Molly Grisham is dedicated to helping athletes and teams achieve success by learning team building and leadership skills so whatever your sport you can realize your potential
Transcending Sport is hosted by Chris Stafford
Podcast length: 33’48”
Molly Grisham is based in the Mid West of the U.S. where she grew up and whose career as a soccer player turned coach led her to redefine her purpose and establish her own business there. She now focuses on team building and leadership development to help athletes and coaches who recognize the need for an outside facilitator to reach their athletic and personal goals. Molly launched a leadership academy to create a service-learning program with customized curriculum for self-assessment which mentors young leaders. She is clearly dedicated to helping athletes and coaches become more productive and successful and clearly loves what she’s doing.
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[00:00:00] Hello I’m Chris Stafford. And thank you for joining me on Transcending Sport. This is the show that features stories of women who truly transcends sport from entrepreneurs to charities organizations to media initiatives from coaching to Comus. My guest is Molly Grisham who is based in the Midwest where she grew up and whose career as a soccer player turned coach led her to redefine her purpose and establish her own business there. Molly now focuses on team building and leadership development to help athletes and coaches who recognized the need for an outside facilitator to reach their athletic and personal goals. She launched a leadership academy to create a self-learning program with customized curriculum for self assessment which mentors young leaders. Molly is clearly dedicated to helping athletes and coaches become more productive and successful and obviously loves what she’s doing.
[00:01:08] Molly thanks for coming on the show.
[00:01:10] You managed to keep warm in the winter thank you. With you today and I’m certainly ready for spring and summer to be here.
[00:01:22] Know you’re based in the Midwest as I said in my introduction and you are. That’s where you’re from. So that’s when life is good free to you now and you’ve developed a business which seems to be thriving for you. But I want to talk a little bit about your background. First Molly before we talk about the things that you do with your coaching because you were a coach a soccer coach for a number of years weren’t you.
[00:01:46] Yeah that’s correct. I I spent 20 years in athletics for the first half of my career. I was high school and club coach and then director of coaching first small club and after 10 years of that I kind of started to question what was next for me looking for that next adventure. And so I I packed up and sold my house and took a college job and spent the last ten years of my career coaching college soccer. The piece that I really enjoyed the most of coaching was developing my players as people and probably the last half of my coaching career. That’s really where I was invested in and starting to use my team almost like a research and design lab of thinking about how we could better develop them into people and what kind of impact would that have on our success on the field and off the field. And so I was able to to write some curriculum and do a lot of experience so learning and create some activities and processes with my team and test those and see if he has an impact. It became clear to me that we were seeing some really positive results last couple of years of college coaching. I started to get calls from our competitors or other coaches that I was coaching against were saying I don’t know what you’re doing with your team but it’s working. Can you come help my team. And so that really began a thought process for me. Do I want to stay in coaching and continue to invest in 25 26 27 young women each year or do I essentially want to have a global audience.
[00:03:18] But let’s just go back to coaching experience and how you got into coaching in the first place. Were you always in sport as a child.
[00:03:26] Yeah I grew up playing soccer and basketball could basketball my first three years of highschool and then stopped my senior year so I could focus a little bit more on soccer. Growing up in the Midwest there’s a lot of soccer here but I I’m 44 years old and so I was still kind of on that cusp of being a product of Title 9 and new opportunities were developing for me but was really thrilled with the opportunities that I had. I did not anticipate being a coach. I had never had a female coach I had never met my college coach wasn’t even full time. So coaching as a career path was just never on my radar. And it wasn’t until I graduated college and had a co-worker who happened to be selected as the parent coach for his 7 year old son’s rec soccer team who approached me one day absolutely panicked and said I heard I heard you play college soccer. Can you help. And I said sure I’ll be glad to come out to a couple practices with a couple practices turned into taking the team and then helping the team shift to the club level and then I’ve really started to dive into coaching education and figuring out what that path would look like for me as a coach. But up until my early 20s it was not on my radar at all that I could be a full time career path for me.
[00:04:50] Yeah it’s interesting how we get into the careers that we ultimately follow. And I’m just going to go back to the beginning of your coaching then and through those early years of your coaching and what was it that really appealed to you about coaching mostly when you when you offered to help out. It became something honestly much bigger but I want to just look just take you back to being an actual coach and what it was within that coaching world that that resonated with you. Why it became your career for so long.
[00:05:25] Yeah I think there are a couple of things come to mind right away. One is the joy that I had as a player and what my playing experience was like. And so to be a part of that process for another young person to do allows them to enjoy the physical exercise to allow them to enjoy competition to allow them to get better at something and really teach them some of those transferable skills in life. I loved playing soccer. That was home for me showing up to practice or being in the game day environment. So really really good to me. And I knew that Coach I could help someone else enjoy that process as well. But I also loved those light bulb moments when they could suddenly do something today that they couldn’t do yesterday. And being a part of helping them discover what that process was like. How do you take something that’s really difficult because you can’t do it today. How do we break it down to just some small pieces and some small manageable skills that allow you to move forward as a player and contribute in a way that you couldn’t do yesterday or couldn’t do last season or the year before. I think that’s a real a real privilege as a as a coach to be able to be a part of that process and that journey. Teaching someone how to do something.
[00:06:36] So what point then at the beginning did you realize that you would have to get qualifications to make this your career. How did that tell us about how you explored but yeah so pretty.
[00:06:47] Pretty early in my career I was hired as a head coach at an all girls high school. At the same time I was hired at a club and I was the only female coach in our conference and I was the only female coach in our club.
[00:06:59] And thank goodness we had a really good director coaching for our club and he pulled me aside after the first year and said you have a lot of potential. You’re doing a lot of really good things. If you want to continue to coach at a higher level, if you want to get better teams, if you want to be a teacher more has a regimented coaching education process and we need to get that started as soon as possible. And I was all in on that.
[00:07:23] Anything that I could learn that was going to help me help my players be better. Sign me up. And so I started that process right away. In fact you have to start at the bottom. You start at the lowest level of coaching education and then you pass that and then you have to wait a year before you can take the next one. So once I understand what that process was like I signed up for that lowest level course immediately and started that that journey of just learning from the best and helping my players be their best in the process.
[00:07:55] And we’ve seen of course many more women come into the coaching profession across all sports. Now when was it did you in during your career that you saw that there was a change in the tide towards more women coaches being employed.
[00:08:11] That’s a great question. Certainly the first couple of years there were very few women we stood out. But I think a lot of us that were in it did a good job of recruiting other women so early in my coaching career I was playing in a pretty competitive league. And I was always looking for that kid that just graduated from college. And how can we pull her into coaching. And so a lot of my my assistant coaches during that first 10 years these were younger younger women that I was playing with who I saw potential in and thought somebody needs to mentor her and help her along. And so I brought along a lot of those young women to be assistant coaches for me at the club and at the high school and it’s been great to see a lot of them stay in the game and some of them are even in the college level now. But I think a lot of women realize OK we can’t be the only ones here. No one recruited us but we can do a better job of recruiting others.
[00:09:05] Yeah good point. Absolutely. This is an example to follow. Mentoring is important but do you miss playing the Melendi or do you still get a chance to play.
[00:09:14] I get the kids play every once in a while in a coed rec over 40 league in my mind. I’m still as fast as that was when I was 18 but it’s definitely a slower game now. I think my my priorities have shifted a little bit. You know I still get pretty amped up for game day when I’m working with a team. So there’s a little bit of reliving the glory days three of them but I certainly love to get up and play when I can. And certainly when I’m with other people who understand that at this stage in life it’s it’s a little bit different priorities different reason we’re out there playing to exercise and enjoy the game.
[00:09:53] Yeah absolutely. To have fun. Well clearly you have fun with what you’re doing now your transition to being the coaches coach if you will and developing your business and leadership and in all the aspects of building teams as well. And you know the transferable skills you mentioned earlier are so important of course and I think that people are realizing how important within sport those transferable skills are but we’ve seen in this space of coaches women coaching and leadership development and motivational speaking all in this space we’re working in here. Molly is a tremendously highly populated demographic. There’s a lot of women that are doing that. Well men and women.
[00:10:43] But if we just focus on women there’s a lot of women doing this so I’m curious as to what you were taking in that moment when you decided you know what I’m going to move on and this is what I’m going to do I’m going to leave coach Amanda and I’m going to do. What did you think your selling points were. What were you thinking from my experience.
[00:11:00] I’m going to do something different to what everybody else is doing here. You know that thought process for me. I often tell people when I was coaching I thought well some day I will leave and start my own business and kind of work on this other side of things and then that someday became maybe ten years and then maybe five years and then maybe two years. And it felt a lot to me like I was looking at the lights in the distance and I thought I’d move towards that light.
[00:11:31] And then one day I realized oh no that’s like the light on the front of a train and that train is coming at me and I can either jump on or get out of the way like those. Those were my two choices.
[00:11:41] And I thought I can always go back to coaching. You can always always go back in. So for me it was let’s just jump on this and let’s see what happens. And the reality is I left coaching with now one client contracts to my name.
[00:11:56] But I felt very confident in the work that I had been doing with my teams and that it would be useful work for other teams.
[00:12:04] When I made the shift I made the assumption or I felt my gut feeling was that the leadership development component would be the driver of my work. What I’ve discovered is that’s part of the team building component has been more of a need from coaches and I often think of team building as being really just relationship building that doesn’t sell very well on a on a business card do relationship building so we call it thingo. But I’m finding that a lot of coaches are asking for help there particularly because they’re dealing with young people who don’t understand how to develop healthy skills that lead to healthy relationships. And so what I thought would be the driver was leadership development. That’s been a big part of it for sure but I’ve been surprised at how team building has taken the lead there. And then I think the other piece of it that I didn’t anticipate being a differentiator for me. But it has been the number of coaches that I work with who simply need to have me on speed dial as an ally for them. And a lot of coaches that will reach out and say I just need to talk through a situation. I just need to vent about something that happened today. Listen and tell me if I’m on the right track and I’ve really been surprised at how many coaches just need that. And so that’s been a real honor for me to do that for coaches. I think that’s a gift I can give them to just pick up the phone and listen and get some perspective and maybe some words of encouragement. But I certainly didn’t anticipate that in the launch of the business.
[00:13:37] Yeah it’s interesting isn’t it. You know often when we start a business and we found this ourselves. You have a plan you think of the direction you’re going in and then something comes along like this you fill find that you’re playing a role you didn’t anticipate which is a very valuable role because I’m sure you know coaches amongst themselves don’t get to talk to each other in a conference right. You work in isolation. New extremely busy very full schedule so I’m sure as this is it’s super valuable what you’re able to do for them. But I’ll talk a little bit about your target audience here now because you’re coaching the coaches that’s one thing but talk about the audiences that you appeal to and do you you’re mainly your customer base.
[00:14:24] Sure. I would say 75 percent of my clients are athletic teams. The other 25 percent would be corporations educators and nonprofits within that 75 percent of athletic teams. I would guess four fifths of them are college athletic teams. I certainly work with some high schools and clubs they struggle with budget as any high school and club does. And colleges certainly have either more budget money available or the ability to fundraise a little bit better than in high school teams do so well with both men’s and women’s teams I work with all sports all divisions. My job is not to come in and teach you how to play your sport. I don’t need to know the sport sport sports I work with said I’ve never seen it until I’ve worked with those teams and that’s a fun practice for me because those players are kind of teaching me the game. So we equalized really quickly. I can come in as a facilitator and talk about some of these skills but boy were talking about their sport. I worked with a rugby team with some field hockey teams. Those are not sports I grew up around and so the tables turned a little bit. And I get to learn from those players and coaches as they teach me their sports. But the vast majority of the athletic teams that I work with are college athletic teams. Again all divisions in both men and women in all sports.
[00:15:45] So you mentioned field hockey there of course the increasingly popular sports. Give us a list of all the other sports that you get involved with.
[00:15:55] Yes. So I would say in the last year I have worked with wrestling hockey soccer a lot of soccer simply because that’s my network. Basketball volleyball softball swimming I baseball men’s soccer men’s basketball women’s basketball hasn’t worked to the football team yet. And I have worked with lacrosse yes. But I would say I’ve worked with most college team sports. Other than those couple that come to mind right away.
[00:16:35] OK yeah mainly mainly in the coldest sports so cricket wouldn’t be on your on your roster just yet.
[00:16:42] Yeah that’s it. You know there’s a lot of schools that are offering that as as an intramural or a club sport. So it is a little more time and maybe that will be an emerging sport for it.
[00:16:55] Well it’s interesting to hear you know being a big cricket fan obviously this you know because it was made in England cricket. So to find that we’ve got cricket over here is very inspirational I have to fund a team so let me know you’re Molly if you if you’re going to with the team.
[00:17:13] It’s funny that you mention that my last school I was frustrated because we had a really high international student population on this campus and the cricket pitch was right next to our field. And so we basically shared facilities and I was at a recruiting event one time just out with some coaches and we’re all you know talking as coaches do and I said well I get one for you guys. How many of you have to share your field with the club cricket team. And sure enough another coach said I do. And I say you’ve got to be kidding me this is not possible that we’re both sharing our facilities with cricket so yes it’s growing.
[00:17:47] I have experienced it firsthand.
[00:17:49] Well it’s very good to know I’m encouraged. So it’s the one thing this country does lack it’s good cricket. I’m pleased to hear it. Well let’s just go back to some of those aspects of team building because obviously it’s a team sport is no good without the team spirit and then the team building gives us a sense of what that framework looks like if you were to have a blank piece of paper and you’re going into a sport that maybe you don’t know so much about.
[00:18:18] Yeah so typically a coach will come in and say we need to work in teams not so great. Tell me a little bit more and they’ll start to peel back the layers and say something like our communication is really bad or we shut down in adversity or we’re just not good at solving problems. And so the the framework that I used is called the experiential learning cycle and I will take the feedback of the coach and essentially design some activities that are going to bring out what we think the issues are in real time. What’s great about this is the the players the participants they just think they’re playing a game. This is just fun. They’re blindfolded there is some sort of puzzle or task they have to complete they’re usually laugh and having a good time. But what happens in that activity is there’s both some shared struggle and some shared success. And that really replicate the game situation we have six we have struggle and hopefully we have some success. And then as soon as the activity is completed we sit down in a circle and debrief what just happened and break it down into some really really small part and what we just experience and what we have to do to be successful and how do we supply to making us a better soccer or basketball team. And one of the reasons that’s really useful is that that the briefing that talking about it happens almost in real time like the activities just happened and now we’re talking about it. Compare that to a normal game situation you play a game you go home the coach watches film and it might be a day or two later before you’re actually talking about what happened in the game and it’s difficult for athletes to recall some of that in detail but we were able to sit down and process it right away. There are some really really magical things that teams say and my belief as a facilitator is the answers are in the room. It’s my job to just ask the questions that allow them to share it. And like any relationship in life if it comes from me I feel little ownership of it. So finding a way to frame questions in a way that athletes provide the answers. Now they’re going to take ownership of it they’re going to be able to say well gosh that activity we’ve really communicated well when we did X Y and Z what’s preventing me from doing X Y and Z in the game situation. So now they’re taking ownership of that process for me being there as a neutral figure is really refreshing for them because I I don’t control their playing time. I’m not controlling their scholarship or their role on the team. So. So there’s kind of a lack of you’re maybe in making a mistake because sometimes in practice athletes think if I make a mistake that’s going to change my role in the game not here an activity you can you can you can make all the mistakes you want it’s not failure. We’re going to grow through all of that and then the other piece that I think is really valuable in this process is the athletes often end up changing roles. And so your best player they really struggle in an activity. It’s just never going to see the field might be the hero. And so as those goals start to change all of a sudden how we perceive the value of our teammates starts to change as well. So we’ll do three or four activities. Yes each of them and really unpack what a team can do to better. And it’s a really it’s a high energy environment and it’s been a really rewarding process to be a part of.
[00:21:38] So what would be the age ranges age range then of the student athletes. What would be the youngest and what would be the oldest.
[00:21:48] Yeah I’ve done that with a club team that I think they were 12 years old.
[00:21:53] I had truly tested the material with a team that was younger than that that went really well. So certainly using you can go middle school and younger with experience learning and then obviously my college teams that I worked with a couple of semi pro adult teams as well. And I view this kind of process with corporate suits as well. It’s no different when a corporation calls me and says we can’t communicate. Great. I think you do the exact same process that I do with athletes and it really doesn’t matter what the profession is. That process works with humans that work as a group that are having some sort of barrier that they need to work through.
[00:22:32] That’s interesting and they know the one thing that comes to mind when you’re when you’re brought in as an outside facility to Mali and you’ll look at a group do you know by looking at that group. They already told you who say is the captain and the vice captain of the team and if you if you don’t know even what you do or you don’t. Do you think the exercises that you put them through actually changes the dynamics of that you find a natural leader to go into your leadership development for example. Do you find that there’s some one that maybe didn’t think of themselves as a potential leader but they emerged through the exercise as being a natural leader.
[00:23:13] Yeah absolutely. There’s no question about that. Particularly when I worked with teams that are newly formed so like in the fall I worked with a lot of soccer teams where those teams are just meeting for the first time in August.
[00:23:27] And so sometimes a coach will say to me these are two seniors will see how they do. I don’t know if they’re up to really leading this team. But oftentimes in these activities new leaders do emerge. And part of that has to do with the role that they may play on the field. And I often say the coaches your best leaders probably won’t be your best players and when you think about a team they’re often more players on the bench than are on the field or on the court. And if all your leaders are on the field or on the court who’s leading the vast majority of your team. And so sometimes in these activities we’ll see a young player step up in the coach will say that was I can’t believe she stepped up like that but she’s not going to go on a minute. I have no issue with that. Let’s let her leave from the bench where you’ve got the vast mature vast majority of your team. And so it’s also a way to identify future leaders that you want to start investing in now. I think one of the biggest mistakes that coaches make is this idea that A is going to get older and then become a leader. And to me that process takes years of becoming a leader. So if you can identify someone at a young age that has that potential and start allowing them to kind of chip away at their leadership skills then a few years from now they’re going to be successful as a leader. But if we just say to a leader hey you’re a young person you’re a senior now. Now you’re a leader. Most of them look at me cross-eyed. Like I wasn’t a leader yesterday. Now why am I a leader. I don’t understand what changed there. And the reality is it is a process. And so if we can identify some young leaders and people with potential early and then develop them we will set them up for success on the road.
[00:25:14] And do you get two young women particularly coming today. So they they want to be a coach. You know when they’re maybe in college and thinking of being a player but they get inspired by the role that they could do off the field.
[00:25:27] Yeah it’s been fun for me as I worked with teams just to get to know some of these players individually and talk about what are your hopes and dreams. And there’s a basketball team I worked with right now pretty closely and as a young player. Actually there’s two players on that team that have shared with me that coaching is on their radar and they’re really thinking about that. The thing about a roster of 14 or 15 people in two of those women are thinking about coaching in their future. So it’s it’s fun to to kind of see that take shape for them to see them inspired by their coaches and encourage them in that thought process of what they want to do.
[00:26:02] Just a few years from now what’s the most rewarding thing that to find you get from these workshops are these these teachings and that you do with young people. Molly what was the biggest things you take away.
[00:26:17] Well a couple things come to mind. One is I think oftentimes teens get stuck in a rut and things are difficult things are hard and things are painful. And if I can come in and help them find a different way. That doesn’t mean that I have the answers but can I can shine a light on some different paths for some different opportunities or some places they can grow and develop that allows them to enjoy their sport experience again. That’s an absolute root word for me. I think the other piece would be directly related to coaches. I have worked with some amazing coaches who are amazing human beings who are at the end of their rope. They are exhausted. They need an ally they need a support system. And when I can come in and just kind of blows people up a little bit and be in their corner and provide some resources for them and watch a little bit of life come back to them as a coach. The ad is incredibly rewarding because I had those days as a coach. Maybe it wasn’t days weeks or months or seasons where I thought I can’t do this anymore. I’m exhausted. I am at the end of my rope and I’m grateful that I had some people in my corner that could keep me up and if I could do that for other coaches I find that to be very rewarding.
[00:27:32] Well there’s obviously a lot this in terms of you know the development of the athletes or the growth of the coaches as well you’re covering a lot of aspects of of athletics and sport generally. Where do you want to go with this. Do you see any personal growth and development within this role or just given you new goals.
[00:27:54] Yeah I do.
[00:27:56] I recently had some leadership development curriculum that’s right written and now printed and so I’m excited to get back in the hands of more people. Not every team can afford to bring me in or. And I certainly can’t I don’t have the time to maybe be with every team as I would like to. So to be able to have a product that I think might fill that gap a little bit. I’m excited about that. I also recently launched a new program called the leadership experience. And so in 2018 we’ll be dealing with cold breeding programs which are worn into Day events around the country and then in 2020 here inSt. Louis we’re launching a weeklong event called the main event. This all falls into the leadership experience. And basically what that is is I created a structure and a platform to bring in young leaders probably high school and college students where we can intentionally develop their leadership skills. And one of the things that’s become very clear to me is the thing that’s missing in leadership development is the opportunity for young people to practice the skills that they’re learning. And so a few years ago I ran a Summer Leadership Academy. And I knew we were doing some really great stuff but I also knew we were missing the mark just slightly and so I pressed pause on that program as I tried to figure out what was missing. And it just hit me as I worked with teens at that Leadership Academy. We did a great job teaching leadership and talking about leadership and doing self reflection and taking notes and all that and then we just sent them back and expected them to be able to do it. And like any great athlete or musician or artist will tell you we get better when we practice things. And so this whole leadership experience has been designed around the idea that we’re going to teach leadership skills and we’re going to give them hands on ways to practice those skills while they’re with us. So that has been really really energizing to see the interest in that. I think coaches and schools and local businesses and organizations are hungry to develop young leaders. It just hasn’t always been a great way to do that. And I think what we’re putting together and the team we’re putting together and the resources where we’re going to have accessible to us through this leadership experience is going to be really fun. I think it’s going to do some good work and has been very energized by that and I’ll certainly have to grow as I develop the materials that will be a part of the leadership experience.
[00:30:19] But I’m a big believer in saying yes to whatever that next right thing is and this was pretty clear to me that the leadership experience with that. The next thing I need to do is say yes to.
[00:30:30] Well clearly your answers say invigoration by this inspired by it. There’s going to be more to come from Molly Gresham along the way here in leadership and team building and so on and the best thing is for people to know where they can find you.
[00:30:45] So the easiest places on my website, mollygrisham.com. All my social media links them on Twitter and Instagram. Email addresses. But yeah go to mollygrisham.com on the home page if you want to subscribe to my mailing list you can do so that will just email you my blog. You don’t even have to go to the website and want to get those blogs over e-mail to you. If anyone does sign up for the e-mail list you’ll get one or two e-mails a month. It’s not overwhelming but there’s a place my Web site to send any sort of e-mail to me there’s also place a book a phone call also. So people phone calls are free. That’s why I book a 30 minute call to talk through something where the more and more about what I do would get some free advice. Phone calls are free. You can do that from the Web site at any time.
[00:31:29] Fantastic. That’s a free advertorial for you Molly. Well thank you very much for taking the time to come on the show and tell us about the work that you do and the very best of luck with it. It’s obviously a very valuable service.
[00:31:41] Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to share and if I can help your listeners in any capacity be glad to be a part of their support system.
[00:31:49] Good to know. Thank you Molly. Thank you.
[00:32:44] And if you’d like to find out more about Molly’s work do visit her website. She said It’s Molly Grisham.com. It’s easy to find she’s on social media. But we’ll have more links as well in the show notes accompanying this episode on our Web site at WiSP Sports.com And if you haven’t already done so do check out all the many other shows that we have here at WiSP Sports. There really is something for everyone. And we’ll also be adding new shows to roast this spring so stay tuned for that. Lots more to come here on WiSP Sports the podcast network for women in sport everywhere. And when you find yourself online and have a moment to check out everything else that we do here atwispsports.com you’ll find lots of articles and blogs as well as videos. And we also have a Facebook Live show that we call face to face. And if you follow us on social media at WiSP Sports you’ll find out when the next episode of that is available. By turning on your notifications so do follow us on social media at WiSP Sports. And you can also reach out to us here at info @wispsports.com We’d love to hear from you if you have any comments questions or suggestions. Thank you so much for listening and supporting women in sport everywhere. Goodbye for now.