Archives For Competition

Sharing Wisdom Series4

If you’d like to read the first three installments of this series, you can find those herehere, and here.

For my fourth and final installment, allow me to introduce you to Drake University‘s Head Women’s Volleyball Coach, Darrin McBroom.

Darrin McBroom

Darrin McBroom, Head Women’s Volleyball Coach at Drake University


Darrin is unlike any other coach I’ve featured, in that, he was nominated by a former player. She thought he deserved to be recognized for the profound effect he had on her and her love of the game. There’s something to be said about a coach who impacts his team so much that his legacy endures long after the individual athlete’s playing days are done.

Here’s what Darrin’s former player, Erin, had to say about him.

Message: I played volleyball in high school and was a decent player but I definitely did not love the sport. I didn’t want to rack up student loans so I looked into playing in college. I committed to Iowa Western and played for Darrin McBroom. He made me fall in love with the sport and helped me go on to play for an NCAA Division I program. I played many sports growing up and had many coaches, but he is by far the best coach I have ever had. He always had motivational stories to tell that related to parts of the game and always respected his players. He now coaches at Drake University and I thought he’d be a great coach for you to interview.

I believe it’s important for coaches to know that the time, effort, and personal sacrifice they put into developing their players – everything they do day in and day out – does make a difference. Not only does the approach and dedication Darrin applies to coaching result in winning programs; more notably, he’s left lasting impressions on the athletes who have played for him over the years.

Below are three questions I asked Darrin to answer and his corresponding responses.

Q1: You are the first coach to be nominated for inclusion in this series. Your ex-player who nominated you credits you for helping her fall in love with the sport of volleyball. How do you manage coaching different players who each possess not only different skill sets but also different levels of engagement with the game?

Darrin’s Response: Well, the one commonality that all of my players have had is a love for volleyball and for competition. While at Iowa Western, I coached players from China, Brazil, Puerto Rica, Russia, Ukraine, Dominica, Canada, and the U.S. The one thing they all had in common is that they loved to play the game.

For myself, I walked away from a full-time teaching career…giving up summers off, tenure, and higher pay…to become a full-time coach at Iowa Western because I loved the game and I loved being a part of these teams and the lives of these kids.

I always wanted each season to be one of the greatest experiences that they had ever had playing volleyball and I knew if they were having a great experience, then they would give the best they had to me and the program. Integral to that experience was striving for great achievement on the court (individually and as a team), developing life-long friendships, and creating life-long memories. These teams were always like a family to me and I encouraged that kind relationship among them.

Q2: What’s something that’s kept you up at night over the last two decades coaching volleyball (meaning, is there something you try to control but seems to be uncontrollable)?

Darrin’s Response: Although people talk about the challenges of working with young people, that is all I have ever done and all I know. While I certainly have agonized over some of the poor choices some of my athletes have made in their personal lives and academically, it is not the athletes that have kept me up at night.

More often than not, it is the adults whom I work with who have created the most challenges over the years. The young people have not really changed that much; it is the adults who have changed.

Q3: Do you or members of your coaching staff keep an eye on the social media accounts of both existing and potential student-athletes? If so, what advice would you give to young adults about their digital profiles?

Darrin’s Response: As a general rule, I and my staff do not specifically monitor our athletes’ online profiles or those of incoming athletes. However, we have from time to time become aware of postings or statements that they make.

We take the time to make sure that these young women understand that what they put out on the internet is a representation of more than just themselves, but also the University, our program, and certainly all of their teammates. Therefore we advise them to be very judicious about what they put out there, especially since it cannot be taken back.

I would recommend that all young people be very careful and deliberate about the creation of their of their digital profiles as I do not think they realize the impact that one inadvertent comment or photo can have on their future.


Darrin is entering his fourth season at the helm of the NCAA Division I Drake Bulldog volleyball program, which competes in the Missouri Valley Conference. Prior to joining Drake, he spent eight seasons in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) where he compiled an overall record of 322-58, earning a winning percentage of 85 percent, to rank him among top 10 active coaches nationally across all NJCAA divisions. Read his complete coaching bio here.

The Sharing Wisdom: A Series of Coaching Perspectives is written by Heidi Woodard.

Sharing Wisdom Series3

If you’d like to read the first two installments of this series, you can find those here and here.

doug woodard

Doug Woodard with members of the 2013-2014 Nebraska State Champion Bellevue West Thunderbird boys basketball team; File photo c/o Omaha World-Herald


I’ve looked up to this next coach as a personal role model for well over half my life. He is not only one of the top high school basketball coaches in Nebraska, he’s also my father-in-law and my former World History teacher. The fact that he got me interested at all in World History speaks volumes for his innate ability to motivate kids.

Doug Woodard has coached high school varsity boys basketball for over 25 years and is entering his 18th at Class A Bellevue West High School in Bellevue, Nebraska. Doug has had five separate teams win State Championship titles under his leadership (1996, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2014), as well as coached three State Runner-Up teams.

He’s been named Coach of the Year 10 times by different media and organizations. Doug has also administered and directed the Omaha Sports Academy Crusader summer basketball program, which has seen more than 200 student-athletes acquire college scholarships.

I’ve personally seen the amount of time and dedication that Doug puts into coaching young men and can say with utmost confidence that he is as interested (perhaps even more interested) in guiding them off the court as he is when they’re on the court. In addition to coaching the Thunderbird basketball team, he also serves as Dean of Students at Bellevue West High School, has spoken at coaching clinics and basketball programs throughout the Midwest, and has presented at corporate training sessions for Union Pacific, ConAgra Foods, and Hudl.

Although I was particularly interested in hearing his answer to the question, Seriously, how did you put up with Ryan (my husband) for the first 18 years of his life?, my actual questions and his corresponding responses appear below.

Q1: You’ve been coaching high-level varsity boys basketball for over 25 years. How do you think your communication style has evolved over the years with your student-athletes?

Doug’s Response: There are two major areas where I feel it has been necessary to alter my approach: The first is in using more of a collaborative style attempting to give the reasons why certain things are done (required). The days of simply saying do this and don’t question are over. It is critical to achieve “buy-in” that today’s athletes see a reason or justifiable rationale for the techniques or systems being used.

The second is to communicate in shorter segments due to societal trends that have helped shorten the attention span of this generation. Video needs to be shown in abbreviated sections for instance, as watching an entire game is not conducive to good learning or retention. The tension is to try to adjust one’s techniques without compromising in areas that you feel are core principles and therefore not dependent on societal or cultural transition.

Q2: Who would you consider to be a coaching mentor and why?

Doug’s Response: My old high school coach, John Johnette, is one who I see as a mentor.  One of the reasons is that I feel Coach Johnette was way ahead of his time. He wanted us to shoot in 8-12 seconds and this was during the 1970’s!

He used techniques and strategies that lived outside the norm and was never afraid of innovation. He also used as his core philosophy to be true to one’s self. He thought if you coached true to your beliefs and philosophy that, at the end of the day, you could take great satisfaction in a job well done…regardless of the result. I remember after we lost in the semi-finals of the state tournament, he told us that the result of the game is never what is important…it is what happens subsequent to that result that will determine if it was a net positive or negative in one’s life.

In this way, a loss in districts could be viewed as a “better” result long-term than winning a state championship if one uses that loss in a positive sense as opposed to one who, as a result of the state championship, makes negative or destructive decisions.

Q3: What are the major lessons learned in basketball that can be carried over into a young man’s life well after his competitive playing days are done?

Doug’s Response: There are so many, but to highlight a couple: The importance of being part of something larger than one’s self and the corresponding need to sacrifice…at times…what is in your personal best interests for the good of the team. Ironically, this selfless approach will, in the long run, bring greater personal success and accomplishment.

A related lesson is that each member of the team has a role and that every role is important to the overall success of the team/organization. This is one reason why so many successful leaders in business have come from the athletic realm. The obvious traits of discipline and work ethic are things that will carry one far in whatever career or endeavor they choose.

Successful basketball teams are built on trust – trust among teammates as well as trust between players and coaches. A culture of trust is one that is critical to long-term success, be it in business, education, or any other vocation in life.

The Sharing Wisdom: A Series of Coaching Perspectives is written by Heidi Woodard.

Sharing Wisdom Series2

If you’d like to read the first installment of this series, you can find that here.

I am incredibly grateful that forward-thinking, best-selling author and professional speaker John O’Sullivan has agreed to participate in the second installment of my Sharing Wisdom: A Series of Coaching Perspectives. John is the Founder and CEO of the Changing the Game Project and works tirelessly on helping coaches, parents, and administrators develop high-performing athletes through positive, child centered sporting environments.

John O Head shots (1)

John is the Founder and CEO of the Changing the Game Project. Find him online at


I’ve been studying John’s work for over a year now and one of the first things that he mentioned early on that made my ears perk up was this…

When we were all growing up and playing sports, sports were mostly about children competing against other children. And now, unfortunately, when you look around, a lot of times sports is adults competing against other adults through their children.

Boy does that statement hit the nail on the head.

As I’ve been watching the NCAA men’s basketball tournament over the last several weeks and I see TV crews periodically cut to the players’ parents in the stands, I wonder if this is the end goal for so many disillusioned people who I’ve read about or ran across on the sidelines watching my own children compete?

I don’t offer up that question as a jab on parents of collegiate athletes. Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. March Madness is unequivocally one of my favorite times of the year and the players who are talented enough to provide entertainment and life lessons to the rest of us watching from the comfort of our coaches are to be commended. How amazing of an experience it must be for their moms and dads to come along for the ride.

I’m just raising it as a way to address a larger question: How many parents will actually get to see their son or daughter compete on a stage that grand?

(In case you’re interested in knowing, the chances of a young man transitioning from a high school standout to competing as an NCAA college basketball player are small: 3.4%. If you narrow that down to Division 1, that percentage is even smaller: 1%.)

See a breakdown for each NCAA sport here –> Source: NCAA Estimated probability of competing in college athletics

So, for the vast majority of youth sports parents, the window of time that we are able to watch our children play the games they (hopefully) love is very brief.

What I respect about John is that he is helping guide the youth sports cultural conversation between parents and coaches. We all seem to want our children to play as long as possible (and to succeed). It therefore makes sense to talk about how to do that in a way that prevents player burnout, reduces injuries, maximizes individual development, and builds character through challenging and rewarding experiences.

Below are the three questions I asked John as well as his responses…Enjoy!


Q1: What’s been the hardest part for you in adjusting from playing collegiate soccer, then professional soccer, to being a parent and coach of children competing in sports?

John’s Response: I sure loved to play. When I lost the love, I stopped playing. The most difficult part about becoming a coach and a dad for me was coaching players, and even my own kids, who were not like me as a player. I was so competitive, I hated to lose a sprint, a pickup game, everything and anything I took it personally. Things never came easy to me, so I was used to fighting hard, working hard, and competing all the time. When I coached kids that things came easy for, kids that I did not feel put in sufficient effort, kids who did not seem to care when we lost, it was very hard for me.

Q2: You’ve presented a TEDx Talk, have garnered over 36,000 followers on your Changing the Game Project Facebook fan page, and have written a best-selling book all centered around helping parents, coaches, and young athletes view sports as positive and rewarding – evidence that this is a very hot topic in our society today. How did we get so far down a path that values short-term defined results over long-term improved process for our kids?

John’s Response: I don’t think you can point to any one thing and say that is why sports have gone down this path. Certainly the money in professional sports creates an allure that is hard to ignore. Youth sports has become a billion dollar business, so the competition for customers has driven year round commitments younger and younger, forcing kids to specialize. The social media culture, and pop culture in general, value things like fame, fortune, self-centeredness, and the like, and so we see these things in sport. We see a 12-year old on YouTube doing amazing things on the soccer field and we think Why can’t my kid do that? Am I a bad parent?

All these factors have worked together to create a place where we value games instead of practice, winning instead of developing, and value the short term results over the long term character development and other things sport can provide. But I do believe we can change that.

Q3: What’s the single greatest life lesson that a coach of youth athletes can bestow upon their team?

John’s Response: I think the best thing a coach can do is coach a person, not a sport. Every athlete needs something different. Some need structure, some need freedom. Some need a quiet word, others need more discipline. One size fits all coaching is never as successful as coaching each and every individual in the team setting. Coach a child, not a sport, and you will not only develop better people, you will win more games too.


John started the Changing the Game Project in 2012 after two decades as a soccer player and coach on the youth, high school, college and professional level. He is the author of the #1 bestselling books Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids and Is it Wise to Specialize? John is also a regular contributor for, and his writing has been featured in many publications including The Huffington Post and Soccer America. John is an internationally known speaker for coaches, parents and youth sports organizations, and has spoken for TEDx, the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, IMG Academy, and at numerous other events throughout the US, Canada and Europe. Read more about John here.


The Sharing Wisdom: A Series of Coaching Perspectives is written by Heidi Woodard.