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Pursuing the dream: an athlete’s Journey to professional Coaching

Pursuing the dream: an athlete’s Journey to professional Coaching

 

By: Caitlin Genovy

My dream career path has changed as many times as Instagram’s app gets “upgraded”. I went from wanting to be a teacher in Kindergarten, a doctor in grade 6, an architect in grade 8 and a physiotherapist throughout most of high school. Even though my love of sport and science made kinesiology an easy choice for an undergraduate degree, the change in desired career path changed with every semester for 4 years, until eventually, I had no clue what I was going to do once I graduated. I knew that I loved the sport I played and envisioned it being a major part of my life for a very long time, but would I continue to play or would I coach? Would I go on to become an athletic trainer and find myself on a volleyball bench somewhere in the world? With a lot of help from some really awesome people, we found a common theme in my summers: coaching. In grade 12, I started to get involved with McMaster Volleyball Camps and was moved from “Coach in Training” to Assistant Coach at Madawaska Camps and for some still to be discovered reason, I was hooked. For the next 4 years, I worked 5 weeks of back to back camps before diving head first back into volleyball and books. Despite being mentally and physically exhausted each year, something about the month of August stood out. What was it about these crazy 35 days that had me hooked every summer? What was it about Mad Camp that made it the best week of my life? Was it just the amazing friends I’ve made over the last 6 years of coaching or was it the opportunity to inspire and teach the sport I love so much?

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Me and about 150 of my favourite people at the best place having the best week of our lives

A lot of soul searching and asking big questions throughout my fourth year at McMaster, I eventually landed on coaching as my answer to the repetitive “What do you want to do after school?” inquiry by family and friends. It’s like a lightbulb went off in my head that screamed “DUH!” at me upon coming to this conclusion. But given my training and school schedule, how the heck was I going to start working toward my goals?! Sure, some of my classes could help me out later down the road as a coach, like knowing different sports injuries, how to create yearly training plans for strength and conditioning and understanding some sport psychology theories but these were almost all science related and coaching is an art that takes many years to develop and get good at. Like any athlete I know, I want to be the best and follow in the footsteps of the many amazing female head coaches ahead of me, so I found myself dedicating the rest of my summers during my undergrad to coaching and gaining as much art of coaching-related knowledge as I could. 

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2018 Provincial and National Champions

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Region 3 Black 2018 Ontario Summer Games Silver

My bookcase quickly filled with applied sport psychology books, different theories and methods of leadership, how to create a winning culture and so much more. My summers filled up with Team Ontario and Regional team coaching positions, my final school year was jam packed with as much club coaching as I could get. Even living here in France, I help coach the club’s youth programming, even though the language barrier is still tough! Every spare minute I’ve had for the last 2 or so years has been traded in for the pursuit of my dream to one day run my own varsity program.
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2017 Team Ontario 17U Girls

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2018/2019 M17 Girls for VB La Rochette

But along the way, I’ve learned so much more than just coaching. I’ve learned so many things about myself as an athlete – what type of coaches and feedback do I best respond to, how I prefer to learn a new skill, what are the qualities I respect in my favourite coaches? I’ve also learned how to be a better teammate. From all of the books I’ve read and coaches I’ve worked with I’ve been able to learn how to work with a variety of personalities different than mine, how to find the best qualities in others and how to get my teammates to buy in to what I’m selling. Operating as a coaching student-athlete has allowed me to see the game through more than just the athlete lens and finally understand some coaching decisions made on the teams I’ve played with or coached for. I’ve truly learned the importance of statistics in decision making, how the double substitution is not the worst thing in the world when used tactically and just how confusing it can be to try to get the right matchups in the front row. 

Although the pursuit of the dream was always the core motivator for sacrificing my summers off, coaching has made me a better person, athlete and teammate. If you haven’t already tried coaching a camp or two, I would highly recommend it. You just may learn a thing or two about a sport you’ve played your whole life!

After a standout career at McMaster University, Caitlin is currently playing in France’s Nationale-2 division with VB La Rochette as their starting setter. Having committed her summers (and part-time through university!) to coaching various camps, club and high performance teams, we look forward to a bright future in coaching for Caitlin!

Athlete stories and discussions from around the world, beyond the scores, stats and what we see on the court.

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