they talk to the members what work, what didn’t worked.

Again I know Teri does this and she has a handout so it’s not just they’re talking about whatever they want. There’s a structure to it and so they know when they come in, how long it’s going to be and what they’re going to be talking about. It’s what comes next. Teri told me this yesterday that there are some teams that are having their banquets from last year now. I would not do that. That doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong. In terms of closure I think it’s really important that you close up the year before you add a bunch of freshman. So, I think what happens when you do that with your banquet, you’re doing the transforming and the forming at the same time and it can get, you get them kind of stuck back in the year before when you really want them, Teri doesn’t want her athletes thinking about that they won last year. I mean that’s nice and everything but now it’s time to regroup and what are we going to do this year. So, if you’ve done that, it’s okay; this is just another way to look at it, okay. So, this is closure. Okay, how much time do we have here?

Next Speaker: We have about 15 minutes.

Kathie: Okay, I just want to check. I want you to all think about right now, one strength and one weakness that you have, okay, think of a strength and think of a weakness. I did this last week with her athletes. We did a long exercise about this. I was amazed how many college girls, when I asked them what their strengths and weaknesses were, they had no idea, none, They couldn’t lot of them that was there when I asked what’s your goal for the retreat that they wanted to know what some of their strengths and some of their weaknesses are. Again, this goes to self- awareness. It’s hard to know what to work on, if you don’t know what it is you need to work on. One of my weaknesses is time management. I struggle with that. I get so excited about talking to someone or meeting somebody or doing something that I get so passionate about, I lose track of time. She, her strength is time management. I have worked for Teri’s teams for a long time and I said this last year and I’ll say it again, I have never ever seen in all my years of working with her ever seen an athlete come to a meeting late, ever, ever. Their culture is if you’re on time, you’re late. So, they’re always five to ten minutes early and it is just the culture if you are not like that, you adapt to that culture and you learn how to be that way and they all learn how to do it. It is remarkable. So, I know one of my weaknesses is time management. One of my strengths is I’m a great leader.

Now, when you think about your strengths or your weaknesses any of those, gone array so my weakness I just said time management, it’s also a strength of mine, it also means that I don’t get so hune up on the clock and really anal and if there’s teaching moment, I’ll take advantage of it. That can also be a strength of mine. So, our weaknesses can be a strength. My strength of being a leader, I cannot leave enough room for somebody else. I can think when I was coaching I’ll just say it, I can do it quicker because I’m a fast quick thinker. Jimmy is more slow and methodical. My way is not right, his way is not wrong. We have very different styles and so it’s important to know what’s your style, what are your strengths and what are your weaknesses and again you can’t teach that to your athletes unless you know, so, I would ask all of you to add to your toolbox if you heard Teri last night to leave here and have a list of ten strengths and ten weaknesses and to share that with somebody new, meet a coach, share that with them and talk about it and say why is that a strength, why is that a weakness, how are you going to work with that this year and get to know somebody and learn something about yourself, okay. I like to use images, this is an iceberg. I think this is a metaphor of life, what you see is 10% so you see that I have addressed on Teri has on pants, okay. We’re both tall. We both are comfortable in our bodies, you can see things about us and make assumptions but you don’t know the real us, okay. What did I say?

Teri: I don’t really think they care that we’re comfortable in our bodies.

Kathie: Did I say that?

Teri: Yes you did.

Kathie: I didn’t mean that to say it that way. We’re comfortable in our own skin, okay. That’s what I meant. It means I can talk in front of a bunch of people and I don’t give a crap, so and I really don’t and I know she doesn’t either and that’s learned; when I did this ten or 15 years ago, I didn’t feel like that. So, what’s real, the real part of about me is under the waterline. So, what you don’t know is that this past year a lot of people that know me in this room know this about me but in the past year. I have two sisters and they both killed themselves this year and so that’s the real part of me. This is year has been tremendously painful and heartbreaking and so I forget a lot and it took me probably three times or four times as long to prepare for this as normal because my brain isn’t working correctly and I’ve just been in a lot of grief and I’m okay with sharing that with you and I share that because I believe it’s important so that other people know that we all go through struggles. I believe it’s important, Guy are you in the room. Is Guy here? No.

Next Speaker: I consider Guy a friend of mine and we hadn’t talked a lot in the last year and when we did talk yesterday and catch up, we had both gone through a lot of the same things and immediately there was an empathy and a compassion between the two of us that, if I hadn’t shared what my life had been like and just said fine that we wouldn’t have known about each other. So, the real part, the part under the waterline is where the real team dynamics happen. Does that make sense when I say that? That’s when you know you have a special team when people are willing to share the hard things and one of the things I do with teams is I give them, we break up in groups I give them ten minutes and they share the highs and lows about their life. And everybody has highs and lows. It might not sound like what I just said but everybody is fighting their own battles and triumphing, and excited about things. Everyone goes through that. So I think it’s important the more you’re able to share that with your team the more they’ll do that with you. I like this saying. I think a lot of us are like this, especially in the world of coaching. There is who we pretend we are. Who we’re afraid we are. And who we really are. And I tell you, I don’t know if its age or just getting more comfortable in my skin. I said that correctly this time. But I know that I used to pretend a lot, and I love what I do now because I know most coaches kind of go through the same things. They all feel there’s an impostor syndrome that I did a talk one’s about how so many people feel like, “God, if people really knew what I knew, they would not put me in this position.” that kind of thing. And then a lot of people feel that way and we’re all in the same boat.

I believe the reason athletes struggle is not for what you think, it’s not because of their backstroke or their fly, that they’re shorter, taller or 10 pounds overweight or that, you know, they can’t be on time or they’re not motivated. I really believe the reason athletes struggle is that they have a lack of self-awareness. They don’t even know why they’re struggling.

One of my big pieces is I don’t think athletes should evaluate their swims right after their swim. You don’t come up to me after you’ve done a swim and go on and on about it, that’s not the time to do that, the time or the place. So I think you actually have to train your athletes how to talk to you during the meet because you know they try to do that. She talked about if you’re going to cry there’s a way you do that because it does affect other people. So I think it’s really important that they understand about what makes them tick and so all these exercises are designed to do that.

I love this principle. We did this last week and you can talk about this a little bit if you want, Teri. So it’s the one small change principle. And small changes produce big, big, big results. I always say it’s not the elephants that get us, it’s the ants, you know. I can handle crises but don’t let this computer mess with me, okay? I can handle big things. It’s the little things like this that just drive me crazy. And we did an exercise where they have to come up with one small change that they were willing to make.

Teri, will you give an example of something that they said at the beginning like how they said it in a small change?

Teri McKeever: [Inaudible] [0:53:18] walk. We did not do this exercise at Diana’s wedding. We did it at the retreat. She threw me a [curve ball here] [0:53:32] so it’s a picture.

Next Speaker: So why…

Teri McKeever: I’m sorry, [Ella].

Speaker 1 That’s okay. So a small change would be something like, a lot of the athletes said things like this. They said, I want to…

Teri McKeever: I want to be more positive.

Next Speaker: Yes, I want to be more positive.

Teri McKeever: I want to work on my self-confidence, things like that.

Kathie: They said things like that. And the reason I put this picture on there is because if these people try to change, look at the people in that picture, if these people try to change a lot of things in the next year they’re going to be in trouble. You don’t change a lot of things right now. And there’re a lot of people that might fall into that trap, one small change. So when they said, “I want to be more positive” I would say, “What’s that look like?” Be specific. What actions would you do? So this is the facilitating part. This is where an exercise, when Teri and I did this you think it would take 20 minutes? This exercise that we did took four hours. Because it was teaching them how to be specific, how to make goals that there’s how, when, why, where, you can answer all those questions. I always say, pretend I’m from Mars and I don’t know what that means. Paint me a picture, what does that mean? If you’re going to be more positive, what does that mean? If you want to be more competitive, what does that mean? What does it look like? So be specific with them. Do you want to say anything more about that?

Teri McKeever: No. When we did this at the retreat there’re 24 women on the team and it did take four hours. But the thing that where I felt that it was really, and we didn’t think it was going to take that long but even after we kept modeling what does that look like, who’s going to help you with that? And, you know, we get to the 15th person and they still would give us “I want to be positive” type of answer. So it was just – as a coach what I enjoyed about it is just to look at who was willing to be coached. If we were three hours into it and they were still giving the same responses and not adapting and thinking about what were the questions. Kathie was going over and over, and what kind of things where we eventually come into. And they couldn’t do that on their own, they have to wait for her to ask the right questions. That was really insightful for me.

Whereas some of them, you know, by the time we got to them they knew what, you know, they adapted what they were going to say and what they needed to do to the types of things that – the specific parameters that we were asking them to come up with.

Kathie: And I think the great thing about doing exercises like that is you do learn so much about your athletes. Because a lot of times I think most of you are intuitive and have hunches. And I think coaching is a really lonely sport that, that’s why I love conventions like this because you talk to people and exchange ideas. So I think it’s really insightful to do things like this and find out, “Oh my gosh, it’s the 20th person and this person still has not heard how to do this.” And not to get mad about it which is my first reaction but to get patient and teach them, continue to teach when I’m like, “Oh my gosh, are you kidding me? Like how have you not gotten this yet, you people?”

I can be patient with them. It’s a lot more difficult when you’re tired and you’ve heard the same kids say it over and over and over and over again. I believe the best place to be is where expectations are high. Gregg? Are you in here, Troy? No?

Teri McKeever: He’s gone.

Next Speaker: He left. Greg said this last night, and I absolutely believe this. When expectations are high I think kids rise up to that. There’s all sorts of literature out there about expectations and positive reinforcement, and what you expect of people and how they deliver that. If you’re late, they’ll be late. If you cuss, they’ll cuss. It’s very simple, cause-effect. It’s really simple. You can’t expect somebody to meet your needs or the needs of the team if you never tell them what your team culture is. You have to tell them what you expect of them.

Teri McKeever: I think too on some of that, what I’ve done a better job the last couple of years is instead of always being in scenarios where I’m giving that information to empower the re-turners. You know I get frustrated when I hear the coach say, “I don’t have any good leaders on my team.” Well, whose responsibility is that? I feel like that’s our responsibility as a coach and you shouldn’t get, ever get to the point. Some will be better than others but if you are doing and working on this then you’re developing that. I feel like our retreat with eight freshmen, nine freshmen this year we’re already developing leaders where we expect three or four years down the road. That you don’t wait until they’re junior to go, Oh my God, look at my junior class, where is my leader going to be? It’s pretty eye opening I think in that regard.

Kathie: How many of you do some sort of retreat? And that doesn’t mean that you go away somewhere. How many of you do some sort of retreat at the beginning of the year where you go over some team dynamics? Raise your hands. Okay.

So I don’t want you to think that you have to have a big budget and you have to go away. We go to this place in San Francisco that’s absolutely beautiful right on the ocean. You don’t have to do that, okay? You really don’t. You can take aside, a lot of coach’s say, “I believe that swimming is 90 percent mental but they don’t do any of this.” They adjust. They get so worried about water time. That’s one thing that this woman does not get caught up in is water time. And believe me, they are fit athletes. Have you seen her team? They’re very, very fit. They’re really well-conditioned athletes. They don’t look just like swimmers. They look like athletes and that’s because they do a lot of different things and they know a lot of information. They’re very self-aware.

So you can, at the beginning of the season instead of practicing, and you say, “We don’t have enough time” take the first three or four practices and just work on team dynamics. Tell them to come up with what your values are in your team. Come up with your expectations. If you do that, I guarantee you you’ll see the results in the end. And if you’re not sure what to do you can call me.

Teri McKeever: You know what I want to add to that. I feel like some of the struggles last year at the beginning of the year I did that and I did it with all the women together. I know I said it. I’m pretty confident. I did a fairly good job of it but somehow it just didn’t work. Things came back and got me on the back end.

And one of the things I did this year was everyone has a big sister. We have this like I call them the “Family pods” for lack of a better thing. Every freshman has one or two upper class man that are mentors or big sisters. And so I met with each so there’re nine freshmen, there were nine family pods, I met with the post-grads, the ones that had just graduated. And then the ones that are a little bit older, I met with them. I think it was about, I do not like to meet. I mean, the idea of having individual meetings tends to shiver up my spine. I mean I don’t want – it sounds like I want to sit around and talk, I don’t want to talk.

But what I did do this time is I scheduled them for 30 minutes. I set my iPhone to 25 minutes so the alarm would go off so that I knew I needed to close. I had an agenda. And for each group I basically have the same meeting 12 to 13 times. But now, nobody can say I didn’t know that you meant that, I didn’t know that’s what that meant. And what the first thing I did is I said to upper classmen I said, “Okay, we’re going to go over some policies and procedures and the way we do things.” If this freshmen doesn’t get it I’m not going to get upset with her, I’m going to go to you and tell you, “You need to do a better job.” And it was simple stuff like the combination of the locker room. We have an equipment room.

The order of where, what bags go where, I don’t understand it but I know, man, if you put your bag on the wrong hook, you know, and when I left on Tuesday morning there were two bags on the floor. And so I went in, I picked them up and they have numbers, and it was two freshmen. And so we went in and told – we didn’t go to them, we went to the equipment person on the team and said, “You know 11 and 8 bags were on the floor. And what we kind of deducted is 11 and 8, two freshmen had put on the wrong hook and upper class man just went bang.” And like down on the ground, you know. So that’s storming. I mean that’s a way of doing things that just like need to work themselves out because it’s not okay to have bags and equipment and wet concrete all over where people are going to fall.

If you’re like me the idea of having individual meetings it just really, really sucks the life out of me. And this idea of the smaller groups, in fact I woke up this morning and I was like, you know, I could probably do that again and I could probably handle that. And for me, I know that I can’t go more than two hour and a half to two hours of meetings. I would rather like do two hours of really good engagement where they know I’m really present, and then I’ll wait for the next day. I don’t try to do all that on the same day because I know I just can’t do that.

Kathie: And the great thing about taking, when Teri told me she was going to do this at the beginning of the year I said, “Oh my gosh, that’s fabulous.” Because taking those two days which I know she does not really want to do because it sucks the life out of her. She knows that it is going to save her time throughout the year so you do it because you know it’s worth it. It’s not because any of us like to sit in these meetings. You do it because it’s worth it. I know we’re going to have to wrap up here in a second, should I go over – I think what I’ll do now is…what time do we have to stop, Teri?

Teri McKeever: Five minutes ago.

Kathie: Five minutes ago? Sorry. I guess what I’ll do is on the rest of the slides, for those of you that want all these I’ll tell you what’s on the rest of this. You’re not missing a whole lot because you can do this yourself, you really can. It’s the way we do meetings. And I think this is super important so I want you to hear this as we stop, okay? I want you all to be able to run a good team meeting to be able to inspire your athletes and be able to talk to them with a measure and level of confidence so they listen to you. And that doesn’t just happen. Some of you will have to practice.

Teri and I belong to a group of women that get together and I have them all run us. You know, you have to run all of us. You’re going to each run a meeting. I was shocked at how some of those women did not know how to run a meeting. I had no idea that people didn’t know how to do that. And Teri and I we stayed up and talked about it for a long time like we couldn’t believe that people just didn’t know. And I said, “Gosh, how would people not know how to do that?” So the rest of these slides are, I think it’s important that you have guidelines because guidelines create safety. So it’s a whole list of guidelines.

For example, you have permission to pass. It’s really how to set up a team meeting. And there’s lots of good information out there. I’ve read more books this summer than I probably have in the last three years because I knew I was going to do two talks and I like to have my head full of information. So my head is full of a lot of information right now. If you come to the conflict talk there’s a whole list of books on that talk that I will give you. I will send you the list of books if you want it.

If you take nothing else from our talk except the fact that we want you to know more about yourself because the more you know about you the more effective a coach you will be with your athletes. If that’s all you take from this I will be a happy camper. So, do we do questions or not? Do we not have time to do that?

Next Speaker: You have the microphone. You can do whatever you want.

Next Speaker: Do I? While I’m taking questions I’m going to just pass through this because I know some of you have cameras, okay? So, does anybody have any questions? If they want to ask Teri or I and Bill?

Next Speaker: None negotiable values, you mentioned those, can you [inaudible] [1:07:27].

Teri McKeever: Time is a non-negotiable – I’ve created a monster. I mean they want to do a shirt that says “Teri Time,” we go on a Hawaiian, you know, things or Hawaii time versus Teri time. And sometimes it drives me crazy because they’re all like this, I’m like, Jesus, like relax, you know.

Next Speaker: So if you can’t be on time you going to work on her team.

Teri McKeever: Personal excellence, I mean, that’s kind of a broad thing but it’s important to me that you engage in a process of personal excellence. And that looks – it doesn’t mean we’ll all have to make NC2A but are everyday looking at how you can be a better version of yourself, that’s corner zone, you know. I got lots of good stuff. And I think it’s – and they change. I tell the girls this, I am not drinking that, please, what time did you go to bed, please. So what are you eating, please? But you don’t get to say I want to win an Olympic medal. I want to be an NC2A qualifier and then do things that aren’t leading up to that. And I’m not going to stay engaged in that either. You have to modify what you’re doing or you have to look at, you know, how that’s reflecting.

The other thing I would say is huge to me is that what you do is a reflection of all of us and to just be aware of that, and do that with respect. And it’s of yourself, your family, your university, our team, and it’s a responsibility.

Kathie: And, but we did something that the retreat just recently where they came up with what do you think is important for a team culture, what do you value. And we did a whole exercise. They wrote down words then what do those words mean. They got a partner. They broke it down to the main one. And then there will be exercises that Teri will do with that throughout the year about what are the core values on their team.

Teri McKeever: We did an exercise to each person what is the core value you have, that you hold dear for you and your life. And then she had us write it on a piece of tape so you could see it with each other. We went around and just shared it. And you could, like I think three people had honesty but they explained and what it meant to them differently. And I think that was really important for all of us to hear that.

Next Speaker: Yes. If three people had honesty and it sounded very different to all three people so that was fascinating. Back? Yes, red shirt classes.

Next Speaker: [Inaudible] [1.10.18]

Good Question: Good question. Teri obviously is a female coach. She was the men’s and women’s coach at Fresno. I was the men’s and women’s coach at Illinois State. I did all this same kind of – is Steve passed in the room? Steve is waiting for me. I did all this kind of stuff when I coached men as I did women. I think a lot of people think that guys won’t respond to this. Gregg Troy said last night that he’s going to have Teri do some of this with the men’s team and I think it will be fabulously important.

I think it’s a disservice not to do some of this with men.

Next Speaker: You know what though I would say you have three teams there that you need to worry about team dynamics. You have a men’s team, a women’s team and you have a co-ed team. And I think you have to look at that as three different teams and how you’re going through those stages with three different teams. I would think if you’re a club coach and you have you know blue, yellow, pink groups, you have three teams and the whole team. And I think it’s important to look at that. And there’re going to be different issues for each team.

Next Speaker: This is really good. We did this and I love this exercise. So I’ll just say that. Yes?

Next Speaker: We did a club dynamic, would you just simply have two meetings and each practice level, I mean, team practice group. I’ve seen a senior group. I’ve got [inaudible] [1:11:54] have meeting in your opinion where [inaudible] [1:12:00]?

Next Speaker: Yes, I think it’s just like what I think it’s just what she said. I would have individual meetings with all of them. What did I do? Oh gosh!

Next Speaker: I think that’s on your eye alarm there.

Next Speaker: Oh my God. I’m sorry. This is my husband’s computer. It’s like what she said, I definitely would have one for the whole group. Because I think your older kids, I think too many coaches do too much work. Delegate that leadership and responsibility to those older kids to teach the younger kids. And if you do that they’ll take pride in it and you’re developing leaders, it’s a win-win.

Next Speaker: Maybe have a combined team meeting that’s athletes and parents even and make it – meeting doesn’t have to be like what we’re doing now. You all sit there, we talk. I mean it can – and I think that’s then we didn’t really get to a lot. But I think it’s really important in meetings just the way the room is set up. There are certain rooms and situations, depending on what I’m talking about. When I’m going over rules I like this. I’m up here, you’re down there. I have rules you follow on. But then when we do other things we might be in a circle. I have other meetings, we’re going to have a recruiting workshop on Monday and they’re going to be in small groups so it’s going to be like answer questions then get back together. Then we do things sometimes before the meeting like paired sharing where it’s two people together and I ask questions and they share. And then there might be one question that the whole group answers and we buzz it up. You know, what event are you most looking forward to swimming and that takes a minute and a half.

Next Speaker: And she does that before meets and it calms kids down. It gets their focus on me, me, me and what am I doing and they get really connected with their teammates and it actually calms them down.

Next Speaker: I think, don’t you?

Next Speaker: I think it does.

Next Speaker: I think it does too.

Next Speaker: Who else has a question. Anybody else?

Next Speaker: Or we can take questions…

Next Speaker: Pardon me?

Next Speaker: At the club level with your stages of team dynamic building, where do the parents fit in as far as teaching them the culture of dynamics that are involved?

Next Speaker: I would teach them that. I don’t know. I think it depends on how much or how little your parents are involved to be honest with you. Some coaches have really different philosophies about that. Well I think, but I know some parents are really over-involved. One of the books that she mentioned that I would encourage all of you to read if you’re a coach is Nurture Shock by Po Bronson. And it really talks about why kids are the way they are today. In my generation you know if you gave me a look and used a certain tone I would stop doing a behavior. That does not work in 2011. Kids are very different. And I don’t look at that as a bad thing, it’s just that we need to adjust to what kids are like. And I do think kids are coddled too much and parents are coddled too much. My philosophy is I prefer you’re not going to come on the pool deck philosophy. You don’t need to be there. I want your help in terms of volunteering but I don’t need your help coaching.

And I think what your expectations are and how you deliver that message will determine what happens. You will always have people trying to break your boundaries. I say on a minute by minute basis I am teaching you how to treat me. So if I allow a parent to do something I’ve just trained them that it’s okay. I think it’s very important to have good boundaries as a club coach especially. And if I don’t I need to learn how to get them. I’ve got all sorts of suggestions for that. But I really think part of the problem with parents is coaches don’t have good boundaries. So that’s just my opinion.

Next Speaker: Thank you.

Next Speaker: So, thank you all very much.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Sponsorship & Partnerships

Official Sponsors and Partners of the American Swimming Coaches Association

Join Our Mailing List

Subscribe and get the latest Swimming Coach news