By Tammy Schuiling, Marketing Manager at TEC Canada
I, like millions of other proud Canadians, have been actively following the Canadian Olympic Team’s efforts in Sochi. Since Vancouver 2010, we’ve had high hopes for our athletes – we feel their pain with every stumble and we feel their pride with every medal. We collectively cheered as two out of three Dufour-Lapointe sisters stood on the podium in the Moguls event. Two out of three sisters. That’s when I really started to wonder what it takes to compete at that level.
Since joining TEC Canada in September 2013, I’ve often heard that TEC isn’t for everyone. It’s not a networking club, nor is it for those who want to occasionally learn a new skill or learn a little bit more about the latest business trend.
TEC is for executives who want to be the highest calibre leader they can be.
I wondered what the parallels were of training to be an Olympic-calibre athlete and training to be a top-performing leader as a member of TEC Canada.
I simply had to walk down the hall to find the answer. Mandy Moran, a member of my team, was on the Canadian National Diving Team for eight years and an alternate for the Olympics. I sat down with her to ask a few questions about her experience.
When did you know that you wanted to compete at the international level?
I was 11 years old when I went to my first Canadian National Championships where the team who would represent Canada at the Junior Worlds was announced I knew at that moment I wanted to be on the Canadian team one day. 13 years later, that became a reality.
What did you need to do to achieve this goal?
I trained four to five hours each day, six days a week. The physical training included weight lifting, track workouts, cardio, trampoline, yoga and diving. Other important elements of training included a specialized nutrition plan, physiotherapy and massage to cope with frequent injuries (shoulder and back) and sports psychology.
I had to make sacrifices -I missed out on birthdays, school activities, weddings, family time and had to give up other sports and activities to focus on diving.
To pay for training and travel, I worked as a coach in the summer and had part-time jobs. Being a carded member of the national team for eight years meant I received some funding from the Canadian government. I was fortunate to have some sponsors along the way and the support from Diving Plongeon Canada, so I could focus on my goals everyday. I had everything I needed to train hard, eat healthy and recover.
What were some of your biggest accomplishments:
Making the national team, to be able to represent Canada for the first time was a dream come true. Winning my first national title in 2009, placing 7th at the World Championships and winning bronze twice on the World Cup circuit.
Tell me about your coaches – what did they teach you beyond the technical requirements of diving:
When I started the sport at the age of 10 my coaches taught me discipline, commitment, how to face fear, overcome obstacles and to have strong work ethic.
They taught me to compete by building confidence and character through training.
When I was older, I had to learn how to win. My coach believed in me more than I believed in myself and pushed me to stretch my goals and limits to achieve more than I ever thought possible. He didn’t let me settle for just being good. I had to be great. I was pushed every day and as a result, I broke school records, was all-American, qualified for the Canadian National Team and won international medals. I didn’t expect or even dream of doing any of those things; it really taught me the importance of setting goals and what it takes to achieve them.
Would you have been able to do that without the right coach?
No, I didn’t believe any of what I had accomplished was within my grasp. My coach worked with me to set the goals, but always set the bar higher than what I thought was possible. He would say things that seemed so out of reach and then when I achieved the goals, I started believing in myself.
I had to overcome my fears, trust myself and trust my coach.
Was your goal to make it to the Olympics?
I wanted to represent Canada and it really didn’t matter where. Once I started seeing success on the international circuit I set the Olympics as my next big goal. I moved to Calgary in 2006 to train with members of the national team. I knew that was what I had to do to be the best athlete I could be.
I wanted to surround myself with like-minded, focused people who understand what it takes to be the best.
Were you disappointed that you didn’t compete at the Olympics?
I was the alternate to the Olympic team and was thrilled with my results at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic trials. I overcame a lot of adversity leading up to both Olympic seasons, but it didn’t hold me back – I placed third, and the two female athletes who represented Canada were the top female divers in the world and are Olympic medalists. I’m proud of my achievements.
Not competing at the Olympics may seem like a disappointment, and for a period of time it was hard to digest. I achieved much more than I ever thought I was capable of doing. I started diving at 10 just wanting to do flips and make small splashes in the pool. Sport allowed me to travel the world and represent my country. Through these experiences I learned far more than job or classroom could have afforded me.
What have you learned in your athletic training that you apply to business or to work:
- Set Goals: Set both long and short term goals and to be disciplined, dedicated, patient and focused to achieve those goals.
- Always do your best work: Take and implement feedback to do your best every day under any circumstance.
- Learn to build a strong foundation and have patience to be good at the basics: Walk before you run – even though it’s sometimes hard to slow down when you’re motivated.
- Find a great coach: A good boss or a good team leader is essentially a coach who wants you to achieve greatness, will show you how to be better and will push you to achieve success – sometimes expecting more from you than you thought possible
- Build a strong team around you: As an elite athlete in an individual sport, it’s lonely on top of the 10 metre tower. Without the support of coaches, fellow athletes, sponsors, support staff and family – it would be impossible succeed.
- Be a great teammate: Training and competing around the world was an opportunity to build friendships, camaraderie and community. Support from a team is essential both at work and in the pool.
You need to build the best support team around you to achieve your ultimate success.
Is that what attracted you to TEC?
Yes. TEC is the high performance training for the best of the best in business: Top leaders who want their businesses and people to succeed. TEC Chairs are like Olympic coaches who push their members to achieve their goals. The peer groups offer a network of support that you may not have anywhere else.
TEC aligned my passion for high performance sport and with my interest in business excellence. There are few organizations who understand and promote the importance of leadership and support members to set goals beyond what we all think might be possible.