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Team USA Coaches Share Their Advice And How Coaching Shaped Them

By Darci Miller | Oct. 06, 2015, 4:29 p.m. (ET)

(L-R) Slopestyle skiing silver medalist Gus Kenworthy, coach Skogen Sprang and gold medalist Joss Christensen visit the USA House in the Olympic Village at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games on Feb. 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Behind every medal-winning athlete, there is a talented, dedicated coach, equally deserving of that medal. Though not the ones competing and stepping atop the podium, coaches are a vital component to the success of any athlete. Many coaches were once elite athletes themselves and have used the transition into coaching as an opportunity to better themselves, their athletes and their sport. TeamUSA.org caught up with several coaches participating in the United States Olympic Committee’s National Team Coaching Leadership Education Program to ask them about their views on their role.

What is the one lesson you hope athletes learn from working with you?

Freeskiing and snowboarding coach Mike Jankowski: That’s a tough one. There’s a lot there that we want athletes to learn and understand. A couple of things that pop into my head would be… to focus on the process more than the outcome, and really make sure that you’re working every day towards your goals, and working every day to do at least two or three things that’s going to further your agenda to be the best person that you can be. So the process-oriented approach, for us, has been really strong, and taking things one day at a time and really being in the moment and making every moment the best moment that it can be.

Freeskiing coach Skogen Sprang: I would say, in our sport, just to really enjoy it and have fun. Enjoy all the experiences that they have while doing it, and work as hard as you can and do the best that you can. Things are going to happen, but just really enjoy it in the time that you have. Make the most of it.

Skeleton coach Tuffy Latour: The one thing I really pound into my athletes’ heads is to just trust in the process. I think that’s a key term that all the athletes really benefit from.

Greco-Roman wrestling coach Matt Lindland: Take action, take risks, be bold and be courageous.

What has been your most gratifying moment as a coach?

Freeskiing and snowboarding coach Mike Jankowski: I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of a lot of amazing moments within the Olympics and leading into the Olympics, and it’s hard to put your finger on it, of course. But really, for me, a big challenge was a lot of new sports coming into the Olympic Games for the Sochi Olympics, some new sports that had never been in the Olympics before: slopestyle ski, slopestyle snowboard and halfpipe ski. And so being a part of helping to build that team and turn a group of individuals into a true team, and then seeing them perform in Sochi at the highest level has to be really my greatest moment that I’ve been a part of. And in Sochi, the slopestyle ski team sweeping the podium was obviously a moment I’ll never forget. The new sports that we worked with won five out of six gold medals that were available, and I couldn’t be more proud of them and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of their journey and their success.

Freeskiing coach Skogen Sprang: You know, it’s hard not to say going to Sochi. I’ve been involved with freeskiing since the very beginning, as an athlete and then getting the opportunity to be a coach of these amazing guys that are the next generation, and then being able to go to the first Olympics for us, and then to have them do so well and pretty much exceed all our expectations. I don’t know if it’s possible to top that. That’s got to be the best moment, for sure. But we have such a great group of guys, and we’ve had a lot of other good success and moments, so (we’re) just trying to continue that route.

Skeleton coach Tuffy Latour: Probably (at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games) in 2014, having Noelle (Pikus-Pace) and Matt (Antoine) win medals and just to see how well the team did overall – having all five athletes on my skeleton team believe in each other and be one team.

Greco-Roman wrestling coach Matt Lindland: Taking my team one full year. Last year I came on right before (world championships), but coming on for a full year and seeing every one of our athletes win matches at the world championships (in 2015). Most of them won multiple matches, and we got a repeat performance with world medalist Andy Bisek. … Just seeing the direction the program is going, that the athletes are buying into the process and that we’re making progress.

What has being a coach taught you?

Freeskiing and snowboarding coach Mike Jankowski: For me, it’s been a million different things and it’s hard to pin it down, but really it’s humility and understanding and removing ego, and removing your own agendas of who you are as a person and really putting all that aside and putting every bit of your energy and focus into other people and other people’s success. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing but it’s more and more as I’ve developed, it’s something I keep enjoying more and more, helping people achieve their goals. It’s awesome.

Freeskiing coach Skogen Sprang: It’s taught me a lot about myself and about the sport, and thinking about the direction of the sport, looking at where the athletes are taking it. It’s just really taught me to look at the big picture and all the different things going on and how they’re working together and what direction things are going. It’s taught me to really respect people’s individual personalities. Everyone’s a little different, but they’ve all got different ways of making it work for them.

Skeleton coach Tuffy Latour: You can never learn enough! It’s always changing. You can always take your experiences from year to year into the next season, but successes in one season don’t necessarily guarantee you successes in the next season. So I learned to take it one season at a time and just trust in the process.

Greco-Roman wrestling coach Matt Lindland: You’ve got a lot less control. You don’t have as much control over what’s going on out there in the arena.