By By Amy Padilla//Contributor | Monday, February 24, 2020
NOVA Aquatics head coach Geoff Brown makes listening the vehicle to maintaining a healthy body, mind and spirit. His methods are to focus on upholding intellectual and spiritual wellness, which help him become a better father, husband, friend and coach. And whatever he is doing, it must be working.
Brown has been awarded the Virginia Senior Coach of the Year 10 times, the NCSA Coach of the Year four times, was named Developmental Coach of the Year by USA Swimming in 2012, and was named to the U.S. staff for the World Junior Swimming Championships in Singapore in 2015. Brown also coached NCAA Champion and Olympic gold medalist Townley Haas.
“We coaches talk,” he said. “We use a variety of methods to deliver our messages: speeches, exhortations, e-mails, club newsletters. Rivers of words. It’s part of leading – a necessary evil.
“It can become habit, even addictive. I talk; people listen. It can become fatiguing or limiting. The antidote is simple: become a productive listener. To do that, take a moment to examine what pleasant forms of listening are available to you.”
“Like any coach, I’ve been accused of failing to listen. I’ve learned to differentiate between two translations of that accusation. One is quite literal: you’re not listening. The other is more tangential: you’re not agreeing with me. For me, the pursuit of intellectual and spiritual health both involve listening.”
“I’ve been a voracious reader since childhood. Books introduce me to different worlds, interesting people and intriguing thoughts. They are extended exercises in listening. To read a book, I must be silent and attentive.
“There’s a humbleness to books. I always learn what I didn’t know. That’s a main purpose of reading. A good book reminds me how ignorant I am. A good author allows me to reduce that ignorance. Encountering new ideas compels me to walk a new coaching path in an unforeseen direction. It’s exciting and invigorating.”
“Spiritual health also involves listening. All week long, swimmers, parents and staff turn to me for answers. As head coach, I am the ultimate authority, however much I might try to dodge or disperse that command and control aspect.
“Attending church or attending lectures (my wife Lisa and I recently attended Lisa Genova’s Sharp Foundation lecture on cognitive impairment diseases) reverses this flow. In church, the liturgy, the sermon, even the recursive architectural elements of which church-builders are so fond, compel me to wonder and listen. Like books, they function as “humblers,” reminding me to kneel or pray or ponder. The authority I wield all week long dissipates. I emerge refreshed or energized. It’s a mind-cleansing exercise.”
When sustained at a healthy level, both spiritual and intellectual wellness can expand overall wellness, which in turn inspires others to follow in the same path. Brown developed personal growth in these areas and continues to educate himself daily with new scholarly knowledge and spiritual understanding.
“These spiritual and intellectual elements, while stimulating, manifest most productively when they are used to form or to further positive partnerships,” Brown said. “Watching our NOVA coaching staff bat around new ideas is always inspiring and exciting.“I depend on my wife Lisa to offer her particular perspective and her critical analysis to enable me to sharpen my thoughts and make better decisions. I rely on my NOVA coaching colleagues to create team policy and shape our team’s direction. And it all begins with listening.”