If you’re a mom whose daughter has her sights on playing in college, then our latest podcast is set up for you. Our special guest, Head Coach Diane Flick-Williams is my former coach and the head volleyball coach at Western Washington University.
She’s also a mom to a multi-sport athlete who is a junior in high school. And she’s in her 21st year directing the Western volleyball program. Diane is the most successful coach in program history, both in terms of wins and winning percentage. She owns the all-time head coaching record and she has guided the team to 15 seasons of 20 or more victories, 14 NCAA postseason appearances, and 10 GNAC conference championships. She has received the GNAC coach of the year honors 10 times now.
She has been influencing me for years. And honestly, I would not be doing the work that I am doing now, serving female athletes, if it weren’t for her. So, get ready as I reveal to you her insights as a mom and as a coach.
Prepare your notes as she shares with us some tangible tips about what your athlete can be doing now to put her in the best position to play at the next level!
What do you love about what you do?
Every day is different in sports and that’s where the fun is. But the main thing that got me into coaching was being around people.
I just love connections and building relationships! I love working with people and watching them learn and grow.
We all are not sure of our path, but when it falls in our lap, we tend to feel enjoyment. That’s how I know it’s my passion.
What do you look for in potential recruits and participants in your program?
#1. The first thing we have to look at is whether they can play the game.
It’s the easiest part I think in recruiting. Nowadays, kids have gotten more opportunities to get in the game, get contacts, join more clubs, etc. There’s a lot more parody amongst people, so the playing part becomes a little easier.
#2. The second part would be how they are as human beings.
How are they as a teammate? How are they as a daughter?
I’ve always found that if they’re not gonna treat their parents very well as an authority figure, then they likely wouldn’t treat me well either.
How are they interacting with people? How are they interacting with their coach? How are they interacting with their parents? How are they respectful to the facility that they’re at?
Coaches look at that while the game is being played, and it tells a lot more about who they are.
#3. The third is what they anticipate learning.
Education will not just be on the court. You’re learning and growing socially, academically, physically mentally in sports.
So, you have to find a place where you can thrive and get the education you need to grow. Do you fit into what we do?
If you think who you are and what you want to learn don’t fit with us, then it’s not a great idea to recruit you and be with our team.
When you’re recruiting an athlete, do you have any deal breakers?
One is when I see them struggle with pressure. Also, if I see them rolling their eyes at their coach, and if I see them walking away from their coach during a timeout. That’s a deal breaker because that only means that they’re not engaging.
I know certain things like that are conditioned over time. And so considering them depends on how much time I wanna spend in having them relearn some of those behaviors. If I have the time, then they can stay on the list.
But if I’m at a cycle where I don’t have the time, then I’ll probably pass on them.
Nowadays, do you notice some lacking skills in some athletes coming into college?
Some of them have a little warped expectation of reality because of what they see in the virtual world.
So when you hear virtual reality, it’s not in fact reality.
Most athletes are dealing with perfectionism because of their wrong perception of reality. They tend to compare themselves to someone else they see online.
What can athletes be doing now to help prepare them for what they’re going to be going through in college?
Learning how to self-reflect. Trying to get to a depth of yourself is super important.
It’s the point where you get comfortable with saying…
“Hey, I can make mistakes”
“Hey, I’m not fully formed”
“I’ve got a lot to learn”
Once you get to that point, then learning becomes easier.
Your seniors were a mess too when they were a freshman. And it’s okay to be messy. That’s the whole idea of the journey.
If the athlete is willing to grow and learn, they can get so much done. But if the athlete is defensive, and sees themselves as perfect, then they won’t get anything.
This is totally in the athlete’s control, and this is something that they can do.
Self-reflection doesn’t mean self-depreciation. It’s not necessarily about pointing out all your weaknesses and what’s wrong with you. It’s knowing what level you are at the moment, knowing where you want to improve, and knowing your current skills.
So it’s not about what we’re not, but what we can be. And looking at it more positively. It comes down to having self-awareness.
Is there any way that parents can mess up the process of recruitment?
It’s super important that the values that we have as a team, match the family values as well.
One of the common mistakes parents make is trying to fix everything on their daughter’s path. They miss out on this quote…
“Don’t prepare the path for the child. Prepare the child for the path”.
I understand how hard it is since I’m someone that would prepare the path for my daughter before. I wanna make sure there are no rocks in the way. And it’s been really hard to be able to just let them go on their own.
Sometimes athletes need to fall and experience it to learn. And that’s better than parents fixing it for them.
The idea of giving your kids a voice, and input, and having them do things that they can control, is essential.
In terms of getting a hold of coaches in the recruitment process, who should the email come from?
It definitely should come from the athlete. But the parents should guide them in making these big decisions.
Guiding rather than doing.
Help them in writing an email but don’t write it for them. As soon as I get an email from a parent, it’s a red flag for me. Because I do think it’s really important for the player to advocate for themselves, and to speak their voice.
I understand how hard it is since I also have an athlete daughter and at the same time I coach.
My daughter struggles with perfectionism. So she wants to write this perfect email and she gets kind of hesitant. It becomes kind of a vicious cycle because her perfectionism ripples in everything that she does. I want to try to guide her through it, but it’s hard sometimes especially when I wanna get things done my way.
Still, I know it’s got to be on her terms so I let her. It will be a great learning experience.
With your experience as a coach, how do you coach and at the same be a mom?
I understand that there are different roles. You’ve gotta be the coach or you’ve gotta be the mom, but the lines get easily blurred.
In my case, I never coach alone. I’ve never had just me coaching her team. Cause I do think she needs to hear a different voice and I think it’s really important that there’s a distinguished time between when I’m being a coach and being a mom.
I cleared my role by asking my daughter about what she needed me to be. Does she want to see me as her coach? Or does she want me to just give her support as a mom? We talked about how to navigate that.
We’ve been very vocal about these to the point where my daughter tells me when she needs me to be a mom or a coach.
Communication is the biggest key.
To help your daughter get to the next level in her sport you need to know the following:
#1. Does she have enough skills to play the sport she’s passionate about?
#2. Does she have enough interpersonal skills to connect with the team or the people around her?
#3. What does she want to learn more about or improve in her sports journey?
A female athlete who’s self-aware and self-reflective in a positive way can go a long way in her sport. Being self-aware and self-reflective will help the learning and developing process become easier. It’s the kind of attitude and mindset that doesn’t shy away from pressure, but rather ready enough to face it.
Allowing them to learn these skills is more important than trying to fix every obstacle in their way.
Even when you’re a coach, a good supporter will always be a parent who lets their kids speak for themselves and advocate for their decisions. You can ask them how they feel, and what kind of support they need from you.
As a mom, our role in this sports journey is to support, guide, and give opportunities for our daughters to experience growth.
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