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Coach Julie

I've been coaching endurance athletes since 2001. It's a role I've not taken for granted and take quite seriously. And for good reason: coaches influence the kind of experience athletes have with sport. They have an opportunity to make a lasting impression - good or bad.

I've never called myself Coach Julie. I think deep down I've felt like those are some big girl shoes to fill! But after this summer, I'm embracing this title. Here's what happened:

To date all of my clients have been adults. That is, until this summer. A local Parks and Rec District hired me to coach mountain biking to 10 to15 year olds. Given I know mountain biking and I know kids (I have a 14-year old daughter), I thought this coaching gig would be a breeze. It hasn't quite been the breeze I was hoping for, however it's been a ton of fun and I've learnt so much about what it truly means to be a coach. And I'm ready to step into those big girl's shoes.

My classes are limited to 10 kids. This invariably means that I have 10 very unique persons with their own:

- learning styles,

- physical abilities,

- mental strengths,

- drive and motivation,

- ability to focus,

- what engages them and fills their cup,

- self-confidence and self-esteem, etc.

It's challenging to create an environment where all these unique kids can all feel important, feel heard, can progress and thrive.

What's helping me? I love learning and being a student of 'stuff'. This has been a great opportunity for me to dive into the world of coaching, confidence, self-esteem, etc. The following resources have been invaluable: Positive Coaching Alliance, The Confidence Code, Wolfpack, Changing the Game Project, and The Big Life Journal.


I'm a big fan of Positive Coaching Alliance. I've been using their material for years. They have resources for not only coaches, but also parents, athletes, officials, and admin staff. This summer I used their ELM Tree concept with the kids. In ELM, the E is for Effort, the L is for Learning and the M is for Mistakes are OK. This is super easy to remember, to teach and for kids to grasp.

E is for Effort. It’s more important that the kids try their best. It's not about who is the fastest or who has the nicest bike. I love it when kids get a little confidence and push themselves outside of their comfort zone on the bike. You can see they are scared, and as a coach, if I help them see that I have confidence in them, they start to have confidence in themselves. It's a beautiful thing to see. I'm trying to figure out what each kid needs: how much to push and praise.

L is for Learning. Focus on learning and improving. Progression rather than perfection. If we continue to try and learn, we will get better. Getting better is more important than whether or not we are better than someone else. And for this reason I emphasizing competing with yourself, rather than with others.

M is for Mistakes. Mistakes are OK because they are part of learning. Trying things that are new and challenging inevitably leads to making mistakes, especially in mountain biking. You can’t learn and progress without making these mistakes. It's so important to create an atmosphere where kids feel OK to take a risk to try new things, mess up, and move forwards.

Another resource that I use from Positive Coaching Alliance is