As the U.S. Dressage Development Coach, Charlotte is dedicated to working with the United States dressage riders. Recently, she had the opportunity to attend a coaches’ course taught by the U.S. Olympic Committee at the U.S. Olympic Training facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado. From team building to teaching other coaches how to canter on the correct lead, without a horse, Charlotte not only learned valuable lessons to inspire the U.S. dressage riders but also gave the other coaches a peek at life in the equestrian world. Don’t miss her answer to what the other coaches thought about working with horses! In the end, Charlotte’s take-away was, “It was a great reminder of how much more you can achieve when you have the support of your team and very clear communication.”
You recently participated in an accelerated coaches’ course organized by the U.S. Olympic Committee. What was that experience like?
It was an incredible week and very inspiring. There were 14 coaches from different disciplines who participated and I was the only equestrian coach. The other 13 coaches represented archery, curling, cycling, diving, figure skating, speed skating, wrestling, karate, synchronized swimming and rugby. Just being at the Olympic Training Center made all of us feel very special. Nadine Dubina, who is the manager of Coach Development for the U.S. Olympic Committee, did a fantastic job putting all the presentations and workshops together.
What’s something you learned that you hope to take to U.S. dressage?
In the afternoon, we were driven by bus up into the mountains to a place called Cross Bearing Adventures. We then spent the afternoon taking on group challenges as we went through the rope course. This exercise was all about team building. The guy who worked there was very impressed with how well we all communicated with each other, especially since we didn’t know each other from before. This was my first time doing anything quite like that and I loved it. As a group, we had to strategize, plan and then communicate throughout the exercises. Everyone was so supportive of each other and that definitely created a strong team-building experience. It highlighted once again how much stronger you are as a team compared to being on your own.
What did the other coaches think about working with horses?
In the evening we all went to a restaurant together, to celebrate one of the coach’s birthday. While we were there, we sat around in a circle and shared stories. The first round was “worst injuries in your career.” The girl before me was a karate coach and she talked about being kicked in the face during practice. Then, when it was my turn, I told them I got kicked in the face too and broke my jaw — but it was by a horse. That got everyone’s attention.
What kind of sport-related activities did you do?
The second day we were mostly in a classroom, but with a lot of interaction and role playing. The last day, we had some time in the classroom, but then went to the Olympic training/fitness center for an hour-long workout. It was such an amazing feeling to be there. At the end of the workout, we got paired up with another coach and had to coach them in our sport. I got paired up with a diving coach from Stanford, Zach Whitaker. He taught me some of the diving poses you take before you jump in. Then I taught him to canter on left and right lead (on foot) and eventually he learned to do the Grand Prix zig zag — the others couldn’t figure out what he was doing.
After that we went into the boxing center for a real boxing lesson. The whole idea was to put us all back to being the student and learning something new — not so easy. The footwork reminded me of learning another pattern for ballroom dancing, but then to coordinate with punching was a whole other story. It was a great reminder on how to break everything down step by step and then slowly build on it. The organizers did an amazing job keeping everything interesting and challenging.
What did you take away from the experience?
It was a great reminder of how much more you can achieve when you have the support of your team and very clear communication. I loved every minute there and I am more committed than ever to be the best coach I can be and always try to be supportive, positive and inspire the athletes to be the best they can be.