The Dirty Double gained their reputation as a dynamic partnership in Olympic rowing and contributing to their success was having the right coach at the right time which proved to be a journey for them.
The Dirty Double is presented by Lindsay Jennerich & Patricia Obee
Podcast length 21’33”
The success of The Dirty Double in rowing from World Cup to World Championships and Olympic Games was partly due to having the right coach and the dynamic of the personalities that made their partnership gel. But it’s not always easy to find the right combination to bring out the best of the athlete by getting to know them as a person. Lindsay and Patricia know what it takes and share their insights into what makes a good coach, and what to look for in that relationship.
LISTEN to more episodes of The Dirty Double here
[00:00:00] Hello it’s Lindsay and Patricia here again with the Dirty Double podcast and today’s topic will be on coaching styles and leadership and sort of the experiences that Patricia and I have each had with with various coaches throughout the years and what we think about leadership styles and how to get the best out of athletes.
[00:00:24] Yeah. So Lindsay you had a lot of different coaches over your rowing career I think is was like at least 20 years right.
[00:00:34] Yes. You got a lot of different coaches. I think I’ve asked this question before about I think I asked you like what was the biggest lesson each coach had taught you.
[00:00:46] I remember it was quite interesting because you actually answered them all with like personality things they taught you and leadership things they taught you not things like technique or whatever. So I always think that was really interesting to if you could expand on some of your experiences with your better coaches.
[00:01:08] Yeah I mean like you were kind of saying like I think that I’ve had a lot of really great ones and I’ve had overall what I consider really bad ones.
[00:01:15] But the reason that I felt like I was always able to advance as an athlete and and improve was that even when I was you know for lack of a better word stuck with a bad coach I was always very conscious to derive out of them some kind of positive aspect because I do really think that you know you can learn something from everyone and you’re going to learn more from some people than others. But there’s always something and I’d say that the underlying quality that the coaches who I really liked and I’m not saying the word like like people might expect in the sense that I like hanging out with them or they were nice or you know I’m when I say I like a coach I’m almost always referencing did they enhance me as an athlete. Did I feel that they projected me further into my career and I’d say the ones that did that I could sum it up as that they treated me like a person first. So they considered you know how I felt in certain situations or you know they just they talk to me like maybe it was as simple as you know asking what do you think or how do you feel about you know A B and C and because what that did for me I think was it made me self-reflect.
[00:02:39] So instead of do this do that do this.
[00:02:44] Asking the question you know what do you think or how do you feel or what did it feel like when the boat is doing this to you makes you have to analyze it makes you have to you know assess the situation and then in doing so you really fully understand something. And then when you understand it you’re learning better. Right you’re not just it’s not just the memorization of some instruction that someone gave you.
[00:03:12] And I felt that the coaches that generally did that the ones that asked those questions a hundred percent of the time those coaches were confident people they had less ego and they were very confident in themselves.
[00:03:31] Yeah I’d say that I can agree with that as being a pretty stark difference between having a coach that’s confident themselves and one that’s a bit insecure mostly because for me I really like to ask why we’re doing something and if someone’s competent in why we’re doing something they can they can give an answer and they answer it honestly and with ease and happily.
[00:04:03] The why so often someone can be offended by that, but why be offended by why.
[00:04:12] Yeah well it creates I think at times it can seem it create an environment where people are fearful to ask why so then kind of like you said there’s no real learning going on it’s just OK. Yes sir. No sir. I’ll do that. And then when you’re out there on the race course alone you know you don’t you don’t have that coach there.
[00:04:34] But I kind of compare it to like if you were studying certain topics in school you know there’s some things where you just have to memorize the answer right for a test. So you go through. There’s all these like categories or topic whatever and it’s just a memorization of certain things. And you remember it hopefully for the test and usually get through that and then you know week two weeks later it’s gone.
[00:04:57] Whereas when I think back to math which was a topic that you know you kind of got into the root of why something was happening you didn’t memorize the answers to math problems you memorized how you found the solution and to this day there’s things that I remember well because of learning it that way. And I think that that’s a very scholastic kind of comparison but really I think a good coach really helps you to dive in and understand why and how you’re doing things such that you can extrapolate it onto other things in life. You can carry it through your sport for longer or and you just have a better understanding of what you’re doing.
[00:05:43] Yeah. They’re actually in my master’s right now. We talk a little bit about that concept which I guess is an academic reference to sport but it is in both you’re trying to excel at something and learn something. And they’re moving away from memorization across the board because it’s not a functional way to learn. Understanding where something comes from. So where technical change comes from or where a certain workout is coming from like what’s the physiological underlying theme of this session is actually more important than what the session is or it’s just that deeper understanding is the only way people actually learn it. It’s totally, it’s a generally a valid thing to feel like if you you can’t just memorize what you’re saying and you know to ask why not just memorize. One thing Lindsay I felt like we differed in some coaches that we liked or didn’t like and I felt like you liked a stronger leader. I’m not sure you can maybe help me with the wording on this. But do you know what you’re talking about.
[00:06:54] Yeah. I mean I think that that’s because of that concept like leadership can be defined by a lot of different ways right. I felt most led when a coach was – there are just certain aspects that weren’t; I don’t want to say up for debate because I did appreciate.
[00:07:16] Like we’re just discussing that ability to ask why to have a conversation. But that gave you at times a very definitive answer about OK just do this or you know there was a happy medium for me and in telling me that their their idea was the one I should go and also allowing me to have input because if I felt like I was in too much control then it made me it made me worried or it made me not I was less believing in the process because although I do think I was a good athlete I still felt like well that coach was there for a reason.
[00:07:55] So if they’re not kind of taking on that leadership role fully then it made me feel like there was no one really guiding the process. Like I didn’t want to guide the process per se. Sure. That’s kind of what you would have said right.
[00:08:10] Yeah. Well it’s just interesting because I also sense that like you said like we’ve talked about this where you actually really do want a coach that you can ask the question why or that asks you questions and you like to have a decent amount of control over your own training and like your racing experience. But then there’s also the study that wanted some rigidity from the coach. Yeah totally. I thought that was interesting. Yeah. Poor poor coach they said for effect.
[00:08:46] Yeah I think that’s why bringing this up is it is an interesting topic because I think would be good for you to kind of express to people you know how you differed in that area because I think it would be very fascinating for people to know that you know in an Olympic campaign where you’ve got two people in one boat working so closely together how we could possibly have been successful when we did appreciate different styles.
[00:09:11] Yeah. …within a coach though like maybe explain to everyone like what kind of how you are feeling about them, what worked for you and why given that it was different for me at times. How did we still manage to be successful.
[00:09:25] Sure. Well I – my mom can testify to this. I don’t really like authority figures or power hierarchies at all.
[00:09:39] I think that I prefer like a level. I would I would put the athlete in coach should be like completely equal control or leadership over the experience like I don’t really like to be led. I kind of like to feel like I’m leading my own way. I’m making my own my own fate and there is no barrier of any sort between that. So I think I appreciate it to be the equal conversation between athlete and coach. Well we were kind of equal stakeholders in the end decision. And sometime’s probably even more so I would not necessarily – I would want to be a collaborative decision between all of us but I would definitely I listen to you more than I listen to our coach for sure. I if I was ever stuck in a place where you were saying one thing and the coach was saying the other I 100 percent went with you because you were the athlete and you were living the experience with me and you had to live the exact experience that I had maybe a few years before because you’re a bit more experienced as an athlete. So I knew you had been I think a different person than me you had been in the same situation. Maybe it felt different because you’re different person. And I felt like I lived in my body for and I guess I started running I was 19 years old so for 19 years and I thought that was the coach was trying to make my body win the Olympic medal. And so was I.
[00:11:21] So I thought you know my inputs extremely important because if this coach really wants to make my body win the Olympic medal he’s got to know.
[00:11:30] And it’s funny that you saying he because of our coaches were males. And so he’s got to know what’s going on inside my body, like doesn’t he want to know it.
[00:11:42] So I think that’s why I felt I didn’t like being told this is how you. This is what you should do. Because I was like well how do you know what I should do. You’re not in my body right. Yeah and I think that goes. I think though the underlying thing is that I’m not a fan of authority figures for the sake of being an authority figure. So if you’re like you – like I look to you is because you are maybe an authority figure over me because you are a world champion and have been rowing for 10 years long 10 plus years longer than me. So you earned that authority over me where I didn’t necessarily feel like coaching … was a title per se. Yes.
[00:12:25] The titles can possibly admittedly throw me off a little like too much the opposite direction. But yeah I don’t like it I don’t listen to titles.
[00:12:37] I think that’s sort how you could sum that up. Yeah.
[00:12:40] Walk the walk don’t talk the talk. You can talk the talk but you’re going to listen to the walk a lot more.
[00:12:46] Yeah. Yeah.
[00:12:48] And I think that’s how Tom [Morris] got the best out of us because he did seem to adapt to be who we needed him to be and I think that Tom kind of helped me understand what it meant to be a coach and that I was I kind of came up with this quote I guess you could say I don’t know if you can quote yourself but…
[00:13:06] You know a good coach is someone… to coach well means that you are being who someone else needs you to be not who you want to be necessarily. Yeah. Go ahead.
[00:13:22] I noticed that with Bob [Ernst]. When I was at University of Washington he definitely drove some girls nuts I’m sure. But he treated everyone quite differently and at times it even bothered me a little bit like why is he treating that athlete that way and being quite a bit harder on me. But then once I realized that because that’s what that athlete needs. And honestly and being hard on me was exactly what I needed in that moment. So he was adapting and he was quite quite experienced I think that he probably has learned over the years to treat each athlete like how that athlete needs to be treated not just that you know …that exact concept that you’re saying is the exact thing that makes me wonder.
[00:14:08] Can good coaches be created or is it this skill like because to me the thing that makes the greatest coaches great is that there’s that what you just described that ability that human ability to read people to be who other people need you to be when they need you to be it. And how do you like. Can you read that in a textbook can you take that in a coaching course like I don’t know and that’s sort of like how I’ve got my own mind you know if I were to pursue coaching I think well this is a really this is a key quality in my mind that makes a great coach. Do I have that thing. And if I don’t have that thing can it even be learned.
[00:14:47] Yeah individualize – individualize it … like yeah just that natural.
[00:14:51] Because to me that’s like that’s a good leader right. Like they’re leading you to be your best version of yourself in the context that you’re you know being lead without necessarily even knowing that you’re following.
[00:15:07] And yes they give me if you look at all the greatest leaders across time I would imagine that that’s a quality that they possess. And it’s like that learned you know I really had I don’t know I don’t know the answer to that question.
[00:15:21] I’m actually reading a book right now for school on counseling and they talked about different things that really could easily be related to coaching. And I think that maybe there’s a there’s a bit of a gap in this kind of counseling. They like psychology side of coaching. There’s like a psychology side of like sport performance. It’s like yeah you can motivate athletes by pushing them and saying like do you really want those kind of things that actually don’t work.
[00:15:54] But maybe there’s a bit of a gap in the empathy side of things in that. And so one of the things that I was reading about I thought was quite interesting is they’re talking about motivational interviewing. So looking at…and it I don’t actually know what’s laid out for coaches and their coaching training. I haven’t done it so I don’t really know but that’s motivation interview anything was kind of cool how your… you ask questions in a way to empower and make someone tell the best story about themselves. So we all have numerous stories to tell about ourselves and I can think very clearly of one where I’m like I’m the best stroke seat in the world and I’m going to win Olympic gold medal. I there’s that one side of myself that I had. And then there was another side to myself that was like oh I’m a little bit weak minded. I have depression, I’m inexperienced, I don’t row long enough. Like there’s that side. And so then the way someone talks to you can either bring out the side of me that’s very confident and believes in myself or the side of me that feels kind of crummy about myself. And so if a coach has the power and Tom did this to me for sure. Yeah I was going to say Tom [Morris] did this. Yeah. Even now I feel like I’ve hung out with Tom as a person. Non-athletes and he makes me feel so good about myself. Makes me feel like my best version of myself.
[00:17:13] And so I think if a coach can make each athlete the best version of themselves and have that skill and I’m reading about how to do that in the textbooks I think I think it can be can be learned. It’s just maybe a gap in the coaching you know under the training the coaches. Yeah the ones that we’ve come across there’s a few of them that it seemed like it was there a natural ability or not.
[00:17:36] That being said is a psychologist who has had a background in psychology so maybe that’s why he was able to bring that into his coaching practice and I think that we were at a level where we were so good technically we were you know pretty seasoned in terms of our physiology that that was like that was the cherry right that was the final thing that needed to come out in order for us to reach our max potential. It’s like you got got most of the ingredients in the bowl but like how do you really seal off like the final product. To me it was having someone allow us to see that we had all we needed.
[00:18:16] You know there’s there’s so much the sports science team it’s pretty big now. There’s like nutrition strength and conditioning physiology the sports psychology side of it and who else or as others like all the practitioners that deal with your body alignment injuries that kind of thing, core strength, that stuff… there’s biomechanics to deal with the nitty gritty of technique. So I kind of see that it is probably almost the biggest ..it should be the coach’s strengths is getting us to see that we’re as good as we are and believe in ourselves because the other stuff can be done by sports science.
[00:19:02] That’s right there’s experts that that and furthermore that aspect I think requires a person who sees you at your highest sees you at your lowest seeing you for you know six to eight hours a day like the coach is the only one out of that group that you mentioned that really has the capacity to learn who you are as a human. Because they’re seeing everything about you.
[00:19:24] Yeah it’s almost their job to be that person that that knows you. Like you said as a person. So then they can come and mediate that with what the scientists are saying. Yeah. I see that we need to do that but I’ve also noticed that Patricia’s mood has gone down a lot the last two weeks and I don’t think she’s probably not in a physiological state because of her mental state to be pushing that volume right now. Yeah like everyone can see you and alter you as a machine and the coach needs to mediate that as a human being.
[00:19:57] Yeah. I think Tom [Morris] did a really good job of that and it made it easier to trust. For me it made me listen to him a lot and trust him as a figure of authority. I felt like it was to him because he made me feel so good about myself and you like how you brought up big in this conversation and saw me as a person. Do you have anything more to say on that.
[00:20:20] I figured it out because I was honestly the reason I don’t it’s like I feel like we had a good concept this as we started this conversation. But I feel like the conversation itself walked me and you through through a journey of understanding what a coach really should be. Yeah we solved it. For more conversations from the world of women’s sport including articles, videos, blogs and more than 700 podcasts visit wispsports.com and also follow us on social media at WiSPsports.
[00:20:53] As well as our personal Twitters @obee1111 and @LindsayJenner. We’d love to hear what you think about the show too. If you’d like to leave a comment on the website or Facebook page… you can drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. And WiSP Sports Radio is now on every major podcast player: iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and Google Play. Until next time, I’m Patricia Obee and I’m Lindsey Jennerich. Thanks for listening.