“The Best We Can Be is Vulnerable”
Head Volleyball Coach, University of New Mexico
Jon Newman-Gonchar is the head volleyball coach at University of New Mexico. In April 2020, he called in to talk with Summer and Cody about the new challenges facing higher education and athletics.
Jon’s watershed moment was on March 17th when a recruiting trip was cancelled and UNM’s Spring Break was extended. “The next thing we knew, it was all moving online.”
He’s missing his players, missing his staff, and missing the routine that used to come with the seasonal nature of college sports. As information was constantly changing, Jon had to navigate competing stories and plans while trying to be the best source of knowledge for his players. “There are so many more questions than there are answers right now.” He believes that, “The best thing we can be is vulnerable.”
In trying to plan for supporting his athletes, Jon was dedicated to doing what was best for the students. He and his coaching staff developed a virtual structure for the team. “I didn’t want them to lose touch with academics.” Volleyball players committed to doing course work during the time their classes used to be scheduled. The team also met regularly virtually to discuss topics like public speaking, high-pressure situation, and other student-selected conversations.
When Jon thinks about the future, he hopes his son will have a traditional kindergarten experience, and that his future volleyball players will have the quintessential first years of college. He’s fearful of the unknown and unsure of what to expect.
His players are used to him saying regularly, “That’s just part of the deal” when things go poorly. This mantra has helped his team to roll with the punches in Spring 2020. “Let’s get better with people.”
Hear the interview wherever you get your podcasts.
- Follow the Lobos @unmlobovb
- Jon bought Ericsson’s book, Peak for his coaching staff.
- Jon’s favorite podcast these days is Trevor Ragan’s “Learner Lab.” Check it out!
Interview Date: 4/20/20
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