Topher Bordeau

 In RowingChat

Topher Bordeau has a track record as both a coach and an athlete recruiter for Dartmouth College in USA. His “coaching philosophy” insights into failure and how to improve your coaching are leading edge.

“Science of Rowing” is a new monthly publication by “Strength Coach Roundtable” podcast hosts Will Ruth, Blake Gourley, and Joe DeLeo.
Visit ScienceofRowing.com/RowingChat for details, a free Sample Issue, and a special discount offer.

Castelldefels Stage Esport is a specialist tour operator who books sports camps for rowers. They specialise in the Spanish region Catalunya which is near Barcelona.
Get in touch and ask for Jordi – he speaks perfect English, and don’t forget to mention RowingChat when you book.

Faster Masters Magazine is designed for masters rowers.
If you want to become a student of the sport of rowing, learning more will give you confidence in your own rowing practice.

Timestamps to the show
03:00 Background in rowing from high school to Princeton coached by Mike Teti and Curtis Jordan with a year at Oxford in Isis. Volunteer coaching at Belmont Hill where Joe Murtagh the lightweight coach invited me to coach the Princeton freshmen. Going from there to the Naval Academy heavyweight squad where they are very athletic but novice rowers was a big change. I was moved to Dartmouth to coach the Varsity Heavyweights where they were in a low spot. In the first year they were 24th in the East and then we took them to 15th, then a year later to 12th and then 8th. I coached the U23 US team in 2007 and 2008 when they won gold. My last year was 2014 and it was very challenging. The moment you aren’t full committed the crew senses it.
12:00 Failure is such a productive part of rowing. I never found a way to write about quitting rowing, despite 8 years of writing for Rowing Magazine. Failure is very personal – what one sees as success others see as failure. Much like the silver medal winner at the Olympics. All of us when we confront what happened initially reject the premise behind the ideas which led to our failure.
Everyone loses their way at some point.
15:45 A poor leader is one who makes no choices. Making a bad choice can be driven by emotion not reason. Reacting is different from responding (rational). Bad choices are things we regret. Things that don’t work out because our reasoning wasn’t good are forgivable. We rarely have all the information especially with regard to coaching where there are ambiguous factors.
18:00 This year is a good example of poor information. When a coach avoids a decision because of something new it leads to a less satisfying career and more in jeopardy. The wisdom from past decisions can go into trying something new. An evolution of thinking.
24:00 Recruiting for college sport. I represent Dartmouth College to students around the world. Athletic liaison for 5 sports helping coaches vet the students they are recruiting.
The criteria we use to assess athletes applicants are
– Demonstrated academic achievements,
– Engagement in the community outside the classroom,
– Personal values and aspirations and intellectual qualities
– we look for when they geek out about something.
33:30 Creating rounded human beings – could this be a philosophy? Building a class is not too different from building a team. I have a curiosity about people and how they develop Joe Murtagh explained this coaching philosophy.
My MBA was in mission-driven organisations about leadership and management.
39:00 Giving adults the courage to try something difficult.
42:00 I help coaches articulate their philosophy and their value proposition. I realised my business school lessons would have helped me a lot when I was struggling as a coach.
45:00 When working with mentoring coaches the first thing I ask is What was the first thing you learned about rowing? Hidden in that statement is a desire to be really good at something. Then I ask What is the most recent thing you love about rowing? Then I get them to chart a path from A to B.
We all have a sense of our own narrative. A narrative has chapters. It’s difficult to recognise the delineation between chapters especially for motivated people. It is good and necessary to have new chapters in our lives.
51:00 the native sharks keep moving or they die. The alpha mentality is always hunting but it’s alone. Thinking about how to make boats go fast leads to this type of thinking, intellectual risks, ideas. People can be stroke or bow and they can change.

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