On October 24, 2019, we will be hosting the next installment in our ongoing Encouraging Dialogue speaker series. This time, we’re fortunate to have the chance to hear from Robyn Meagher and Jason Dorland, two former Canadian Olympians who will share their powerful message about the importance of relationships when it comes to coaching, teaching, parenting, and life in general.
Jason’s sport is rowing. For many years, he subscribed to the “warrior” approach to coaching and training. He was driven by aggression and winning at all costs. His coaches yelled, belittled, and used anger as a tool for motivation. But when he finally made it to the 1988 Olympics, his team’s devastating failure made him reassess his entire attitude towards competition and coaching.
Another huge factor in this reassessment was meeting Robyn Meagher, a middle-distance runner who represented Canada at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. She came from a very different tradition of coaching – one grounded in serenity, calmness, and an understanding that each athlete is an individual with their own complex emotional needs and history.
At first, he was skeptical of this seemingly wishy-washy approach to training for elite athletes. But over time, he came to realize that this style of coaching actually led to better results, even at the highest level of competition. Now the two of them work together to provide practical tips on how parents and teachers can coach children through their successes and failures, with greater acceptance and fulfillment.
I personally have found Robyn and Jason’s message to be a profoundly transformative one. After hearing about their work through former KCS Head of School, David Richards, and learning about their work with both the Conference of Independent Schools of Ontario (CIS) and the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS), I decided to bring them in and have them work with our entire faculty to help us learn how to better understand our students. A third of our faculty took part in a four-day high performance training session this past summer. Over the next two years, the rest of our faculty will also take part in this training. I know this will help us to not only better tailor our teaching and coaching to our students, but also help us remember to “push the pause button” in all our relationships.
Relationships are like icebergs – we know what’s on the surface, but we may not know what’s going on underneath. Which means we need to stop and take a moment to understand where people are coming from. Twenty-five years ago, I would walk into a class and teach a lesson. And if a kid didn’t get it, that was their problem. Now, we know that we must take the time to understand where each student is at, and then meet them where they are.
That means learning how to build our relationships with students, coaches, teachers, parents – everyone. It means pausing and not jumping to conclusions. Once upon a time, we would say, “I’m the coach, I’m going tell you what to do, and there’s no room for questions.” But as Jason and Robyn have discovered, that approach just doesn’t work.
Kids can’t learn until they are ready to learn. And being ready to learn means feeling safe, empowered, mindful, and cared for. But you can’t make a child feel all those things unless you’ve taken the time to build a relationship. You have to realize that you are bringing your perceptions and biases to every interaction you have with another person – whether it’s your spouse, your colleague, your student, or your child. You have to pause, think about that person’s intentions, and then give them the benefit of the doubt as you move forward to help them grow and learn. That can be hard to do, but that’s exactly what Robyn and Jason are here to remind us to do.
I hope many of you can take the time to join us at this wonderful event. We all deal with complex relationships every day, and I believe that Robyn and Jason’s message can help all of us to better manage those relationships and understand the people in our lives. I really feel that you will find the ninety minutes worthwhile. I hope to see you there!
Encouraging Dialogue: Success Redefined will take place on Thursday, October 24 at 6:30 PM in Canada Hall. This is a free event, but we ask you to please register here so we can plan appropriately.