Spead the Word


Ah, Minnesota summer days! I recently spent time with a former player from my University of Minnesota, Morris coaching days.  We took part in a Minnesota favorite past time, boating on the lake.  We reminisced about the past and about the challenges I used in order to motivate him, and I soon found myself being challenged.  He challenged me to jump in the water behind a moving speedboat and SURF.  At the age of 49, I have never been surfing.  I took on the challenge, flopped in the water behind the boat, and eventually, I was pulled up onto the wake, I was up and I was surfing. Although it was for a very short time, I did it!

As other members of our group took turns learning to surf, I reflected on what I had just experienced.  I walked away with five lessons – lessons that you can use with the athletes that you are coaching. These five simple lessons, if applied to your coaching, will produce measurable improvements in your players.

You will find opportunities where you least expect to.  When I think of surfing I picture the sun and sand of the beach with waves crashing down on the shoreline.  Little did I know that one could surf behind the wake of a boat going 10-12 miles per hour.  As a coach, I often prepared for practice with a picture of what I wanted to accomplish and how to get there.  I was reminded that there is more than one way to surf.  Is there more than one way to achieve the end goal in your session? Don’t close your mind to possibilities.

Failing is not as painful as you think.  As we were taking turns learning to surf, a couple of the people on the boat were scared to try.  When I asked them why, the response was, “I don’t want to get hurt when I fall.”  While it is true that falling can hurt, it is failing that most of us are really scared of. As I was taking my turn, and I failed with the first couple of tries, I learned something new with each attempt.  With each attempt, I learned a new technique that moved me further down the path to the ultimate successful ride.  As you coach your players, focus on their little wins to minimize the fear of failure.

The only chance for success is to try again. If I would have quit trying to catch the wave after the first, second, third …. failure, I would have never experienced the joy of riding the wave when I did succeed.  I often see coaches move on to the next drill or activity because it was on the practice schedule.  They are more worried about sticking to the plan then making sure success is achieved.  Your players are going to hit roadblocks, experience failure.  As a coach, make sure to encourage continued attempts to experience success.

People really want to see you be successful. As each person took their turn at surfing, everyone else in the boat was cheering them on.  The goal was for everyone to catch a wave.  Not once did I hear someone say, “Too bad coach, you didn’t make it, you’re done.”  As a coach, the ultimate goal is to see your team achieve success.  Make sure your players are aware of your desire to see them be successful.  This does not mean that you give everyone a trophy for trying but make sure they will be successful through continue effort to get better. It is your goal as a coach encourage them to reach the end goal.

Spending time with old friends and making new friends.  Even though we spent the day surfing, the real win of the day was spending time with old friends and making new ones.  The relationships that I have made through sports are my greatest treasures.  When I was on the recruiting trail I often told my prospective student-athletes that they will meet their best friends in college and on the team.  This has held true time and time again.  The friendships we make through sports are special because it is with those people that we experience our greatest defeats and most exhilarating victories.

Every day I am faced with challenges. As I have matured as a coach, and now as a mentor to coaches, I value these challenges. With every challenge, I have an opportunity to realize my potential and I gain valuable insights to empower other coaches on their journey.


Christian DeVries is the founder and executive director of VOLTA Sports and Leadership Development Group. VOLTA offers a unique three-pronged approach to leadership development for those in sports, those who like sports, and anyone who can gain insight and direction from sports. Though interactive workshops, peer mentoring, executive coaching, keynote speaking and an eLearning platform, the VOLTA team can help propel your team to achieve peak performance in today’s competitive environment.  Sign up the out new complementary eLearning course- The Athlete Centered Coach 1.0 => Click here

About the Author Christian DeVries

As the founder and CEO of VOLTA Sports and Leadership, DeVries has developed the premier coaching, recruiting and sports leadership program called, AOS – The Athlete of Significance. The AOS Platform is a comprehensive eLearning platform for coaches, student-athletes, and parents who are engaged in, or are getting ready to start, the college recruiting process. The AOS Program is not your standard college advisory program. AOS will go beyond just placing a student-athlete in front of college coaches. AOS will help the student-athletes prepare for the ultimate goal of presenting their significance to the coaches.