Dr Charles “Hal” Wilson on the Waters College of Health Professions Award for Service, why he uses CoachDISC and his contribution to coach education
By Mim Haigh, Sports Writer – Athlete Assessments
When Georgia Southern University formally acknowledged Hal Wilson’s prodigious contribution to coaching and the community with the Waters College of Health Professions Award for Service, they recognized the thousands of hours that Hal (and many coaches for that matter) spend every year, when he mentors and coaches athletes and coaches, propelling them forward, taking steps alongside them as they fulfil their dreams.
Dr Hal Wilson is an Associate Professor at Georgia Southern University in the Master of Science, Kinesiology, Coaching Education Concentration. He’s also on the Board of Directors of the United States Center for Coaching Excellence and a highly sought-after speaker – USA Basketball has asked him to present nine times. He is an Affiliated Scholar of the Center for the Study of Sport and Religion, is on the Research Committee of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, has authored or been involved in over 70 peer-reviewed, scholarly presentations across the globe and 11 publications. Hal is also behind the website and featured podcasts at coachingbasketballwisely.com which has over 60,000 followers across 80 countries. When he’s not coaching or delving into the professional questions that concern coaches all over the world, he’s advocating for the community’s most vulnerable as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in foster care and the founder of the Hoops with Heroes program bringing local kids and law enforcement together through basketball.
Last year Georgia Southern University recognised Hal’s dedication to service and excellence with the Waters College of Health Professions Award for Service. The prestigious honour is awarded to faculty for their outstanding uncompensated or pro bono service to the global and local communities, the university, and to professional organizations and honorary societies during the previous five years.
At Athlete Assessments we know how much Hal contributes to everyone around him. We see it in his work with students and hear it in feedback from students, athletes and coaches. The communities that he’s part of benefit from his experience, energy and the spirituality that underpins everything he does.
We asked Hal what the award means to him and this is what he said, “it was an especially moving honor because so many of my Georgia Southern colleagues are making a positive impact on our local community, the state, and the nation. They inspire me to continue to do what I can to leverage sport for good.”
In this article we capture a glimpse of Hal Wilson through his work at Georgia Southern, his speaking, website and the motivations that drive his commitment to excellence in coach education.
Picturesque Georgia Southern is part of the Sun Belt Conference and home to Division 1 athletics teams, the Eagles. It’s one of only two universities in the United States to be nationally accredited in coaching education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels by the National Committee for Accreditation of Coaching Education (NCACE).
Hal says, “this rigorous review process demonstrates the alignment of our curriculum with the National Standards for Sport Coaches.”
While Hal and his colleagues clearly prioritise content in their programs, they also deeply value non-technical skills and the benefits those skills bring to professional relationships. Hal says, “I agree with the International Sport Coaching Framework when it states that Professional Knowledge, Interpersonal Knowledge, and Intrapersonal knowledge are three key areas for coaches of any level. In my opinion, professional knowledge is the easiest to find, followed by interpersonal and then intrapersonal knowledge. Learning to reflect in the moment and also critically after an event is a key intrapersonal skill that can have a lasting impact.”
But, including non-technical skill in a curriculum can be tricky. So Hal and his team created an element of study designed to raise students’ self-awareness in Georgia Southern’s graduate program. Each student completes a CoachDISC survey enabling them to receive an individual and unique CoachDISC Profile. Bo Hanson, 4 x Olympian and 3 x Olympic medallist delivers a guest lecture plus students receive access to resources and information allowing them to improve on the approach and professional processes. Hal explains why students choose to undertake the coaching specialisations at Georgia Southern.
He says, “our master’s program uses a cohort model, so the courses in our program of study are taken in a predetermined order. We chose to incorporate the CoachDISC Profile because we thought it complimented the curriculum and would add value to the course. The feedback we have received from students has resoundingly confirmed that this was the right choice. Many students often comment that they were cynical of the value of the CoachDISC prior to the course, but after completing it found it very useful in reflecting on and improving their coaching and personal interactions.”
He explains that he’s been using CoachDISC for the past seven years and adds, “the CoachDISC Profile has added a perspective that supports, extends, and personalizes our curriculum in a way that students’ appreciate. It is no wonder then that the student feedback on the CoachDISC has been overwhelmingly positive despite the added cost.”
In addition to raising students’ self-awareness and developing their interpersonal skills, the process grows their capacity to build enduring professional relationships with colleagues and clients. Hal talks about the takeaways that he aims for students to leave his courses with. He says they are to know that,
“1. Love is a choice. So is hate. Choose love.
2. There is never a better day than today to get better.
3. Everybody who works, eats. No one eats alone. Leaders eat last.”
Hal tells us that some of the highlights of teaching in the program for him come when students incorporate learning from the curriculum into their professional lives.
He says, “the best feedback is when students let me know that they implemented some ideas from the program, adapted what they do, and/or changed their way of thinking about coaching. For example, one student stated that he was on the “hot seat” and about to be fired from coaching before he made major changes to the way he coached. He wrote that after making changes he not only didn’t get fired, his team performed better and he got a standing ovation at the postseason banquet! That kind of feedback is so rewarding and humbling!”
Turn-arounds and perspective changes are central to learning, so it’s not surprising that one of the greatest benefits to student-athletes studying in the programs is understanding the issues from the other side.
Hal says, “current student-athletes begin to see coaches and coaching in a different light. They understand how difficult coaching is and the immense time and effort that go into creating a positive environment. Current coaches get cutting-edge, evidence-based principles that can be adapted to their coaching. Sport administrators also gain an appreciation for the job that coaches do, much deeper than X’s and O’s, and learn ways to communicate more effectively with their coaches.”
Those insights are one of the aspects of Hal’s role that he enjoys the most. He says, “the best thing about teaching Sport Pedagogy at the graduate level, is the chance to positively impact coaches from many different sports and geographic locations. Since the course is fully online, we get coaches from coast to coast. I have enjoyed seeing the commonalities in coaching sports that I had no or little experience with, such as equestrian, martial arts, and softball.”
Hal’s experience means that he contributes to his students’ and coaches’ development in more significant ways than just providing technical content. For example, when we asked him what advice he would give someone starting out in their academic or teaching career, he replied, “at the secondary level, I always told people that despite whatever else may be going on, eventually you just close your classroom door and teach the kids. That is what matters – not the latest government policies, administrative red tape, or whatever else distracts you from the people in the class who are looking to you to guide them. I think this concept applies in coaching too. So many sports are overcoached and micromanaged, which is actually counter-productive and stunts players’ growth and enjoyment.”
It’s this experience coupled with his technical skills that make Hal such a sought-after speaker. Hal tells about his presentation at the 2019 USA Basketball Coach Academy in Atlanta, GA on June 22, 2019.
He says, “I have spoken on a variety of topics for USA Basketball including practice design, creating a positive culture, and peak performance strategies. This year my topic was ‘Coaching Today’s Players’, I focused on coaching Generation Z, commonly defined as those born between 1995-2010. These players have grown up in a quickly-changing environment marked by increasing technology that facilitates increasing social spheres of decreasing depth. This new world has given Gen Z a unique perspective that should be acknowledged and harnessed, rather than complaining about perceived differences from previous generations. I addressed common characteristics, attitudes, and behaviors of Gen Z and how to effectively coach this wonderful generation through holistic, athlete-centered coaching.”
Hal connects with athletes of all ages and understands coaching from many perspectives making his website coachingbasketballwisely.com so valuable. Currently, the website has 60,000 followers from all over the world and gives away a significant amount of resource material. Of this contribution to coaching, Hal says, “coaches had such a profound impact on my life that I am just trying to give back. The beauty of the website and podcast is that it can reach coaches around the world that I might never get a chance to interact with personally. It always amazes me when I hear from someone from another continent because of the website.”
Hal brings such a positive attitude to his work with so many different students, athletes, administrators and coaches. His optimism is pervasive, it comes through in everything he does. He is unequivocally positive about the future of coach development and his role in it.
He says, “I am excited about the future of coaching. In the US we have reached a point where we are beginning to realize the potential exponential effect of coaches for all athletes, not just the elite few. I am excited about joining the crusade to get more qualified, caring coaches for more kids, and especially by leveraging the higher education system to impact local communities.”
Hal extends on these themes talking about his career highlights. He says, “I’ve been fortunate to win a championship or set a record for wins in eight different basketball programs. However, even more satisfying than any championship are the relationships with players, their parents, and our coaching staffs. For example, just a few weeks ago I was invited to a former player’s wedding – a player that I last coached 11 years before! I am also proud that in 11 years a head coach, 5 of my assistants became head coaches, 2 became athletic directors, 1 became a principal, and 1 planted a church. Seeing others’ success is always a highlight for me.”
And, before we finish this feature on Hal, we want to share one of his career learnings because it’s so pertinent for coaches of all levels. He says, “my first year coaching in major college NCAA Division I, we were ranked in the top 20 in the nation and were playing a traditional powerhouse on ESPN who was also highly ranked. The previous season I had been a varsity assistant coach and junior varsity head coach in the foothills of the North Carolina mountains – no national TV or national rankings. But sitting in my hotel the morning of the game I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment when I came to the realization that this game (with its national rankings and media coverage) was no more important to the people involved than a JV game I had coached the year before. More outside people cared, certainly, but the passion for the game from the participants was the same.”
With so many opportunities to choose from, we asked Hal about his goals for the future. His goal is simple, he says, “my future goal is to help more kids have a better experience in sport through quality coaching.”
Where to from here?
Hal Wilson uses Athlete Assessments’ Academic Program as part of the curriculum Master of Science, Kinesiology, Coaching Education Concentration at Georgia Southern University.
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