Let’s Talk Coaching with US Olympian Aarik Wilson

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Over these last two months I have written many times about leading, motivating and coaching.  I have shared my own view points and opinions.  Since this is a blog and hence an open conversation platform, I decided to interview a US Olympian to get his point of view on coaching.  Aarik Wilson is a friend and my personal trainer at F.A.S.T in Reno, NV.  In the few months I have worked with him he has coached me through the frustrations of rehabbing from a hip surgery and pushed me toward my personal fitness goals.

Born in Reno, Nevada and raised in Fallon, Nevada, Aarik Wilson was a Nevada star athlete in Track & Field and Basketball; being a 2-time state champion in track & field and Co-Player of the Year in basketball. After high school, he attended Indiana University and has since become an internationally renowned athlete who has had tremendous success in the US and abroad. Aarik is a 2-time NCAA Champion, 10-time NCAA All-American, 10-time Big-Ten Conference Champion, 4-time USA Champion, 2008 Olympic Trials Champion and 2008 Olympian, Big-Ten Indoor record-holder, 2-time Big-Ten Athlete of the Year, and holds 4 Indiana University school records. Aarik is one of the best combination jumpers in American Track & Field history with personal bests of 57′ 8″ in the triple jump and 26′ 10″ in the long jump. He was one of the nation’s leaders in both the long jump and triple jump and has been ranked in the top 10 in the world every season he competed.

SN:  Who is the best coach you have ever worked with? Why?

AW:      The best coach I ever worked with was my college coach at Indiana University. His name is Wayne Pate. Pate not only has knowledge and experience from more than 20 years of coaching world class athletes but he also does it in a way without yelling or negativity. He showed me that I could push the personal limits I had set in my mind and created confidence to continually attempt to surpass them. 

SN:  How have coaches helped you reach your full potential or overcome obstacles?

AW:      Good coaches help and show us that we don’t always know how much we can give. Good coaches instill ideals of accountability and responsibility that we keep and apply in sports AND life. 

SN:  As a coach what do you see are the biggest challenges people encounter?

AW:      The biggest challenge people face is themselves. People hold themselves back. Whether with insecurity, or fear, or lacks in knowledge and know how, people can generally move forward as long as they are able to push themselves past what they “think” they can do. 

SN:  As a coach how do you motivate others to overcome these challenges?

AW:      The best way I have found to motivate is with positivity, respect, energy, enthusiasm and patience. Coaches need to be able to identify issues within an athlete, be able to deal with the issues themselves and correct and lead the athlete past the issues. Attitude and the way a coach delivers his guidance are key in pushing others through challenges to accomplish goals. 

After interviewing Aarik, I realized that a great coach is someone who has learned from great coaches.   As Aarik shared in our interview, there are many things that make a coach great; motivational style, communication style and ability to push people to their full potential.  I found it interesting that these same qualities carry over into great business leaders and managers.

The second half of the interview was focused on how to help people overcome challenges and fears as a coach.  There are many reasons people hold themselves back, fear of failure, fear of success, lack of self-esteem and self-worth.  These are all sensitive issues in athletes and employees.  It’s not exactly easy to address these issues in a team member.  But if the message comes with positivity and is delivered in the right tone, it can make all the difference in the world.

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As a leader or a coach, we have the opportunity to cultivate an environment where people can overcome these hurdles and move past their fears.  The environment must be supportive and safe, yet still maintain competitiveness and provide guidance.  When we create a positive atmosphere of growth in our workplace, we develop loyal and professional team members. These people become future leaders and winners.   Coaching is an essential part of being a great leader, the ability to motivate people to be there best is invaluable.

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