A New Twist on Leadership

July 17, 2018

Ben Schiesl coaches diving with passion and purpose to inspire the next generation of the sport..jpeg

Ben Schiesl coaches diving with passion and purpose to inspire the next generation of the sport.
Ben Schiesl coaches diving with passion and purpose to inspire the next generation of the sport.
© Ben Schiesl

Takeaways

While diving is an individual sport, it has taught me everything I know about leadership and being a team player.
I coach with passion and a purpose to inspire the next generation of the sport.

I have been a competitive diver for 14 years and will conclude my career in 2019 as a captain of the Virginia Tech Swimming and Diving team. While diving is an individual sport, it has taught me everything I know about leadership and being a team player.

I’ve traveled all over the country competing and have connected with student-athletes from around the world. I’ve seen how different cultures develop athletes and have used this knowledge to be a better leader and coach. 

Each summer I return home to the D.C. area to train and work as the assistant diving coach at Washington Golf & Country Club. I love coaching and developing young athletes. My experience as a student of the sport as well as a coach has taught me three important leadership qualities.

Time and priority management. An average day for a Division I diver consists of 3 hours of practice, 1–2 hours of dryland/weight training, 2–3 hours of classes, 3–5 meals, study time, and an attempt at maintaining the ever elusive 8 hours of sleep. On top of this, managing any kind of social life can make things complicated.

On our Virginia Tech team, we have a 3-point system for self-evaluation: education, training, and family/social. Each morning we assess our 3 points and attempt to balance them. If one point gets overloaded, the others will surely begin to weaken. Throughout college I have scheduled my classes in the morning, with workouts and practice blocked off for the afternoon, and time for schoolwork in the evening. This system allows me to balance my workload and concentrate on one action at a time, rather than waste energy configuring how to get everything done.  

Integrity. As the famous writer C.S. Lewis once said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” I am fortunate to be supported by a talented coaching staff, nutritionists, and athletic trainers who are all invested in my performance. But at the end of the day, the results I desire are only possible if I put in the work behind the scenes. It is easy to create a schedule that theoretically will get me where I want to be, but executing that plan is a whole other obstacle.

Diving is an extremely niche sport that requires years and years of training very basic movements to create the bigger picture you would see at a national competition or the Olympics. The most unfortunate mistake a young diver can make is not focusing on the details of each action. As an older, more experienced diver, maintaining those actions is just as important. Once these actions become habit, they are nearly impossible to break. A mentor of mine told me, “Practice does not make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.” This concept has stayed with me. One mediocre day at work turns in to two the following week, which turns in to three, and so on. Now you have created a habit. Integrity in work is crucial in every step of the process.

Passion. As a 7 year old, my love for diving was catapulted by the enthusiasm of my first coaches. Just as I am now, these coaches were college divers at the time. They would occasionally get on the diving boards and show off to the younger divers so that we could see what is possible with focus and practice. My coaches were my role models. And now as I stand on the pool deck working with young kids, I aim to instill the same excitement in them. I coach with passion and a purpose to inspire the next generation of the sport, even if I only have a small audience.

Join the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in exploring the value of sports in preparing athletes for leadership roles. Register for the SPORTS FORWARD summit here.