Dartmouth women's basketball head coach Belle Koclanes' blog after attending the Center for Coaching Excellence in New York City.

During the weekend of June 9-11, I attended the Center for Coaching Excellence (CCE) at Columbia University in, as Columbia AD M. Diane Murphy proudly states, “the great city of New York.”  The CCE is a Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) sponsored program for the development of head women’s basketball coaches at the collegiate level.  Thirty-six head coaches from all-across the country representing all levels of the NCAA were invited to share in this inspiring experience.  In short, we spent three days collaborating, reflecting, conversing, networking, learning and most importantly listening to the knowledge and experience of an impressive faculty.  From panel conversations to case studies, we were challenged to stretch our thinking to grow our minds.  We also spent significant time feasting; the Columbia University faculty house staff was incredible and completely spoiled us with delicious food and high-class hospitality (The BBQ dinner was my favorite!).

There were several moments when I could actually feel my personal growth happening. One such moment was during the Tallest Tower Exercise, a challenge that involved a newspaper and a 12 inch long piece of masking tape.  The task was for each team (the group was split up into teams of 6) to build the tallest tower possible in a specified amount of time using only the materials provided.  What a sight to see!  This project turned out to be very difficult for my group and we failed miserably.  Our ideas were solid, our communication decent, but our execution was poor.  And so we lost the challenge, feeling frustrated and annoyed! 

Failure is such an interesting concept and one that as coaches we grapple with on a daily basis.  I am constantly encouraging my players to make mistakes.  We create an environment where it is encouraged to fail so that you can grow in both skill and spirit.  We say that failure is awesome!  Yet, when it comes to us, the coaches, it sometimes feels as if failure is no longer allowed.  A bit contradicting!  We hold ourselves to these perfect standards that just don’t exist in humanity, although we strive to reach this perfection and excellence every day and in every way.  We must accept the fact that we all make mistakes, we all have so much yet to learn, we all have to call timeout to stop a run.  We fail!  And so the important lesson in all of this is our response to failure.

The CCE taught me to embrace failure and reassess processes.  It taught me to take the time to understand peoples’ lenses and innate traits so that we can have the ability to discover more effective ways to connect and communicate.  I also learned to grab hold of the preferences that I have as a human being and that by truly understanding myself I can lead others more naturally.

How can we as the leaders and caretakers of this incredible game of women’s basketball take better care of our administration, staff, players and the game itself?  I know that to be an inspiring coach we must first have a strong understanding and sense of self.  This program was not about X’s and O’s or systems of the game but rather it gave us a platform to take the time to connect with our own self.  No cell phones, no tweeting, no recruiting calls or otherwise…just pure reflection and growth.

You give the CCE three days and they’ll introduce you to you!