Celebrating the Little Moments with Dan Noble

by Chris Tompkins | July 30, 2022

Dan Noble uses his experience as a football player, and once CFL hopeful, to train young athletes. After starting his own company, Noble Sport and Performance, he moved into his current roles as the Director of Hockey for Upper Canada College and the Director of Performance for the Oshawa Generals and Halifax Thunderbirds. Dan’s aim is to help athletes grow physically, but also in other aspects of their lives. He wants kids and youth to understand that they’re so much more than just their sport.

Under pressure

Kids are under a lot of pressure these days — something that Dan says really stands out to him. Part of it is that, likely subconsciously, parents are treating their kids like transactions — everything they participate in, whether it’s sports, music or mathematics, has to be done perfectly. So kids are accomplishing outcome-focused tasks with less encouragement to celebrate their unique gifts and who they really are. The other big piece of the pressure, according to Dan, is that kids are inundated with information through social media without the tools to navigate and process that information. It’s easy for a kid to become crippled with fear by the state of things with no one to show them how they can be a positive force for change.

Controlling the message

While Dan can’t control whether his athletes make the Olympic team, win medals, sign contracts, or get drafted, he can control the message they receive when they walk through the door of his gym: they are valued. Dan tries to empower his athletes to have a voice and make decisions for themselves, even if it’s as simple as asking them how they want to work out that day. Many of his clients are told what to do at every step — from what to eat to where to train — so Dan tries to let them know that having opinions and speaking up is okay, especially as it pertains to their mental health.

Celebrate your children

Dan encourages parents to let their kids experience failure and to even embrace it, because that’s how kids learn — by running their own race. Dan believes that as parents, our job isn’t to build our kids’ future but to control what’s happening on the outside of their athletic career. It’s a parent’s responsibility to make sure their child understands what it means to be a good human being and to have responsibilities in a community — skills that will transfer over to the rest of their life. At the same time, Dan underlines the importance of helping kids find value in themselves by celebrating the things that are special and unique about them. In athletics especially, there is a lot of focus on telling people what they can’t do instead of celebrating what they can do. “Celebrate those little moments — moments of humanness, whether it’s effort, competition, joyfulness, humour, connectedness, cleaning up, or doing a random act of kindness,” he says.

To hear more about Dan’s role on the frontlines when it comes to Canada’s young athletes, listen to the Shaping Our World  podcast episode at the top of this post.

Visit our website to discover a variety of other guests that we’ve had on the show. Shaping Our World episodes are also available wherever you get podcasts.

Transcript

[00:00:12.010] – Speaker 1
Well.

[00:00:12.120] – Speaker 2
Hey, I’m Chris Tompkins, and welcome to the Shaping Our World podcast. My goal is to invite you into a conversation that will leave you more confident in understanding and inspiring the young.

[00:00:22.050] – Speaker 3
People in your life.

[00:00:23.360] – Speaker 2
Each episode showed we talk with leading experts and offer relevant resources to dive.

[00:00:27.810] – Speaker 3
Deeper into the world of our youth today.

[00:00:30.360] – Speaker 2
Today we have Dan Noble on the show. From an early age, Dan Noble’s life was centered around athletics. If there was a sport, he would play it. His journey through minor sports landed him a spot on the University of Gulf football team and even took him across the pond to play semi professional American football in Europe. Today, Dan uses his experience and education in his career training young athletes. His work as a performance consultant and coordinator has taken him beyond his own company, noble sport and Performance, into current roles as the director of Hockey for Upper Canada College and the director of Performance for the Ottawa Generals and Halifax Thunderbirds.

[00:01:14.330] – Speaker 3
Over his career, he has worked closely.

[00:01:16.760] – Speaker 2
With professional athletes like Mitch Marner and full teams like the Canadian Olympic women’s hockey team. Dan has also contributed his experience into books about coaching and training and countless speaking engagements across North America. He is passionate about helping young athletes grow, not just physically, but in all.

[00:01:39.430] – Speaker 3
Aspects of their life. Dan, it’s great to have you.

[00:01:51.310] – Speaker 1
Thanks for having me.

[00:01:52.040] – Speaker 3
Chris, you and I go back a long way and have watched what you do quite closely, and I’m thrilled to be able to get this conversation and pick your brain about today’s young people. So thanks for being here.

[00:02:03.000] – Speaker 1
Now we’ve come full circle, I think. Yeah.

[00:02:05.240] – Speaker 3
For those that don’t know, I’ve known Dan since he was a teenager. That may age me a little bit. So I know a bit about you, but why don’t you help our listeners? Dan, what shaped your world when you were a teenager?

[00:02:17.150] – Speaker 1
Yeah, so I grew up in a family. My dad was a minister, my mom was a pastor’s wife. So she kind of stayed at home and did odd jobs, probably similar to you, Chris. And it was a pretty traditional conservative family. I would say that was kind of flipped upside down because I had a sister that had severe mental health problems that kind of led to addiction and just 90s, late 80s, all of that stuff was very I mean, it’s hard to deal with now. Right. And also being in a position of leadership in a church and managing that side of things and the optics around that created I would say I had a great home, like I have amazing parents, but at the same time, it was definitely a stressful place and there was a lot of conflict between my sister and my parents. And I was in that role of just trying to keep the peace all the time. So a big part of my development kind of came from because I struggled in school and I didn’t have a ton of places where I felt like I could be me. So the only kind of two places I felt safe, happy, excited to kind of be alive was either playing sports or at summer camp.

[00:03:31.600] – Speaker 1
And I played a lot of sports during the fall and the winter, kind of football and octopus. I mean, sports and summers. I was like, we’re awful, right? Like most people live for the summers. I loved to be in school because that meant I was playing football or hockey. And then I went to work at a place called Teen Ranch, and that’s where I met you, Chris, and your family. And I’ve just had a massive impact on my life of just being surrounded by other people, kind of trying to figure life out the same way. And no one perfect, but I think it was just a place where I felt probably the first place where I felt like I could be me, be vulnerable and know that I could screw up and people still kind of wanted to have me around. That was big for me and that kind of led me down the train of being around and leading young people and a young age and going to work at Muskoka Woods and continuing on with my passion of sports and going into coaching in teachers college and all that. But honestly, I would say the most impactful thing in my life has been Team Ranch and Muskoka Woods.

[00:04:37.120] – Speaker 1
And I’m not just saying that because of the cost, and it still is. Every time I go to Muskoka Woods in the summer, it’s still a place that feels very much like home for me.

[00:04:48.760] – Speaker 3
Yeah, for those listeners, too. You didn’t mention it because it kind of goes beyond but you played university football and then you went played was it professional in Europe?

[00:04:58.250] – Speaker 1
Yeah, we could call it that, right?

[00:04:59.960] – Speaker 3
Semi pro, yeah, semi pro, yes.

[00:05:02.330] – Speaker 1
Football and played for pizza. I spent some dark years pursuing a CFL career. I think I made more money pursuing the career than actually I would have made playing. But when that didn’t work out, I went and played football over in Italy. And again, that kind of was a really opening time of traveling and seeing the world and kind of reminded me what I wanted to do with my life after I’m able to put sports into a comfortable place with my own headspace.

[00:05:35.540] – Speaker 3
Yeah. Well, let’s talk about your life today then, like, personally, what’s shaping your world?

[00:05:40.870] – Speaker 1
So today I’m a strength coach, I guess, athletic performance coach, director of performance. I kind of have my own company called Mobile Sports and Performance, and I work mostly in hockey and lacrosse, so I’m the Director of Performance for the Australian Generals and the OHL, and director of Performance for the Halifax Thunderbirds and work with Hockey Canada on the Women’s National team side of things and the strength coaching side. And I also have my own training center in the city. I started out as a teacher and worked at a sports academy called The Hillock. Having and there for 15 years. It was pretty incredible, very pivotal years in my development just as a teacher and a coach. Mano Watsa new school at the time when I started there and getting to work with a lot of different people from different backgrounds and then transferred into my own side of things once my own business kind of started to grow. And I think the biggest thing where I’ve found success and a lot of people will ask this how did you get I work with athletes like Mitch Martin and Anthony Selilli is not probably the most loved person in Charlotte these days, but people ask, how did that happen?

[00:06:54.390] – Speaker 1
And to be honest, it was one. Obviously working at The Hill and having those kids around was big, but just realizing my gift is not necessarily based around being the smartest guy or being the best strike coach or being the best coach and most knowledgeable coach, but really around just understanding people and supporting people and caring for people and understand that gap that currently exists within young people’s lives. I need mentors. When I was young, I needed people like you to give me a chance. And I think that’s just where I’ve been able to find my niches, that I’m a pretty open book and as you know, and very comfortable being uncomfortable and vulnerable. And I see a big purpose of my life at this point is to kind of be a resource to young people in terms of pursuing their best self that could be around sport, that could be around life in general and just helping to navigate those situations. And obviously I have to be good at my job as Wells. If they’re not getting better or getting hurt all the time, that’s a problem. But I think the real thing that’s kind of separated in my career is just my heart for people and my desire to see people just get better and understand that they’re not just athletes, they’re people first.

[00:08:13.700] – Speaker 1
And playing a sport is what they do. It doesn’t define who they are.

[00:08:18.250] – Speaker 3
Thanks for sharing that and love the scope of what you’re doing. And I think that you spent so much time with young people training and obviously there’s a focus in what you do on performance and the pursuit of athletics and training and strength coach and all that kind of stuff. But you also, with many of these young people, spend a lot of time in their lives too. Like, you become a coach and you probably unwillingly or unintentionally weighed into family stuff and life and all the other stuff that teenagers and young people work through. So because you’ve had such a front row view to young people today, help us get to understand what you see about the kids that you’re training. Like, what do you see in this generation today that may be different or similar, that inspires you, that gives you concerns. Tell us about the kids that you see today.

[00:09:15.790] – Speaker 1
That’s a good question. I think there’s a couple of things that I think have changed. We live in a society now where, Chris, when you and I were growing up, we probably had that one friend that was, like, the best athlete in the city, and they were the only ones that anyone ever thought had a chance of doing anything right. And you played a bunch of sports growing up, but you probably never dreamt of playing college basketball. Right?

[00:09:42.850] – Speaker 3
I’m a little short.

[00:09:44.120] – Speaker 1
Yeah, a little short. I didn’t want to say that, but it’s all right.

[00:09:47.190] – Speaker 3
I set up for you. Thanks.

[00:09:49.270] – Speaker 1
And I think your parents are a great example of just, like, supporting and celebrating who you are as a person and really fostering those things that make you unique. Like, you’re an incredible speaker, and you always have been, and you have a passion for people, and you have a passion for leadership. And those things, like, for as long as I’ve known you, have always been in you. And I think your parents saw that early age, and they fostered that. And I think it’s a really commendable thing, because what I see now is a lot of parents that maybe subconsciously, kids have become transactions, and anything they do, they have to be the best, whether it’s math, whether it’s music, whether it’s sports. And everything is done for an outcome, right? Everything is done so you can get a scholarship. Everything is done so you can get this academic award or get accepted into this university. And I think that goes along too, with the social media world, is that we’ve kind of inundated adults and kids in the last ten years with a whole ton of stuff that no one really had the skill set to navigate or manage.

[00:11:07.590] – Speaker 1
Things like technology, social justice in a positive way, right. But also, like, how does a ten year old process certain things that are happening in the world that I probably would have never even known? And that’s a good thing, right? Because now kids are far more aware of the injustices that exist and the inequality that exists in the world. But how do they process that? And how do they know that they can be a part of that movement in a positive direction rather than being crippled by anxiety and fear? And how do they know what to believe online? Like, how do you process what’s truth and what’s not truth? Right? How do you know who to follow, who to look up to? And kids role models now, a lot of times are like, YouTubers and TikTok influencers, and it’s different. Like, when I was growing up, my role model was Junior Sale. It was a football player, but I didn’t know anything about Junior Sale’s life, right. Like, I saw him play on Sundays and I cheered for him and that was it. Right. There was probably things about him that didn’t make him a great moral model, but now these influencers have such direct access to children and young people that they’re in their ears more than anybody else, right.

[00:12:22.030] – Speaker 1
And again, sometimes positive, sometimes negative, but like, the idea of being able to process content and process anything is difficult. And I don’t think we’ve necessarily done a great job. The education system has done a great job of teaching kids to think critically and understanding how to manage online presence in time and to deal with just everything that’s happening. Information, right? I get overloaded and then I lie down like I’m a person that wants to make the world a better place. And I’m very, at times, irrational with my ideologies of thinking I can change the world. Right. And that can become very tiresome at times because of just it’s so daunting. Right. So I think there’s two fold to come back. To summarize, I think there’s too much pressure right now. Kids accomplish, like, outcome focused and tasks instead of just like, accepting for who they are, embracing their unique gifts and abilities, and just loving them for people and being proud of them and letting them just find their own path and grow up and supporting them on that path. And then the social media piece, I think, again, has been really hard to navigate.

[00:13:38.920] – Speaker 1
And I think you have a lot of kids that struggle with mental resilience and grit and adaptability. And I think that’s something that I think as a society we need to address a little bit more or it’s going to be concerning about where we go in terms of the ability to be able to handle adversity, because that is a reality in life as well. Too.

[00:14:00.750] – Speaker 3
Yeah. And so let me probe a little bit from your vantage point, right? Because you see kids in a unique setting mostly, like, I’m sure you interact with young people outside of the gym and training areas and the arenas and stuff, but when you’re in your mode coaching, when these pressures and things that you say are impacting young people today are kind of really real, what does that look like? We talk about mental health and anxiety and pressure, but what do you actually see in kids as they’re coming to train with you? Like, are they more distracted? Are they not engaged? What do you physically, I guess I’m trying to say, because you have such a unique vantage point, what does this tangibly look like when people are showing up to do something that they actually really love doing? How would you know that someone’s feeling the strain and stress of competition being the best and the pressures of comparison or social media are figuring out what.

[00:14:59.000] – Speaker 1
They believe it’s interesting. It’s probably the opposite of distracted. It’s almost like over focus, right? I don’t even know if that’s a word, but it’s this hyper focus, I guess I should say. And this like never being allowed to have bad days, right? Like just see people that come in, I can see in their eyes, some of them just look like fry or just tired, like physically tired or even the grooming piece of thinning hair and just like pale skin and just things that are like these are healthy young athletes. But you can wells there’s just so much stress and it’s overwhelming part of my job. I’m not a therapist, I’m not trained in any side of that, but I just try to identify through conversation and basic questions, right? Because I’m very cognizant of what my role is and my limitations. But I’m just like making when they come to the gym is like the best part of their day, right? And that doesn’t make easy a lot of time. It’s very hard, but just understanding where people are at and understanding what they’re dealing with, whether it’s going through divorce that are failing in school or kids that got caught and again, this goes right up to adults.

[00:16:27.450] – Speaker 1
Right. Like I see young professionals that are dealing with the same thing. We have to deal with some really hard going into the Olympic year of some women that have sacrificed their whole lives to make this and ended up getting caught like the day before the Olympics started.

[00:16:44.420] – Speaker 3
Yeah, man.

[00:16:45.530] – Speaker 1
And so just like helping them process and also making sure that they still understand again, they’re valued and I think that’s probably the simplest way to put it. I want everything that comes in the doors to feel that they have value and that we can’t control the outcomes of making teams, winning gold medals, signing contracts, getting drafted, all of that, but we can control the types of messaging that we’re providing them. So I’m very cognizant of how I communicate the words I use and just trying to be empowering them to make decisions, empowering them to have a voice and to speak up and even on these little things is like how do you want to squat today? Which sounds ridiculous and not to go down, but it was just like I want there’s so many kids that just don’t speak, they don’t have voices, right? And so it’s like just making them make decisions. Putting them in positions where they get used to having opinions because they’re told what to do all the time. What to eat. Where to go. How hard to train. What you need to go to this person and it’s like and all of a sudden they’re like released into the world at 18 years old and they’ve never made a decision before.

[00:17:59.150] – Speaker 1
Right? And I think so that piece of just like the empowerment, the value, the self belief, I think is a really important piece that I as a coach can impact but also times of sending kids home. Like, hey, you need a break. Like advocate between parents of like I’ll call parents pretty regular and like, hey, might not be a bad thing for so and so just to have some time off or maybe go have them connect with a sports Psych or just the mental piece I find is just so prevalent and we all need it. I need it, you know what I mean? And I think removing that stigma around the mental health piece, but also adding to the messaging, it’s like not every day is going to be a good day, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay in bed, right? You still get up. And that’s the piece where it’s like, I’m trying to create. My goal is to create a connected environment where everyone feels like they belong. Their unique value is seen, but they understand that there’s an expectation on them to be a part of something and that they have to play their part and getting them to take pride in that.

[00:19:14.890] – Speaker 1
Our gym is not an open for anyone. It’s private. We pick who we work with and the kids that come in. It’s like, this is your spot. You’ve earned a spot and you’ve got to hold it and wells be here to support you in anything that you need in life. But at the same time too, as you and you understand that this is also going to require work and sacrifice and commitment and you’re going to have to work through some hard things.

[00:19:38.210] – Speaker 3
Yeah, that’s good. I want to jump back in a little bit because again, I think you’re going to have a really unique vantage point on this. You were talking about this drive to be the best and everyone can be a professional athlete. I’ve had other guests on the show that have talked about one of the unique things in today’s culture is that pressure, right, to get the right career, to do the right things, to build all the extracurriculars. And I know as a parent, it’s really tough to know when to encourage and push and when to not be so driven like that tension, right, where you don’t want kids to give up and sell themselves short on things that they can do and accomplish, but you also don’t want to load on the weight of burden on their shoulder to be this whatever description of it. And I’m curious, when you have an athlete that you’re training, how do you approach that in the gym and in training with them? Like specifically, how do you push them enough to keep moving but also don’t want to perpetuate a message or a thing that they have to be this and that?

[00:20:52.680] – Speaker 3
Unless they make the NHL, it’s an absolute failure? How would you train someone that you’re recognizing there’s a real tension there and pressure?

[00:21:01.630] – Speaker 1
Yeah, I think that’s something that’s really prevalent in our field of, like, people like, you want to play in the O, or you want to play the I, you got to do this, or you want to skate like Karl McDavid, you got to do this. And honestly, stuff makes my stomach turn. And I’ll never every time I’ll commit to a kid, it’s always about in the moment and processing and always connecting it to a big picture, right? And also of building familiarity with failure around failure in the gym, of being comfortable with a big line that we use in the gym is run your own race, not looking left to right what everyone else is doing. But focusing on this is your path, this is your journey. Right? Like, just because you’re here doesn’t mean that you’re not going to end up here. Or just because that person is doing this doesn’t mean that you have to do this. It’s like being in the moment and be the best at what you are doing in that moment. Whether it’s maybe your best is a seven out of ten that day, but that’s what you had to give, right?

[00:22:05.250] – Speaker 1
And to be able to look and reflect. And the self reflection piece is a big thing that we touch on, of asking questions of, like, how did you feel about that week? What are we focusing on today? How are you getting yourself ready mentally again, what are your objectives that you’re going to focus on? But again, of creating those objectives that are all around process based and taking risks, right? Like, we do a lot of exploration in terms of movement. It’s funny. Like, I’ll get 24 year old men to do some results, and they’re just like, at first, like, this is stupid. They’re doing it. They’re laughing, and they’re rolling and jumping when people come in and watch what I do. And it’s funny. They’re like, what is this? Right? It looks like gymnastics, like your Sloan’s gymnastics class. Right? But a part of me, I believe, obviously, in that from a physiology perspective, but I also believe in it from a human perspective of just being, like, comfortable, looking stupid and looking silly and understand that you’re in an environment where no one cares, right? Getting to that point where they don’t care what other people think.

[00:23:20.050] – Speaker 1
And it’s funny. I think, from a parents perspective, I look at what my parents was, it was like there was not one person that probably would have thought, like, I would be where I am today. Maybe I don’t even think my parents, they were just happy I got out of high school, right? They loved me. If getting comfortable that piece is that it’s not our job to define our kids future, right. Is that we need to build up that the best things that happened to me in life was, like, getting fired from teen ranch, getting suspended, all of stuff that’s really not great things in the moment but learning. I remember when I got fired from Team Ranch, my parents were so disappointed, but at the same time it was like before, like I might have got kicked out of the house or something, you know what I mean? But it was just a conversation. Like it was expectations and standards. But I learned from that moment, right? I learned from Mel Stevens, understand what it means to have responsibilities and do a job and follow the rules. And I just think it’s like the best thing about me.

[00:24:23.760] – Speaker 1
I was never a high performer, really had anything and so I had to work for everything. And I think that’s the problem is when you have so many high performers now because they’re doing so much more at younger ages, the expectations, everyone thinks their child is special. And the biggest reality that parents seem to accept early on is like your child’s not special. There’s a very low likelihood your child is Serena Williams. And even then, if you look at Three Williams story, she was never told that she was special until certain observations in her career. But she had to work and there was failure involved and there was adversity and there was accountability. And I think parents are so scared to keep kids accountable and have consequences. And I don’t mean negative like extreme discipline, I just mean even simple as taking phones away or going to apologize to a teacher for not handing an assignment. Both my son and daughter, and again, they are like above average athletes, you know what I mean? But at the end of every game they thank the ref and they thank the posing coach. Those are things that matter because guess what?

[00:25:39.560] – Speaker 1
At some point they’re going to have to go to a job interview or they go to their friend’s house and they meet parents and do things. And those are things that are transferable to terms of just navigating life. Those are life skills, right? And I think that’s what we’ve lost sight on is that there’s such emphasis that if kids don’t make it to D One or wherever, they’re failures. But the reality is if they were going to make it, they’re going to make it. And what we can do is control what’s happening on the outside of like making sure that they understand what it means to be a good human being and have responsibilities in a community. And those are things that I think get lost and that’s what I try to end it, right? Like when kids leave the gym, they always shake hands and say thank you, right? If they don’t do that, they wells come back. Yeah, they clean up after themselves. They understand. I’ll have an athlete like Mitch Martyr. There’ll be a ten year old in the gym and Mitch would never think twice about a kid being side of, you know what I mean?

[00:26:38.500] – Speaker 1
Because he doesn’t believe he’s better than anybody. He understands it’s his race. He’s there to work today and this is what he’s going to do. And obviously he doesn’t want to sign autographs or in the middle of a training session. But it’s not this part where he’s been elevated on a pedestal. Like he’s a regular person that understands that he has responsibilities and that, again, at the end of the day, he’s got to be a good person within this world and contribute more than just from a hockey perspective. I think those are ways that we build that culture within the gym, but also trying to communicate to parents as well, too. There’s common denominators of a lot of the kids that do make it in terms of the families they come from and the way they allow their kids to not shielding them from hard things, right? So I’m a little old school in that sense, but I just think there’s a lot of like in the kids that I deal with that when I go into regular public schools. Now, if I have to speak or do something and you probably see some scope of woods, it’s just like there’s some things that are alarming, right?

[00:27:46.770] – Speaker 1
And again, maybe I’m the old guy now that’s like, turn off the TV and rap music, right? I don’t want to be that guy. But there are some things alarming in terms of just kid’s ability to be able to communicate and connect and that’s what scares me.

[00:28:03.510] – Speaker 3
You talked about failure and you talked about learning to navigate through it made me think. I was listening to a podcast this week by Arthur Brooks. He’s a Harvard professor. PhD, social sciences. His latest book is about happiness and how to find success in the second half of life. But I was listening to the podcast, which stuck out to me. They were talking about the first half of Life and he was talking about how happiness, when we think about it, we often define it as this feeling. And he’s like, that’s such an incomplete way and probably unhelpful way to think about happiness as it actually is more about meaning and purpose. And the only way we get there is through failure and through resilience. And success isn’t ticking all the boxes. It’s actually who we’re becoming in the process of everything that goes. And we want our kids to be so happy, but we just zoom in so much on protecting them that we actually don’t allow them to discover a real sense of meaning and purpose because we protect them from everything so much at the end of the day. And so I think that’s a real connection to what you’re saying, too, is as you do that in the gym and as you work with young people, you’re actually helping them to define some joy and happiness in who they are and what they’re doing at the moment.

[00:29:22.970] – Speaker 3
And it’s not always easy. And you are going. To have setbacks and you’re going to have to redefine success a few times through your life and your career. But the irony is the more you do that, the more you actually do discover happiness rather than getting everything you want, the way you want it, when you want it. And I thought that was a really interesting perspective. I do want to just ask you one question and around some specific advice you’d give to parents. I love what you talked about, about one of the things you do in the gym is help young people feel valued and seen and noticed. So what would you say to encourage parents on how they can like, how do you do that in the gym? And how could we as parents seek ways to do that for our young people, to really give them a sense of that value as they’re running their own race? What does that look like for you?

[00:30:13.950] – Speaker 1
I think one is being engaged in the people that are in front of you. Right. And we did an activity and I’ll share this kind of quickly and obviously this is more of a tangible piece. But I think it kind of ties into it with the women’s team before they went away for the Olympics is I had them all kind of stay in the circle and I gave them each piece of paper and on that piece of paper embraced the fear of failure. And then it had a personal quote in terms of from me, like who they were and what made them unique. And my purpose was that when they left, they go to a six month centralization camp and basically try to make the Olympic team. And it’s a super stressful. There are girls there that have been cut twice and they basically sacrifice four years of their life for these moments. And it’s stressful. It’s very stressful. And their whole life goes on hold from families to jobs to school to everything. And there was one individual specifically that had been cut from two Olympic teams and this was really her last opportunity.

[00:31:29.040] – Speaker 1
And she works so hard and is just an unbelievable person and does everything, and she’s a perfect example of someone that’s like when they ask you, what do I need to do? I’m like, there’s nothing more that you can do physically hockey wise. You are phenomenal in everything that you do. And sometimes unfortunate life things just don’t go right. But for her, the piece that I wanted her to know when I wrote on her paper was deserving. And I always see when she would come into the gym, it was always like she had to prove herself. And I know that mentality because I had to prove myself. And I lived like that and I still struggle with that now for a long time of trying to prove myself. And it’s a great mentality to be the underdog and work, but there’s also a point when that becomes debilitating a point in your life, because you’re exhausted, always having to think you have to prove yourself instead of just being comfortable with who you are and understanding that you are as deserving as anyone for these moments. That was something that I wrote on our page, and it was just like, I want you to believe that you’re deserving for whatever comes your way.

[00:32:38.620] – Speaker 1
And the key thing here was you’re not deserving to be on the women’s Olympic team, right, but you’re deserving of the opportunity, and you’re deserving of success. You’re deserving of happiness, you’re deserving of love, you’re deserving of acceptance, you’re deserving of kindness and to believe that you’ve done everything you possibly could and there should be no ounce of shame when you look back and reflect on your journey. And she ended up making that team. And so I had written, like, a personal note mark on each of their papers, and for me, it’s like just trying to watch people. And I know that you’re really good at doing you’ve done it to me just saying, like, just seeing that piece inside someone. And I think that’s something that I’ve always tried to do is just speak life into people. And it’s something I take from your parents. When I see somebody do something that I think is like a unique attribute, I try to get on that right away and just celebrate that. Celebrate those little moments of moments of humanness, like whether it’s effort, competition, joyfulness, humor, connectedness, and cleaning up, doing a random acts of kindness.

[00:33:56.010] – Speaker 1
I celebrate those things so hard because I really believe there was a study that came out on golfers. It’s like when you tell the golfer the waters over there don’t hit it into the water, where do they hit the ball? Into the water, right. But if you tell them, hey, just hit the ball straight, and a lot of times they’ll hit the ball straight. But we are so focused on telling people what not to do and what they can’t do instead of focusing on what they can do or who they are. Right? And so for me, I’m not here to tell you you’re overweight. I’m not here to tell you’re not good enough. I’m not here to tell you that you need to get faster. I’m here to reaffirm that who you are is exactly okay and everyone is working progress.

[00:34:40.630] – Speaker 3
I love your perspective on that. One of the things I think practically, I love that you wrote it down. I think sometimes it’s easy as parents or people that are with young people to use our words to do that when we see it, and we absolutely should do that. But, man, there’s something even more meaningful about writing it out and giving it. That’s a great practical tip that I think I know I’m going to use. I guess my last question, Dan, just as we kind of circle up and this has been so great. I love hearing your perspective and clearly your passion for young people and helping them through all the things in life that they want to accomplish, not just the athletic pursuits. It’s really inspiring. Just maybe a quick thing. Maybe there’s some parents or adults that have young people and even younger people in their life that are aspiring athletes and are looking for trainers and people to work with them. What are some things that you think would be really important for them to consider?

[00:35:35.590] – Speaker 1
Yeah, I feel like I say it all the time, but not everyone hears it. But my thing is if you’re going to be a crazy sports parent, I always say be crazy about the right things, be crazy about things that you can control and be crazy about the people that you surround your kids with. And if you ever have that gut feeling that this is not a good person or this is not someone I should be leaving my kids with and things like that, it’s like listen to that and that. There are good coaches out there. There are good people that will be role models for your kids and care about them and guide them and give them good advice and just to take step backs, does this coach reflect our family’s values and who we want our child to be? Because it matters. And I think people think, oh, well, we raise them. But I’m like what you don’t realize is your kid spends like I spend more time with my athletes than probably their parents do. And if I’m every day, if I’m feeding their heads with stuff that’s just not good stuff, I’m like an influence that, again, someone the wrong person can take advantage of that in terms of a 16-, 17-year-old kid.

[00:36:49.400] – Speaker 1
Right. And so just be aware, use your spy decent and just surround yourself with role models. Put your kids in uncomfortable situations but that are achievably uncomfortable. Right. Not uncomfortable where it’s like it breaks them, but uncomfortable. For me, it was going to camp knowing that I had a safety net to fall into. Right. And I think that’s the piece I would say is it’s great to have the best trainers, the best coaches, practice and have goals. I will never tell a kid, I hate when people say, oh well, none of you guys are going to go pro anyway. Well listen, that’s not my job. We need more dreamers in this world. I want kids to dream that they can cure cancer. I want kids that can dream that they can become a lawyer or doctor. It applies the same things. Both are equally as hard to do, but they require work and effort and sacrifice and commitment. And so surround them with people that are going to teach them the way to go about it the right way. That the value they’re bringing. Your child will still have the same value whether they make it or not.

[00:37:55.360] – Speaker 1
Right. I believe that in the day, whether any kid that leaves me, I know that I’ve provided them with value for life, whether it’s healthy, active living, whether it’s moving, exercise or mentality or thinking or just surround them in a really good culture where they feel loved and connected. And that’s what I would say. I just see so many families sacrifice what they believe in. To put a kid on the ice with somebody that I would never put my kid on, but it may get them a spot on a team. Yeah, that’s my big piece.

[00:38:25.840] – Speaker 3
Well, that’s great and thanks for sharing that. And, Dan, loved your heart, love what you have to say, run your own race and writing down some encouragement or a couple of things. I’m definitely going to take this and appreciate you. Thanks for all that you do. If any parents do want to know more about Dan, great athletics, you can find out about Dan is training. But thanks, Dan. Appreciate having you on the show today.

[00:38:49.410] – Speaker 1
Awesome. Thanks, Chris.

About the Author

headshot of Chris Tompkins
Chris Tompkins leads the senior leadership team in bringing the Muskoka Woods vision to life. He holds a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Guelph, a teacher’s college degree from the University of Toronto and a Master’s degree in Youth Development from Clemson University. His experience leading in local community, school, church and camp settings has spanned over 20 years. His current role and expertise generates a demand for him to speak with teens and consult with youth leaders. Chris hosts the Muskoka Woods podcast, Shaping Our World where he speaks with youth development experts. He is an avid sports fan who enjoys an afternoon with a big cup of coffee and a good book. Chris resides in Stouffville, Ontario with his wife and daughter.
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