By Lauren Gaskill//Contributor | Friday, December 23, 2016
When you’re born and raised on the island of Barbados, going to the beach is a regular thing. But for Leah Stancil’s mom, it also posed a threat for children who did’t know how to swim. So before she even had the chance to choose swimming, swimming chose her.
After leaving Barbados, Stancil went on to swim for the University of Florida until she graduated in 2002. At the time she did not plan to pursue coaching, but through a series of circumstances, she ended up on an aquatics career track.“I fell into coaching kind of like I fell into swimming,” Stancil says. “I actually wanted to be a Sports Psychologist, but life had other plans. 11 years later, clearly it was the best thing for me to fall into.”
Today, Stancil’s passion and knack for coaching spills over into everything she does. As the assistant coach for the Florida Gators women’s swim team, Stancil is thankful for the opportunity to coach for her alma mater.
“I love working with the people in Florida’s Athletic Association,” she says. “I am part of an athletic department that really feels like family. It is a challenging and high-expectation place to work, but everyone is so willing to help each other be successful.”
USA Swimming sat down with Stancil to learn more about her coaching experience and how she defines success.
As a coach, what makes you unique?
My goal as a coach is to help our athletes be ready for life. I believe swimming teaches us so much about taking responsibility for ourselves. Especially those times when we fall and have to get right back up and try again. Life throws us so many curve balls, and sometimes it’s unfair, but that doesn’t mean you give up – you keep trucking along.
What was your first job like?
My first coaching job was as an assistant coach at Savannah College of Art and Design. It was a great first job because it helped me figure out the initial stages of my coaching philosophy.
What has been the crowning achievement of your career?
In 2010 when our women’s team won the National Championship Title. As an alumni and a coach, that was awesome.
What challenges have you faced as a coach and how do you maintain balance?
The hardest part about coaching is having to work with so many different types of personalities, cultures and backgrounds. Balancing life and work can also be challenging. I am blessed with an awesome husband. Over the years, we have learned to communicate when either of us become overwhelmed with our different responsibilities, whether it is with work or with our three kids. We help each other stay grounded.
How have you grown in your leadership abilities over the years?
Having kids helped my leadership skills immensely. My children have humbled me because they have taught me you can’t use the same motivation techniques for everyone. What works for some doesn’t work for others (even if they are born of the same parents).
As a leader, it is important not only to treat people with respect, but it is also important to know them well enough to use the correct tools to help them perform the best they can perform.
Leah Stancil’s Five Keys to Coaching Success:
2) Family & Friends
4) Willingness to ask questions