Four lessons learned at the 2016 BC Sport Conference

Jan 25, 2016


[[{“fid”:”34981″,”view_mode”:”default”,”attributes”:{“alt”:”Speaker Jay DeMerit presenting at 2016 BC Sport Leadership Conference”,”style”:”width: 450px; height: 275px; margin-right: 10px; margin-left: 10px; float: left;”,”class”:”media-element file-default”},”fields”:{“format”:”default”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:”Speaker Jay DeMerit presenting at 2016 BC Sport Leadership Conference”,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:””,”field_folder[und]”:”5881″},”type”:”media”}]]This past weekend marked the second annual BC Sport Conference hosted by Volleyball BC, in partnership with Basketball BC, BC Lacrosse, and BC School Sports. Emceed by CBC award-winning sport journalist, Karin Larsen, the event had a great line up of inspirational speakers and a number of important takeaways for those in attendance.


1. Great coaches care about their athletes

The first speaker, John O’Sullivan set the tone for the day by getting the audience to reflect on the traits they think make a great coach. Turns out an overwhelming amount of those identified traits were not based on experience or technical background, but because coaches cared about the athlete, they were open communicators, and they created a culture based on respect. John outlined five steps a coach needs to take in order to be successful; focus on knowing yourself, knowing your athletes, building a culture, educating parents and the concept to never stop learning. One of my favorite tidbits of advice from John that rang true from my own childhood coach experiences was, “you don’t get to choose what kids remember and take with them for life”.


2. Early specialization results in burnout

Well-known BC athletes Jay DeMerit, former captain of the Vancouver Whitecaps, and Ashleigh McIvor DeMerit, Canadian ski cross Olympic Champion drove home the important message of a multi-sport background. Jay grew-up playing basketball, track, and of course soccer. Ashleigh went into depth about how her experience quitting ski-racing (twice) led her to becoming a great downhill mountain-biker and how those skills transferred back over to ski cross and ultimately helped her reach that gold medal spot at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. Ashleigh is proof that early-specialization results in burnout for young athletes, and that the most valuable trait a coach can have is the ability to adapt and recognize that each athlete has individual needs.


3. Mental training is just as important

The next speaker, Lindsey Wilson, established her basketball career at Iowa State University, and went on to play in the WNBA for eight-years before co-founding her current business: Positive Performance. Lindsey discussed how in her athletic career she discovered the importance of mental training and the impact it can have on your athletic performance. Lindsey gave tips on how coaches can utilize a post-competition worksheet for their athletes as a way for them to debrief with themselves and reflect on their performance. She then led the group through a pre-practice routine called the BRAVR™ Method, which takes a few minutes and can impact your mental state to become a more consistent, focused and confident athlete. 


4. Coach with a “growth-mindset”

Capping off the day and the theme of mental training was Trevor Ragan, Founder of Train Ugly: a mental coaching company based on motor learning and performance science research. Train Ugly focuses on fostering a growth mindset where one believes you can grow and develop your skills and abilities. Trevor explained that the opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset, where you believe that the skills and abilities you have already is what you are stuck with and that you cannot grow them further. For example, you believe that you cannot dance, and that the dance skills you already have cannot be improved therefore you do not attempt to improve them. However, one does not just have a growth or fixed mindset, your mindset is different depending on the topic, such as coaching. This is key for us coaches, as we are constantly giving feedback, and shifting our mindset to a growth mindset will provide better advice for our athletes, and help them improve and think about what they did and how they got to where they are based on their actions.


In conclusion, though all the presenters touched on different aspect of coaching and had very different paths, the underlying message through them all was the same: You are making a significant impact as a coach, you are molding an athlete’s relationship with sport for a lifetime, and you are building a culture and relationship within your team/athletes whether you are conscious of it or not.

Learn more about the BC Sport Conference at