A Nod to Nordiq Canada’s Coaching Community: #ThanksCoach

September 20, 2021

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

        — John Wooden


The legendary Wizard of Westwood, the man who piloted the UCLA Bruins to 10 NCAA men’s basketball championships in a dozen years, remains an iconic figure, cutting across eras and sporting disciplines.

Wooden’s message of willingness to always consider new ideas, no matter how experienced or how successful or how revered someone may be, that ability to adjust and implement, remains a mandatory textbook for coaches everywhere.

Stephen Novosad certainly understands.

“I have never,’’ says Nordiq Canada’s Coach Pathway Manager “stopped using mentors.

“As I progress, I find that I, myself, have become more coachable over time.

“At the beginning, I was perhaps a little proud, a little full, of myself. But the humility, I’m happy to say, has been growing for a while now.

“Not only am I more open to it now, I seek it out.

“A wonderful process.”

Never satisfied. Be ever curious. Constantly evolve, seeking out new ways of connecting with the athletes while enhancing the sport.

“Just recently,’’ revealed Novosad, “someone shook me up so much in my coaching, revealed a blind spot, that I’ve asked them to mentor for me through the coming year.”

He’s politely keeping the identity of his benefactor/mentor – involved in a sport outside of nordiq skiing – quiet for the moment.

“I’ll gladly take ideas from wherever I can get them. I do that all the time. I have some friends in athletics that really inspire me, mountain biking, as well. I have to admit that team sports don’t jive for me. That said, I have very good friends in team sports and we exchange all the time.

“This person I mentioned that I spoke with was completely, completely, honest with me.

“Totally candid.

“We talked at length about coaching. It was fascinating. And I was told: ‘Look, you know your stuff, but to be honest you didn’t blow me away. Now blow me away.’

“This person told me to get more away from the doctrine. I’ve always prided myself on my level of creativity, of innovation, but what I didn’t realize is that I was, nonetheless, and probably subconsciously, being caught in the norm.

“Where this person challenged me was to go beyond that, to create a more effective environment where it’s going to happen naturally.

“That surprised me completely and pleased me no end.”

That message of coaching flexibility in an ever-shifting athletic landscape is especially important during National Coaches Week in Canada, which runs from September 18th through the 26th, #ThanksCoach.

Novosad leads the development and delivery of Nordiq Canada’s coaching content, supporting the review and development of the athlete development matrix as well as the competition model.

“I like to think I am,’’ he says, needlessly, “pretty passionate about what I do.”

Now in year four in his current role at Nordiq Canada, the product of Val David, Que., is a proud career coach, someone who strapped on his first set of skinny skis at age 14, hooked by a school outing, and has built a career in teaching, guiding and leading.

Whether from his years spent as Technical Coordinator Ski de fond Quebec, a coach with Fondeurs Laurentides ski club or – before the re-brand – a member of Canadian Cross Country’s High Performance committee, he has stored up a wealth of knowledge to bring to the task of pushing nordiq skiing forward in Canada.

“The best part of my job, of course, is meeting each coach, each athlete, on an individual basis,’’ reckons Novosad. “Getting to know these people. Individual relationships are so, so key.

“The worst part of my job? I’m not going to say administration. That would be trite, My greatest challenge, let’s say, has been the rear-view mirror – looking back at everything I haven’t delivered effectively in the past. A lot of things I look back on and go ‘Oh, no!’

“But I have to tell myself it’s all part of the process. How I get better at my job? How I get better at my interaction?

“That’s an ongoing thing. And, frankly, a part of why what I do, what all coaches do, is so much fun.

“I’m good at developing people. That might sound immodest, but I guess at this point in my life I’m old enough, confident enough, to say: ‘Yeah. I can recognize that in myself.’

“Do I have my faults? Of course I do. Gosh. Many. You never know where, or from who, you can learn something new. But if I can continue to build that way and apply my strengths, awesome.

“I love the juxtaposition, the big picture and the detail involved in this job. I love meeting the person one-on-one but I also love the ski culture.

“If I can contribute to better skiing, sport-wise, that evolution … yes. Oh, yes, It’s a trickle up, not trickle down, effect.

“This is what I’m most deeply, deeply engaged in.”

Stand still in life, it’s often said, and you invariably get left behind. Worse, in the ultra-competitive high-performance coaching world, those in your charge, do, too.

Adaptability is every bit as non-negotiable as accountability.

“I’ve dedicated a lifetime to teaching, to coaching and to developing,’’ says Stephen Novosad. “I’m open to ideas. All coaches should be. Regardless of who I’m working with, I’m looking for what they bring, and I’ll try to identify the best ways to help them deliver on that.’’

The Wizard of Westwood would doubtless approve.